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Latest blogs

TREE Review Framework – Reimagining ethics review and oversight

At 3ie, we are refining a process to help research teams consider the ethics questions raised in social science research and document their decisions. Our Transparent, Reproducible, and Ethical Evidence (TREE) Review Framework complements the necessary work of Institutional Review Board (IRBs) while ensuring we do not outsource our ethical judgement to them.

The four essentials of supporting artisans’ group enterprises

In this blog we draw from the experiences of the two leaders as they navigated the journey of setting up and supporting artisans’ collective enterprises. Both these leaders, Vijaya Switha Grandhi and Prerna Agarwal, and their organizations, Chitrika Foundation and Urmul Trust, respectively, have been working for several years to support artisans, particularly women artisans, to transform from wage workers to entrepreneurs and leaders.

Swashakt: Women leaders on collective entrepreneurship and empowerment

What does the journey of promoting non-farm livelihoods in rural India and empowering women in the process look like in practice? Our conversation with two women leaders answers this question and shines light on key learnings from lived experiences. Vijaya Switha Grandhi and Prerna Agarwal have been working with women weavers and artisans through collectivization, entrepreneurship, and capacity building for several years. We spoke to them about their understanding of these concepts and their individual journeys. In this blog, the first of two parts, we share what the conversation revealed about women’s leadership, empowerment, and the need for collectivization.

The ethics of payments to research participants

Data collection is often a burdensome and time-consuming activity for research participants, particularly when it involves hours-long surveys. Researchers may wonder if they should pay participants for their time, how much they should offer, and whether it should take the form of cash or in-kind provision. They may worry that a failure to pay participants risks exploitation, but also that the promise of payment may unduly influence or even coerce people to participate, particularly when prospective participants are poor. I explore these issues in this post, focusing first on the rationale for payment before turning to concerns regarding coercion and undue inducement.

Policy equipoise and ethical implementation experiments: Evidence of effectiveness, not merely efficacy

One ethical concern that researchers and implementation partners confront with the use of experiments to evaluate policy interventions is the withholding of an intervention or policy – e.g. a cash transfer or empowerment collective – from otherwise eligible people. This concern may be alleviated in cases where there is a scarcity of resources. It is also alleviated when the relevant community of experts is in a state of equipoise regarding the merits of the intervention under study and the status quo. In this post, I discuss some of the factors to be considered when making judgments regarding equipoise.

How does scarcity inform ethical withholding of treatment?

In order to conduct an impact evaluation, researchers and implementation partners sometimes justify withholding an intervention from some eligible people to form a control group – for example to conduct a randomized controlled trial (RCT) – on the grounds that resources for an intervention are scarce. The argument is that since there are insufficient resources (e.g. money or bureaucratic capacity) to offer an intervention to all eligible people, it is fair to allocate access to the treatment by means of a lottery.

Ethics in social science research: Getting the questions right even if there are no easy answers

What does it mean to conduct international social science research in an ethical manner? Over the course of one project, a research team studying the effects of a public policy or intervention wrestles with a constant stream of questions. For some questions, there may be no "right" answer, or the "right" answer may depend entirely on context.

Three ways you can start using remote sensing for measuring impact

Remote sensing has the power to transform and complement traditional approaches to impact evaluation. With the emergence of new technologies and the deployment of advanced sensors aboard satellites, there is an increase in the use of satellite imagery to measure impact in low- and middle-income countries across the world.

Assessing the impact of policy and institutional reforms in international development

For decades, development actors have recognized that good governance and solid country systems are essential for the effective delivery of well-designed, evidence-based interventions. A number of development organizations and initiatives have, therefore, emerged with explicit missions to strengthen the capacity and performance of publicly-mandated political and administrative institutional structures (for e.g., World Bank’s Global Governance practice and USAID Center for Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance)

Evidence impact: Research showed unconditional cash transfers work. Now they're everywhere

Across the world, governments used cash transfers, including unconditional transfers, to shield vulnerable people from the economic hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic. As of December 2020, cash transfer schemes made up more than a third of the estimated 1400 social protection responses to the pandemic across 215 countries and territories.


Evidence Matters is 3ie’s blog. It primarily features contributions from staff and board members. Guest blogs are by invitation.

3ie publishes blogs in the form received from the authors. Any errors or omissions are the sole responsibility of the authors. Views expressed are their own and do not represent the opinions of 3ie, its board of commissioners or supporters.