Measuring development aid in the Congo: experimental design and ethical research

The Trudeau Foundation’s most recent public lecture was given by Dr. Marcartan Humphreys from Columbia University.Here is the short abstract (below). The entire video is available here from the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, where the lecture was given. I highly recommend this interesting talk – the audio is quiet but clear.

When The Results Are Not What You Were Looking For: Experimental Research, Development Policy, and Agency Politics in the Congo

Professor Macartan Humphreys

For 5 years, Professor Macartan Humphreys and his team coordinated with the British government and two international development organizations to study how post-conflict development aid affected local governance capacity in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Working with a sample of nearly four million people – two million in communities that had received development aid, and two million in communities that did not – the team came back with surprising results: analysis of 200 outcome measures failed to reveal compelling evidence that the program – one of the largest of its kind – was having any of the effects that had been attributed to this kind of aid. In his Trudeau Lecture, Professor Humphreys grapples with the ethical and political questions that his study in the DRC, and experimental research in general, raises about researchers’ role in international development. He also discusses the implications of null findings for researchers and practitioners. Researchers dislike null results and often hide them, leading to an unreliable body of published results. Null findings can be even more consequential for practitioners, since they can threaten programming and funding streams. The politics of the absorption of the findings in the DRC thus confronted the team with another ethical question: to what extent should researchers seek to influence the ways their work gets used