The I-Told-You-So test for research questions

A few weeks back, Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) (my former employer) posed this question to readers with reference to two small and micro-enterprises (SME) studies in Ghana and Mexico (RCTs, of course) –

In the summer issue of SSIR, we will discuss the results of these two studies in more detail. But here, we’d like YOU to predict the results. We are doing this because people often have preconceptions about solving poverty issues, and rigorous evaluations often challenge conventional wisdom. It’s always easy to say, “I told you so” when there is no clear record of what the predictions were; ideally, people could register their predictions in advance

Why this teaser, you ask? Here is the answer…

First, it would allow stakeholders to stake their claim (pun intended) on their predictions and be held to acclaim when they are right or to have their opinions challenged when they are wrong. Second, such a market could help donors, practitioners, and policymakers make decisions about poverty programs, by engaging the market’s collective wisdom

…or what can also be called the ‘I told you so’ test.

Useful, for sure! There have been multiple occasions when I have tried to explain why one needs to go through three years of arduous research to answer a research question whose answer seems “common sense”. Simply put, when it comes to assessing impact of projects for the poor, guesses are not good enough. Who should be taking the test – probably some researchers, but practitioners should, definitely – governments, NGOs, donors? All of them definitely have much to gain from learning if their predictions turn out to be right or not. Will it increase the value of research in their eyes though? I am not so sure…could turn out both ways, I guess.

By the way, can we think of asking project participants what their prediction on a particular project is? Bet that would throw up some exciting results…

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