Published on Development Impact

Weekly links April 17: Reducing open defecation, pre-publication replication, free TORs, and so much more

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1. Looking for breakfast reading?  A new study on improving rural sanitation (specifically investment in hygienic latrines) came out in Science yesterday, comparing (1) community motivation & information campaign, (2) subsidies, and (3) sales agents who gave advice on installation and gave referrals to latrine-building masons. Subsidies directly increased ownership by 22 percentage points (and by 8 percentage points among unsubsidized neighbors). They also reduced open defecation by 14 percentage points. Nothing else made any difference.
  • My question is: Did the information campaign include the psychedelic, not-to-be-missed Take the Poo to the Loo video?
2. Tired of searching your hard drive for that old data collection Terms of Reference for updating? The Inter-American Development Bank has a super-cool Evaluation Hub, which has loads of useful resources, including (but not limited to) 3. Why wait to replicate? The American Journal of Political Science introduces pre-publication replication: You submit your paper with your data and code, and the journal reproduces your results before publication.

4. Pointed questions for Big Data advocates. Morten Jerven asks how big data would overcome sample bias, the need for a benchmark, and the fact that lots of big data are privately owned.
“One celebrated Big Data application was the idea of using phones to detect potholes in roads so that road maintenance departments could accurately devote resources to fixing them. But this approach hit a bump of its own when it became apparent that this would mean that road departments were reacting more quickly to fixing problems in neighborhoods with higher smartphone density.”

5. Seeking a defense for all that Tweeting & blogging? Asit Biswas & Julian Kirchherr make an argument in the LSE Impact Blog for publications in the popular media counting for tenure:

“Many government leaders now maintain a standing instruction to prepare a two-page summary every morning of what the popular media writes about their policies. In India, this practice was started by Indira Gandhi. Ministers in Canada insist on similar round-ups. Governments in the Middle East even summarize discussions on new social media these days. No decision-maker would ever ask for summaries regarding publications and discussions in academic journals. If academics want to have impact on policy makers and practitioners, they must consider popular media.”

6. What’s the promise of mobile phone surveys?  Results reported in a new paper (and a blog post from last month) show how well these surveys reach the poor, who gets excluded, and the sample precision, in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe).
  • Rural women get left out; and there’s large variance in access to phones across countries.
  • They use an RCT to test giving a monetary transfer as an incentive to participate, and it didn’t work at all; the same was anecdotally true in the Liberia Economic Impact of the Ebola Crisis survey, also reported here. Time to try a different incentive.
7. To keep life suitably meta, here are the Links to Links of more Links: And here’s a recent guide to writing the acknowledgments on your next paper:
from "Piled Higher and Deeper," by Jorge Cham (


David Evans

Senior Fellow, Center for Global Development

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