Published on Development Impact

Weekly links May 3: informing policy, behavioral change and crime, the research process, and more…

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Young boxers at the White Collars Boxing Match 2019, taken by Mariajose Silva Vargas

·       In the Financial Times, Soumaya Keynes on how economists could be more useful in helping policymakers. Ideas include more work on how to best implement second-best policies – e.g. while we think carbon taxes are optimal, if governments instead want to use subsidies, how best should they be deployed?; providing real-time data, quantification of policy effects, and lit reviews are all appreciated; making sure you report the costs of interventions; rewarding policy engagement and stints in policy in academic promotions; and writing more clearly  - including this for those people who insist on short, overly general titles “I am asking for titles that reveal the question or the result. Too many have the format “thing, thing and thing”. Unless one of those things is “sex”, “drugs” or “rock ‘n’ roll”, try again.”. The only consolidation is apparently econ abstracts are still more readable than those in sociology and political science.

·       She builds on this discussion by Jed Kolko who summarizes what research was useful in working at the U.S. commerce department – new data measures of the economy; literature reviews; and analysis that directly quantify or simulate policy decisions – as well as providing comments on technical issues. These are all useful, but he seems to neglect the fact that literature reviews actually need people to have done studies for them to summarize, that quantification and analysis of policy require people to have developed and refined the methods for doing this, and that there is a need for researchers to be forward looking and developing answers for problems that may arise in the future, rather than just reacting to the latest policy fad issue.

·       Building on this, Oliver Hanney at VoxDev has put together a collection of writings on the research to policy pipeline.

·       On the backstory podcast, Girija Borker gives the behind the scenes look at her job market paper on street harassment and educational choices of women. She talks about how personal experience shaped this, and then how she cold-called a big list of lots of NGOs that worked on gender, which ended up leading to this. She talks through what the initial meetings with NGOs went into, starting at a general level of what they do and see as the main problems, and then digging deeper from there, and how this generated research ideas. Also the importance of building in a back-up question into the survey if the main project didn’t work out. Here is the full series.

·       A JPAL policy insight brief summarizes recent work on using behavior change to fight crime and violence – summarizing evidence on CBT and other approaches.

·       Upcoming conference call: NEUDC 2024 will be held at Northeastern University on Nov 2-3. Submissions due July 15.

David McKenzie

Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

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