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Weekly links February 17: Don’t give up on your research ideas but do give up on unwarranted policy recommendations

David Evans's picture
 
  • Chris Blattman provides an incentive to delay giving up on that great research idea you’ve been peddling for years in this story from the EconTalk podcast: For years, he pitched random African factory owners the idea of an RCT of factory employment. “They’d usually look at me kind of funny. They wouldn’t leap at the possibility. I was just this person they met on a plane.” One day it worked, and six weeks later he was randomizing applicants.
       
  • Over at Future Development, Jishnu Das argues that the pressures for researchers to demonstrate impact are “distorting effort, decreasing the quality of research, and undermining democratic discussion and debate in the countries that need it most.” He argues that we may want to “hold back [ill-informed] policy” (which arguably is still impact, even though it’s negative). He also proposes that researchers are usually not the best people to translate: “I am neither sufficiently skilled, nor sufficiently trained to produce these outputs and having to do so directly impinges on my research… I understand that technical papers may require further translation for a wider audience, but this should be the job of someone trained to communicate complicated subjects.”
 
  • Not before lunch: With a winning title (“Newsflash: Chickens don’t use toilets”), Heady discusses some suggestive evidence from multiple contexts that “exposure to animal feces is a serious risk factor for infections and undernutrition in early childhood.” Get those chickens out of the house! Unless the lost income from chickens stolen or eaten by predators hurts early childhood development more? Darn you, partial derivative!

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