Published on Development Impact

Weekly links January 7: doing metaketas, Kenyan mobile loans, advice on applying for funding, continuous DiD, and more…

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·       I just started listening to the Scope Conditions podcast, which is a podcast featuring new research in comparative politics. They have a two-part interview with Tara Slough and Graeme Blair about the metaketa approach to doing coordinated experiments (metaketas) across a range of settings. Part 1 discusses the two sets of coordinated experiments – one on using community monitoring for governance of natural resources, and one on community policing. As well as discussing the specifics of these two studies, they talk about how the choice of research question was intertwined with the choice of sites/teams – since you need something that many people are interested in and can implement in different settings. They note one way to handle researcher incentives to be able to differentiate their work is for researchers to add a different second arm in each treatment, which can also help if the partner wants to do something different from the agreed common treatment.  Part 2 then takes a step back and discusses some of the common issues and big picture questions involved in doing metaketas. These include how to aggregate results, with one of the interesting points being that with n=6 or 7 studies, if results differ across sites it is really hard to be able to test why; issues that arise with trying to run coordinated experiments, including frequent turnover of government personnel and grant funding deadlines coming up against timing constraints that arise in different places; incentives for junior researchers to get involved in one of these studies; and ethics, with one interesting point being that the same intervention might be ethical in one location and not in another – e.g. in one place, the risk to participants of interacting with police or stopping overuse of common pool resources may be minimal, whereas in another context it may place their life in danger.

·       I also listened to an interesting episode of the podcast “Otherwise? The Kenyan Story” on mobile lending in Kenya, which has discussion on the vibrant and somewhat wild-westish nature of mobile lending. They talk about the proliferation of lending apps, their views of the use of alternative credit-scoring methods that use mobile phone data and social networks to decide on credit, and the dangers of under-educated consumers meeting under-regulated lenders. One example given is that the terms and conditions of one mobile lending product apparently give the lender the right to use all your phone contacts and message them if you do not repay your loan. (h/t Susanna Berkouwer who recommended the podcast as a way of introducing students to Kenyan topics).

·       The latest issue of the CSWEP newsletter offers advice on applying for research funding. The full set of interviews/advice from a variety of funders and scholars is found here. Includes answers to “What are the most common mistakes you see scholars making in their proposals?” that include insufficient attention to ethical issues, “The most common mistake at the LOI stage is dedicating too much space to motivating the research question and providing too few details about how the research will actually be conducted” and “The most frequent mistake I see scholars make is some version of “burying the lede” by either structuring the proposal like an academic paper or a general lack of clarity about why the research study matters.”; as well as advice on how to find out about organizations that might fund your research, that includes “: I looked at the CVs of scholars whose work I respected and who did work similar to mine.”

·       Asjad Naqvi offers a guide to Stata frames – a new feature in Stata 16 and up that allows you to have multiple datasets in memory at the same time

·       Scott Cunningham explains how the TWFE issues in DiD get even more complicated with continuous treatments.

·       On GiveDirectly’s blog – they gave disposable cameras to a person in each of 4 villages as cash transfers were going out, for them to document what people were doing with the money – an interesting way of putting real life examples to the statistics – lots of home improvements and livestock purchases going on.

·       Young Scholars matchmaking workshop: PEDL and DevLab at NYU-Abu Dhabi are organizing matchmaking and project development workshops for young scholars interested in working on private sector development questions. This workshop aims to bring together pre-dissertation PhD students (from year two onwards) from institutions in high-income countries with PhD students and young scholars from institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Young scholars should be no more than three years out of their PhD. Deadline is Jan 31, 2022.


David McKenzie

Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

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