Chris Blattman

IPA’s weekly links

Need education outcomes explained in a more intuitive way? Better call Dave

Guest post by Jeff Mosenkis of Innovations for Poverty Action

  • A lovely tribute to Dave Evans, who’s been a boon to the field, and a prolific producer of public goods, from David McKenzie and his Development Impact Blog colleagues
    • I ran a quick search, and I’ve cited him about 50 times in my links
    • It’s fitting that Dave’s final Dev Impact post is in one of his specialities, making research more understandable to non-researchers, in this case for education. While researchers often report learning outcome changes in standard deviations, he describes his new paper with Fei Yuan on how to express outcomes in increased years of schooling – a much more intuitive measure.
  • Whatever you think of the replication crisis/credibility revolution, the rubber meets the road on good scientific practices when it comes to medical trials. A number of top medical journals have signed onto the CONSORT guidelines for publications, requiring hypotheses to be prespecified. But what good are they if nobody goes back and compares the publication to the registration? Well, when a team compared the actually published studies in a number of top medical journals to the pre-registered hypotheses, they found 25% of the studies had switched outcomes – reporting different ones than they’d originally identified (outcome switching might mean reporting quality of life instead of overall survival, for example, even if survival had been the original goal). Almost half dropped secondary outcomes, and others added new outcomes. When the research team wrote to the journals (like JAMA, BMJ, and NEJM) fewer than half their letters were published, suggesting that top journals aren’t adhering to their own guidelines, but also that there’s no mechanism for checking and enforcing the guidelines.
  • The University of California, Berkeley is ending their contract with Elsevier journals after negotiations (co-chaired by chief librarian, informational science professor, and MIT-trained economist Jeff MacKie-Mason), failed to find an agreement on pricing for journals and also making publications open-access.
    • Their tips for finding alternative ways to access paywalled articles are helpful for all non-academics looking for paywalled articles
    • In econ you can often find a version on the author’s personal website, or by googling the title for a working paper version. If you can’t, try emailing an author to request a copy.
  • A new group of prominent economists has formed the network Economists for Inclusive Prosperity, publishing a set of concrete, research-based policy suggestions for addressing problems of wealthy economies, such as financial system stability, taxation, labor markets in the age of AI and automation, and the like. You can read a summary in the Boston Review from Suresh Naidu, Dani Rodrik, and Gabriel Zucman.
  • I enjoyed the conversation between Tyler Cowen and Daniel Kahneman (Apple). It might be the accent, but I feel like you get a sense of the wisdom of a lifetime of studying human intuition and life satisfaction when you hear him reflect. Two things that struck me were how often he passed on questions – it seemed like if he wasn’t an expert on a topic, he didn’t feel like his opinion was worth more than anybody else’s – and how often he discouraged Cowen from labeling parts of human nature as biases.
  • The Indicator, from NPR’s Planet Money, interviewed economist Nina Banks about Sadie Alexander, the first African-American economist, who held both a Ph.D. and JD from Penn (Apple). For more, see Cardiff’s longer interview with Banks when he was at the Financial Times Alphachat (Apple). And Banks has two books coming out on Alexander – a biography and edited volume of her speeches.
    • The Sadie Collective, which encourages Black women to enter economics and related fields recently held their first conference (and I believe was crowded to capacity). You can watch the video here.
  • Marginal Revolution University has a short video on the work of Elinor Ostrom as part of their new series.
  • And they’ve started their their new course with Josh Angrist on basics of econometrics. It’s difficult to make an intro video about econometrics, but I have a lot of respect for the production quality and effort they’ve put into it. Here’s one on Ceteris Paribus and counterfactuals (if it moves too slowly you can always speed up youtube videos in the settings):