Weekly links January 15: Voices from Congolese research assistants on the research process, how the environment shapes behavior, using financial diaries in practice, and more…

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·       A must-read series: The (Silent) Voices blog Bukavu series is a set of posts by Congolese researchers and research assistants on the academic research production function, power dynamics, working in conflict-affected areas, ethics in research, the lack of relaying of results to survey respondents etc. (h/t Graeme Blair). Lots of compelling posts getting into many of the details of research in practice. Here are a few examples – there are 35 or so posts in the series!

o   Godefroid Muzalia  on the Businessisation of Research: “in practice two different budgets often coexist, the one agreed to with the donor (with which the financial report has to be aligned) and another, much more “flexible” and more practical one which takes into account the “realities of the field” to which “internal accounting” has to accommodate.”

o   Emery Mudinga on problematic assumptions made about local research collaborators “research assistants often do participate in several stages of the research process: preparatory workshops, designing data collection tools, contacting and mobilising actors in the field, gathering data, producing research reports, and – sometimes – sending additional information after the work is completed. One specific stage of the process – writing the publication – should not stand above all others….A third assumption supposes that research assistants don’t need to publish ... Taking such assumption as a starting point implies that the decision is made for them, without giving them the right to speak for themselves about their ambitions, interests, and needs”

o   Elisée Cirhuza on what happens when white researchers come to the field: “the presence of a light-skinned researcher from the North can change the way we are welcomed in the field. It can facilitate access to the field, data, and circles of respondents that often remain closed”. [But] “White researchers are also very often associated with development workers or believed to have significant financial resources, which can also complicate…A few days later, passing through the village, I learned that respondents had been visited by robbers who wanted the money the researchers assumedly had left them.”

o   An Ansoms & Irène Bahati on the added difficulties faced by female researchers in conflict zones “There is a strong need for a space where the discussion goes beyond sharing the “little anecdote of the day where I was taken for a prostitute” and giving the room a good laugh. A space in which women can explain what it means to barricade themselves in their room, or wrap themselves up in three layers of clothing to make a possible “unwrapping” as difficult as possible. A space in which women can discuss how to respond to explicit or implicit intimidation that attempts to destabilize her morale by attacking her legitimacy as a researcher”

o   François-Merlan Zaluke Banywesize on the experiences of research assistants: “Research collaborators and assistants play a key role in many research projects in the DRC.. Their presence is rarely made visible in a project’s final results. They are, in a sense, treated like data-collection “robots.”

·       On VoxDev, Max Kasy and Anja Sautmann summarize their work on adaptive experimentation – explaining how exploration sampling can be used to learn quickly the best among a set of different policy treatments.

·       In a new paper in Science (ungated), Toman Barsbai, Dieter Lukas and Andreas Pondorfer show that “show that foraging human populations and nonhuman mammal and bird species that live in a given environment exhibit high levels of similarity in their foraging, reproductive, and social behaviors” – e.g. “where food storage among humans is more common, a higher proportion of local mammal species hoard food” and “In locations in which residential group sizes in humans are larger, social group sizes of mammals are larger and birds are more likely to forage in groups than to rely on solitary foraging.”

·       On the LSE Africa blog, Sandrine N’simire and Ishara Tchumisi share their experiences using the financial diaries method in Goma, DRC, and the challenges of getting people to share financial information “In conflict-affected settings such as ours, the efficacy of the financial diaries method is undermined by the lack of trust of households in poor neighbourhoods and social stigma of extra-marital affairs. Households in higher socioeconomic strata tend to conceal their financial situations to avoid being targets of crime, to deter social pressures of having to overly support poorer neighbours, and to protect the researchers working with them.”

·       On the Oxford Mind & Behaviour blog, a guide to psychometric validation of scales when measuring non-cognitive skills.

·       Post-Doctoral opportunity with the collaborative research project “Global Foundational Analysis to Close the Gender Profitability Gap”. Details about the project and post doc opportunity can be found on the website or contact Gisella Kagy [email protected]>. 

Authors

David McKenzie

Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

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