Published on Development Impact

Weekly links Jan 27: Eek your ongoing study makes the news, imperfect instruments, technology beats corruption, and more…

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  • I’ve blogged previously about the potential perils of blogging about (or otherwise discussing in the media) ongoing experiments. Two big public trials are having some of these issues right now. At the CGD blog, Mauricio Romero, Justin Sandefur and Wayne Sandholtz have a reply to critics on an experiment they are running to test charter schools in Liberia. Meanwhile, google news has over 4,000 results for a search on Finland “basic income experiment”. It will be interesting to see whether the public attention to these trials per se affects how people interpret or question the eventual results.
  • Like Dave Evans, I also enjoyed reading (and being interviewed in) Tim Ogden’s Experimental Conversations. I finished the book this week, and liked this quote from Chris Blattman: “To me what’s more troubling is that there seems to be this prevailing idea that it’s not clever enough to run an experiment, and so it’s not clear that we should publish these things in the top five journals. There’s an idea that they’re too easy, and that if you want to get them published, you need to use the experiment to estimate a structural model. What a silly attitude. Why not regard these as a really important method for answering certain questions? And there are a lot of questions we have that are unanswered, so we’re going to put a high value on people answering these questions.” But lots of good stuff from many people, including the always provocative Lant Pritchett: “In RCTs you’ve reduced the system to the individual. Nothing super-important about development happens at the individual level…Within the development community there have always been development people and charity people. I’ve always been a development guy. By development, I usually mean national development, large-scale social policies. If you come to me and say I can make that guy better off by putting in place a charitable program to give him food, I’d say “of course you can. Go ahead, but don’t call it development”.


David McKenzie

Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

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