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development impact links

Weekly links October 12: should you decide on ethics by polling, beware the uneven treatment probabilities, roads are good, and more...

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  • Stephanie Schwartz asks “are research ethics a question of public opinion?” on the Political Violence at a glance blog -  which discusses a new study that asked both research subjects and scholars their opinions on the acceptability of different research designs. Interesting discussion, particularly around what to do when the two differ – e.g. “A human rights advocate wants their interview with a researcher to be on the record. But the researcher worries that disclosing the subject’s name might put them in harm’s way. Does the researcher follow the participant’s understanding of “acceptable risk” and publish their name? Or do they follow their own instincts and keep the source anonymous?” (h/t This Week in Africa).
  • On the Future Development blog, Ariel Benyishay and co-authors discuss how they used satellite data to evaluate a USAID rural roads project in Palestine – using a diff-in-diff approach they compare nightlight in 750 meter grid cells shortly before, during, and shortly after the roads were rehabilitated to those in not-yet-improved cells. The report has some discussion of the many challenges involved, such as how to interpret an increase in nightlights, dealing with cells which have multiple roads treated, and the problem of potential spatial reallocation of economic activity.

Weekly links October 5: a new vision for social sciences in Science, doing development at non-R1, advice on jobs and on the media, and more...

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  • Vision statement from Tage Rai, the new social and behavioral sciences editor for Science on what they are looking for: “I feel that our strength is the ability to bridge across social sciences in a way that very few outlets can and at a level that none can match. Therefore, we will be emphasizing papers that cross over major fields more strongly than ever before (e.g. psychology and anthropology, economics and political science, sociology and computer science).... The other major concern that I encounter has to do with scientific practice and reproducibility concerns within the social sciences. Science is actively engaged with these issues and continues to consider best practices going forward. ... First, only a small percentage of papers are sent out for in-depth review. For these papers only, authors will be asked to upload their data to an online repository accessible to reviewers.... I will host a twitter Q&A to answer any questions people may have about publishing with Science. For example, I am often asked about formatting for Science. As most papers are rejected, my approach is to be pretty loose about formatting, with the understanding that if a paper moves further into the process, we can revisit questions of word length and formatting at that time.”
  • Following up on my posts (part 1, part 2) this week on doing development in liberal arts colleges, Shreyasee Das has a thread on the challenges faced doing development research at non-R1/non-LAC schools.
  • Job market advice from Marc Bellemare, especially for those doing agricultural economics.

Weekly links September 28: the peril of meetings, endogenous responses mess up big data uses, what 600+ development papers tells you about our field, and more...

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Weekly links September 21: scholarship labels, designing for spillovers, does your paper have a bande dessinée version? And more...

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Weekly links September 14: stealth cash vs WASH, online job boards, income-smoothing from bridges, lowering interest rates through TA, and more...

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Weekly links September 7: summer learning, wisdom from Manski, how the same data gives many different answers, and more...

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A catch-up of some of the things that caught my attention over our break.
  • The NYTimes Upshot covers an RCT of the Illinois Wellness program, where the authors found no effect, but show that if they had used non-experimental methods, they would have concluded the program was successful.
  • Published in August, “many analysts, one data set”, highlighting how many choices are involved in even simple statistical analysis – “Twenty-nine teams involving 61 analysts used the same data set to address the same research question: whether soccer referees are more likely to give red cards to dark-skin-toned players than to light-skin-toned players. Analytic approaches varied widely across the teams, and the estimated effect sizes ranged from 0.89 to 2.93 (Mdn = 1.31) in odds-ratio units. Twenty teams (69%) found a statistically significant positive effect, and 9 teams (31%) did not observe a significant relationship. Overall, the 29 different analyses used 21 unique combinations of covariates.”
  • Video of Esther Duflo’s NBER Summer institute lecture on machine learning for empirical researchers; and of Penny Goldberg’s NBER lecture on can trade policy serve as competition policy?

Weekly links July 27: Advances in RD, better measurement, lowering prices for poop removal, and more...

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  • Matias Cattaneo and co-authors have a draft manuscript on “a practical guide to regression discontinuity designs: volume II”. This includes discussion of a lot of practical issues that can arise, such as dealing with discrete values of the running variable, multiple running variables, and geographic RDs. Stata and R code are provided throughout.
  • Great Planet Money podcast on the Poop Cartel – work Molly Lipscomb and co-authors are doing to lower prices for emptying toilets in Senegal.
  • A paper on how to improve reproducible workflow – provides an overview of different tools for different statistical software packages, as well as advice on taskflow management, naming conventions, etc.
  • J-PAL guide on measuring female empowerment
  • Reviewing a paper that you have already reviewed before? This tweet by Tatyana Deryugina offers a good suggestion of using a pdf comparison tool (she suggests draftable) to compare pdfs to see what has changed

Weekly links June 29: cash does more good things, interpreting IHS, technical assistance to banks increased credit, and more...

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Weekly links June 22: which countries are overrepresented in IEs? How many IEs have data available to replicate them? Mobile savings, and more...

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  • In the Harvard Business Review, Blumenstock, Callen and Ghani summarize their work on using nudges to get government employees to save using mobile money in Afghanistan – “Over six months, the average employee who was enrolled to save by default accumulated an extra half-month’s salary in his or her savings account, relative to employees who had to opt in”
  • An intro to R for Stata users
  • The promise and perils of listening to parents – Sharon Wolf on ongoing efforts in Ghana to improve pre-school quality, and how trying to bring parents onboard backfired.
  • In the Journal of Development Effectiveness, Sabet and Brown track the continued growth of development impact evaluations: “Though we find early evidence of a plateau in the growth rate of development impact evaluations, the number of studies published between January 2010 and September 2015 account for almost two thirds of the total evidence base”. Lots of other interesting facts, including 45% of all impact evaluations occurred in just 10 countries, with Kenya and Uganda having the most impact evaluations per million population, and Sub-Saharan Africa the most commonly represented region – perhaps something for donors to think about...

Weekly links June 15: advice, humanitarian assistance RCTs, power calcs gone wrong, the CDD debate, and more...

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