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Evaluation Optics of the Nation State: The Past, Present and Future of Public Documentation

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Foto: Øystein Horgmo, UiO (utsnitt).

About the project

Evaluation is a widely used measure in Norwegian politics and at all levels of public administration. Through evaluation we gain knowledge of how society works, the effects of political decisions and the impacts of public spending. Evaluations may thereby also have great implications for how we understand ourselves as a society, and for how we choose to act. This significance in turn means that the academic community should pay attention to the methods and practices of evaluation.

Indeed, how do the methods of evaluation inform what we can and do see? This is the core issue that the Evalunation project will explore. A central concept for doing so is «evaluation optics»: These are the tools we use to observe the world around us. How have evaluation optics changed over time? What significance do these tools and methods have? And how is the professional field of evaluation changing as new digital methods are employed analyse ever-increasing datasets?

For more details, take a look at the project description (short version).

Project objectives

The objectives of the Evalunation project are twofold: Firstly, to describe and understand evaluation practice in Norway, both historically and in the present. We will in particularly investigate (a) the boundary between evaluation and audit and (b) the digitalisation of evaluation tools, methods and infrastructure. Secondly, the project aims to contribute to reflection within the evaluation community through participant data collection and experimental research communication throughout the project period.


Despite the prominent place evaluation holds within society, it is surprisingly understudied. The Evalunation project combines methods from history, anthropology, textual analysis, informatics and science and technology studies (STS) to study evaluation broadly and exploratively.

Evalunation is developed and led by Hilde Reinertsen, and runs from 2020 through 2024. It builds on analyses in her PhD thesis on the integration of evaluation into aid administration in Norway.


The project is financed by the Norwegian Research Council of Norway under the "Young Research Talents" programme. 


Evalunation has research partners at Aalborg University, The University of Borås, the University of Washington, Oslo Metropolitan University and the Norwegian National Library. See sidebar for details.

Published June 10, 2021 2:24 PM - Last modified May 4, 2022 11:16 AM