J. Antonio Ballesteros Figueroa's profile

J. Antonio Ballesteros Figueroa

SPS Department

Science, Technology & Innovation Studies

Antonio is a native of Mexico, where he carried out his undergraduate studies at Universidad de las Américas Puebla. He graduated with a degree in Political Science (B.A.) in 2015. He obtained an MSc by Research (Merit) in Science and Technology Studies from the University of Edinburgh in 2017. 

Before arriving at Edinburgh, Antonio worked as a research assistant in the construction of the Global Impunity Index. He has also been a visiting Research Fellow at the  Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law in Heidelberg, Germany.

His PhD research focuses on analysing how is it that quantitative tools (machine learning, indicators, rankings, etc) are produced not by following rigid statistical processes but as the result of multiple negotiations, mundane everyday activities and limitations. As part of his research, he employed ethnographic methods which included two participant observations. The first observation was at the Uppsala University Department of Peace and Conflict where he worked on the production of the Violence Early Warning System (ViEWS). A second participant observation was conducted during the production of the Environmental Performance Index at the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy (YCELP)


Associate Fellow, Higher Education Academy 

MSc by Research Science and Technology Studies The University of Edinburgh (2016-2017). Dissertation on: “Opening the Black Box of Indicators: An STS approach to the Social Construction of Environmental Knowledge.” Main Supervisor Dr Eugenia Rodrigues. Second Supervisor Dr Gian Marco Campagnolo.

B.A.  Political Science -Universidad de las Américas Puebla, Mexico (UDLAP, 2010-2015). Dissertation on “The recruitment process in Autonomous Organisms: The case of the National Human Rights Commission”.

Awards and Funding

PhD Science and Technology Studies funded by the Mexican National Council for Science and Technology (100%) 3 years

Master by Research Science and Technology Studies funded by the Mexican National Council for Science and Technology (90%) 1 year

Master by Research Science and Technology Studies funded, 90%, by the Science, Technology and Innovation Studies Department, The University of Edinburgh (10%) 1 year

MSc by Research Science and Technology Studies (Awarded with Merit)

Visiting Research Fellow Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law in Heidelberg, Germany. (2 months, 2016).

Further Information

University Experience

Secretary of the Mexican Society, Edinburgh University Students' Association (2017 -2018)

Class Rep MSc by Research Science and Technology Studies (2016-2017)

Research Interests

Science and technology studies Environmental Sociology Social Shaping of Technology Policy Indicators Democracy and Social Indicators The politics of transparency and accountability Sociology of Knowledge sociology of scientific knowledge

Research Activities

Research assistant for the Global Impunity Index - Mexico 2015 (CIESIJ, coordinated by Le Clercq Ortega, Juan  and Sanchez Lara, Gerardo.)

Teaching Experience

Facilitator Research Skills in the Social Sciences: Data Collection (postgraduate course) Semester 1 (2019 - )

Tutor Science, Nature and Environment (undergraduate course) Semester 2 (2018 - )

Tutor for International Cooperation in Europe and Beyond (undergraduate course) Semester 1 (2017-2018)

PhD Title

Constructing Imperfect Worlds Through Mundanity: Measuring and Forecasting Environmental Issues

PhD Supervisors

Dr Eugenia Rodrigues

Dr Sarah Parry

PhD Overview

The use of quantitative tools as a technology for comparing and forecasting a wide array of issues; and guiding the creation of public policy has increased over the last decades. The democratisation of the production of quantitative data has brought a sharing of a powerful resource such as policy-related knowledge. Nowadays the state is not the only actor using quantitative information to govern. Non- State Actors (i.e. NGOs, and universities) have been producing tools that allow us to observe the performance of different countries on a wide variety of issues and also, to forecast possible scenarios. For example, respect for human rights is measured, through an annual index, by Human Rights Watch; Yale and Columbia Universities have been producing the Environmental Performance Index (EPI), a benchmarking tool that ranks countries’ performance on different environmental issues, for almost 20 years. Also, there has been an increase in the development of tools trying to predict social and political events like electoral turnout previous to elections or the forecasting of violence due to climate change. These tools do not only measure and compare countries but may also give recommendations or “guidelines” about how to achieve better scores. Part of the trust in these tools is based on the objectivity that they claim to have as quantitative technologies. However, little is known about the processes through which researchers transform single data points into global measurements; not by statistical procedures but by a continuous reflection of what does it mean to create possible worlds at a distance.

The production of this type of tools is far from being the result of automated statistical processes. By conducting two participant observations at two research centres it was possible to acknowledge the importance of mundane acts. It is through unrecorded events, that producers give an ethos to these quantitative tools. Although methodologies are publicly available, it is through internal discussions, reflections, choices and interests that quantitative knowledge comes to be framed by Non-State Actors.

J. Antonio Ballesteros Figueroa has not added publications to this section yet.