Published on Development Impact

Weekly Links, May 27: Conscious insects, good data collection practices, all male panels, and more...

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  • On selecting what variables to gather data for in your impact evaluation: Carneiro et al. have a new paper out – “Optimal Data Collection for Randomized Control Trials” – which argues that if you have a household survey or census in advance, you can use an algorithm to select the right covariates, potentially reducing data collection costs or improving precision substantially.
  • Are Insects Conscious? Peter Singer summarizes a recent article in PNAS that argues that they have subjective experiences -- the most basic form of consciousness. What about plants? "That’s a question that often comes up when I suggest that we should stop eating animals because they can feel pain. Remarkable capacities are regularly claimed for plants, but so far none of the observations that would require us to accept that they have subjective experiences have been replicable in proper experimental conditions. Barron and Klein say that plants have no structures that allow for awareness. The same is true of simple animals like jellyfish or roundworms; on the other hand, crustaceans and spiders, like insects, do have such structures."
  • On gathering quality data: On Monday, I summarized a conference on Field Measurement, co-sponsored by IPA and Yale. Ngo and Pinchoff summarize a few other interesting points, on incentives and measuring sensitive topics. They’re handing the data collection tablet over to the respondent for certain sensitive questions in Zambia. There’s an existing term for that; it’s called CASI (computer-assisted self-interviewing). In some cases, interviewers have a recording even ask the sensitive question via headphones (ACASI – audio computer…). Tourangeau and Yan have a nice (old-ish 2007; but in the U.S., these methods have been around) paper comparing different methods of asking sensitive questions (see Table 2) in Psychological Bulletin.
  • #AllMalePanels in global development. How is this still a thing? It's even making older members of my family upset!
  • Call for papers: On September 23rd the Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA) is hosting a conference on Behavioral Economics and Global Health. The event will be held at UC-Berkeley and co-sponsored by the Initiative for Behavioral Economics and Finance (Stefano DellaVigna & Ulrike Malmendier).
    Call for papers
  • Original working papers can still be misleading. How many popular media article reported cortisol effects of cash transfers over the past three years? Note that this is not argument against working papers (their benefits may, on average, still outweigh their costs), but that you should be wary of just reading the abstract or read media articles that use the "abstract and flip through" method.


Berk Özler

Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

David Evans

Senior Fellow, Center for Global Development

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