Published on Development Impact

Weekly links June 18: literature reviews destroy other cites, scaling policies, humanitarian evaluations, and more…

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·       In the American Sociological Review, Peter McMahan and Daniel McFarland on literature review articles as creative destructive. They consider review articles across a range of different disciplines published in the Annual Reviews: “Our analysis shows that, on the one hand, papers cited by formal review articles generally experience a dramatic loss in future citations. Typically, the review gets cited instead of the specific articles mentioned in the review…However, reviews bring increased attention to a research area as a coherent whole, and they impose a novel structure on that area’s discourse moving forward”.  (h/t @Emollick). I see this often, where the review paper becomes short-hand for referencing a whole literature when word-count is an issue, or when there is a concern that by only referencing a few of the many studies you upset a potential referee who is not mentioned.

·       A special issue of the new journal Behavioral Public Policy is devoted to Field Experiments and Public Policy. There is a lead article by Al-Ubaydi et al. that discusses the scaling up issues that were part of the discussion of a recent post I did, and then a series of papers that critique/build off/discuss it. This includes a paper by Anandi Mani on issues with scaling policies in developing countries: “I highlight what I see as two important considerations in discussions about scaling in such contexts. The first is the implication of limited state capacity for tackling the scaling-up challenges highlighted by the authors. The second is the wider issue of the politics of project selection and how that may distort the process of evidence-based policymaking through experimentation…bureaucracies that are often responsible for implementing any upscaling are notoriously rigid, if not downright sclerotic. This is especially true in developing countries because there is a worry that allowing flexibility in organizational design will make the bureaucracy more vulnerable to corruption”

·       Towards an impact evaluation in the humanitarian space – Kristen McCollum discusses three takeaways on the WFP blog: there is a lack of evidence, lean and fast evaluations are needed, and paying attention to cost-effectiveness is important.

·       On the CGD blog, Bahety et al. discuss their use of SMS messages to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in India. They tested 10 different messages, using an adaptive trial approach, and found none of them worked.

·       On the Open Data blog, Hasanbasri et al. summarize some of the lessons from the LSMS+ program’s work on collecting data on assets and labor at an individual basis within households.

·       Call for papers: LACEA/LAMES conference, to be held virtually in October 20-22, deadline for submissions June 20


David McKenzie

Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

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