How do we conduct research in an ethical manner? Just as with any ethical question we face, there may not be one right answer. But asking the right questions early and throughout the research life cycle is the first step. In our latest blog series – led by 3ie’s Transparency, Reproducibility, and Ethics team – we aim to refine and reflect on some initial questions around the scarcity of resources, state of equipoise, and payments to research participants. In collaboration with Dr Douglas MacKay, an associate professor of public policy at the University of North Carolina, these blogs respond to key questions and highlight 3ie Team’s takeaways from them.

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

To navigate ethical questions, research teams often rely on two factors: (i) foundational research ethics principles of beneficence, respect for persons, and justice established in the 1979 Belmont Report, and (ii) independent review of research protocols and documentation by an Institutional Review Board (IRB). In this introductory blog, we highlight the existing gaps and the need for researchers to own how they integrate research ethics into the design, implementation, and dissemination of their projects.
How does scarcity inform ethical withholding of treatment?
Douglas MacKay

Dr MacKay’s first piece explores when it is fair to randomly assign participants to a superior but scarce intervention. He illustrates with case study examples the principal requirement of distributive fairness and lists three conditions that must be satisfied before randomly assigning people to a superior but scarce intervention.
Policy equipoise and ethical implementation experiments: Evidence of effectiveness, not merely efficacy
Douglas MacKay

In his second blog, Dr MacKay discusses factors to be considered when making judgments regarding equipoise. He underlines why researchers and implementation partners need to consider evidence of effectiveness, not merely evidence of efficacy, in order to determine if a particular implementation experiment satisfies the principle of policy equipoise.
We welcome additional questions from the research community! Please contact 3ie at with any feedback or suggestions.
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Operational and evaluation leaders from FCDO, MCC, Norad, USAID and the World Bank Group will reconvene exactly after a year to reflect and report on the steps taken by them to improve the evidence and learning culture within their organizations. As a sequel to the Evidence Dialogues on 17 March 2021, where panelists committed to continuing the conversation in a year’s time, this discussion will bring the focus back on efforts needed to strengthen continuous monitoring, evaluation, learning, and adaptations to ensure the chances of good outcomes are improved. The expert panel, which had agreed that development agencies do not always walk the talk of evidence-informed decision-making, will return for another deep-dive into the challenges and share learnings and experiences that will help inform current practices.

  • Alison Evans, Vice President and Director General of IEG, World Bank Group
  • Charlotte Watts, Chief Scientific Adviser and Director, Research and Evidence, FCDO
  • Håvard Mokleiv Nygård, Director of Knowledge and Evaluation, NORAD
  • Mark Sundberg, Chief Economist and Deputy Vice President, Department of Policy and Evaluation, MCC
  • Stacey Young, Agency Knowledge Management and Organizational Learning Officer, USAID
  • Marie Gaarder, Executive Director, 3ie ( Chair)
Time: 9.00-10.30 AM EST (1.00 PM- 2.30 PM GMT)

3ie at the 10th BITSS Annual Meeting
The annual meeting of the Berkeley Initiative for Transparency in the Social Sciences (BITSS) brought together actors from academia, scholarly publishing, and policy to share novel research and discuss efforts to improve the credibility of social science by advancing research transparency, reproducibility, rigor, and ethics. 3ie’s Jennifer Sturdy presented 3ie’s work in embedding transparency, reproducibility, and ethics into independent review of international development evaluation.
Brief | What impacts can be expected from Benin’s strategy to expand vocational education?
3ie Impact | Ten new summaries available on our Evidence Impact Portal
Promoting the generation and use of quality evidence is 3ie's north star. Our experience of promoting, monitoring and measuring the use of evidence in L&MICs has revealed how challenging the path of evidence-informed decision-making can be. But there have also been several success stories.

In the last few months, we have verified ten new summaries of where 3ie’s research has had an impact. These include how studies on HIV self-testing informed WHO guidelines, how our evidence has been used to feed into the World Food Programme’s global nutrition programming and much more.  
Visit the portal

Our portal links to a searchable database of 60+ summaries, as well as to 3ie blogs and resources sharing how we promote and measure evidence impact. If you’re new to this work, we recommend checking our Evidence Impact blogs campaign for more resources.

If you would like to know more about our approach, write to us at
Global Waste Pickers' Day | 1 March 2022
We take this opportunity to share with you a glimpse of our work in Bengaluru, in India’s southern state of Karnataka, where 3ie is leading an evaluation that will inform the future design and scale-up of an initiative that aims to improve the lives of waste pickers through a coordinated multi-sectoral approach. The evaluation will use a mixed-methods approach to assess if and how the initiative works to improve the lives of waste pickers and their families.

Read more about the project and its objectives.