By Chelsea Downs and Fitsum Mulugeta
The impacts of EASST don’t stop with training fellows at UC Berkeley-- fellows are funded through the program to catalyze changes within their home countries to strengthen the local ecosystem for evidence production and adoption into policies. See an example of a recent training in Uganda here and one held in 2016 here.
This past month, our first ever EASST fellow Fitsum Mulugeta along with Getachew A. Ahmed of IFPRI conducted an impact evaluation (IE) training with 33 competitively selected faculty, masters, and PhD students at Addis Ababa University. Ahmed drew upon his work measuring the impact of the agricultural programs to illustrate the challenges and strategies for managing field work. Mulugeta also shared examples from his experience evaluating the Ethiopian Social Accountability Program (ESAP), which aims to improve citizen engagement in service delivery. These practical examples helped participants to digest the impact evaluation methods and relate it to the research they do.
These learnings don’t end at the training, as Mulugeta and Ahmed have offered participants tailored support on their ongoing IE research. The facilitators plan to hold a similar training for policy makers in July. The upcoming training will focus on teaching the fundamental concepts of IE, with the goal of convincing policymakers to seek the critical evaluation of the programs they are implementing.
Announcing "Infectious Disease in East Africa: A Behavioral and Economic Research Collaborative (IDEA-BERC)"
The EASST Collaborative is excited to announce that our program will be expanding with a 5-year training grant from the Fogarty International Center at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to start the “Infectious Disease in East Africa: A Behavioral and Economic Research Collaborative (IDEA-BERC).” Falling under the EASST umbrella, IDEA-BERC will offer rigorous semester long training for 12-15 doctoral and post-doctoral East African researchers over the grant period. Our partner institution, the African Population Health Research Center (APHRC), will conduct short-term training courses on the ground across East Africa. Researchers trained through the program will enhance their skills in the scientific evaluation of interventions through coursework and mentored field research, with a specific focus on applying implementation science methods to infectious disease challenges. The IDEA-BERC training program will also provide extensive support to the trainees upon return to their East African institution, including distance mentoring by their US faculty mentor, meetings with their East Africa-based mentor, and access to research and training grants. Moreover, the program will provide trainees access to a valuable network of researchers at University of Nairobi, University of Rwanda, and Makerere University—additional partner institutions of IDEA-BERC.
On February 23-25, 2018, EASST fellow Damazo Kadengye led a 3-day Impact Evaluation and Research Transparency workshop in Kampala, Uganda for 21 early career researchers from Mbarara University, Makerere University, and Busitema University. Kadengye was joined by fellows Jayne Tusiime and Kizito Omala to conduct the workshop, which was funded through EASST’s Catalyst Grant program, which offers fellows $10,000 to institutionalize learnings from their fellowship within their home countries. Trainees were competitively selected for the workshop and trained on impact evaluation, field methods, designing observational studies, and research transparency and reproducibility methods.
From the workshop, four promising participants were chosen for one year of close mentorship from fellows and a small short-term grant to complete an Impact Evaluation related output (e.g. completion of a research paper, analysis of existing data, development of a research concept, or finishing a working report). The researchers selected will also be required to present at least at one graduate research seminar or conference in Uganda. We hope to further incorporate these selected participants into the EASST network by inviting them to attend the 7th Annual EASST Summit this summer.
This year, EASST will come full circle, holding our Annual EASST Summit in Kampala, Uganda--where EASST was first launched in 2012. We are pleased to cordially invite you to the 7th Annual EASST Summit, to be held on July 6, 2018 at the Fairway Hotel & Spa.
The 7th Annual EASST Summit convenes a network of local and international researchers, EASST fellows, and local policy-makers to share new evidence on East Africa. EASST supports the development of East Africa's impact evaluation community by offering visiting fellowships, funding for collaborative research and training, policy engagement grants, and networking opportunities. The Annual EASST Summit brings this network together with regional policymakers to support partnership development, share research results, and work toward a common goal of large scale, positive impact across the region.
This year's summit will feature presentations on Health, Education and Empowerment, Agriculture and the Environment, and more. Please note that a working agenda for the event is forthcoming.
In order to secure your attendance, please register here at your earliest convenience, and ideally no later than June 15th, 2018. Please feel free to reach out to Chelsea Downs, firstname.lastname@example.org, with any questions
On Saturday, March 10th CEGA staff and EASST and BRAC fellows joined top researchers in development economics at UC Davis for the 2018 Pacific Development Conference (PacDev). The conference, held annually at a university on the West Coast, featured a variety of presentations ranging from women’s empowerment, to behavioral economics in health, to violence and conflict. GiveDirectly’s Paul Niehaus delivered the keynote address, where he emphasized the need for the development economics community to “think bigger” to conduct large-scale experiments that could have greater policy impacts than smaller studies. Both staff and fellows found PacDev a valuable experience—BRAC fellow Danish Us Salam shares three new insights he gained from the conference below:
1) I attended a presentation titled “Income, Psychological Well-being, and the Dynamics of Poverty: Evidence from South Africa” by M. Alloush, a PhD Candidate in Agricultural and Resource Economics at UC Davis, and came to know about the 10-item Center for the Epidemiologic Studies Depression (CES-D) scale, for measuring depressive symptoms. This is relevant since my present research will also be measuring depression and I only knew about the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) as a method of depression measurement.
2) It was interesting to attend a session by Mingming Ma, a PhD Candidate in Economics at the University of Southern California, who presented on the causal association between education and longevity of parents lives. More specifically, parents with educated kids were found to have positive health effects in later life. The potential pathways of these effects are, “financial support, access to economic resources, clean fuels and sanitation.”
3) A presentation by Emma Riley, a PhD Candidate in Economics at the University of Oxford, on using a movie starring Queen of Katwe, a likely role model, to boost student aspirations and performance in exams gave me some serious pointers on an intervention that uses board games to nudge student behavior. It would be interesting to see how that intervention relates to student confidence, discipline, and their involvement in anti-social activities
In January 2018 , the Working Group in African Political Economy (WGAPE) held its international meeting at New York University-Abu Dhabi (NYU-AD). WGAPE is an international forum for academic researchers, ranging from graduate students to faculty, who meet semi-annually to have discussions on selected papers--providing a unique opportunity for presenters to receive extensive feedback from participants. EASST fellows Constantine Manda, who is currently pursuing a PhD in Political Science at Yale University, and Michael Mbate, who is currently pursuing a PhD in International Development at the London School of Economics, were among the five African scholars selected to present at the NYU-AD meeting. Ten more students and junior faculty from sub-Saharan Africa participated in a Learning Days training opportunity sponsored by Evidence in Governance and Politics (EGAP) and the Berkeley Initiative for Transparency in the Social Sciences (BITSS). In a recent blog post, CEGA affiliate Brian Dillon delves into the details of Manda’s paper, “Minority Presidents, Ethnic Diversity, and the Onset of Civil War.” Read the full post here.
EASST Fellow, Dr. Kizito Omala, was recently featured on CEGA's Blog, speaking about the influential role of his background in teaching and his work to adapt Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL), a proven education program, for students in Uganda. In the post, Dr. Omala also touches on the impact of the EASST fellowship, "I am completely different since the fellowship. I can see that EASST has widened my network and improved my teaching methods." Read the full post here.
On January 22nd the EASST Collaborative announced its 2018-2019 Visiting Fellowship Application.
With a network of 21 fellows already, the Fellowship seeks to continue equipping East African social scientists with the skills needed to carry out rigorous evaluations of social or economic development projects in East Africa. During a four-month fellowship (Fall 2018 or Spring 2019) based at UC Berkeley, fellows will audit courses, present research, attend economic development seminars, develop curricula, and design collaborative research projects.
To be eligible, researchers must be residents of an East African country (Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Burundi, South Sudan, or Uganda) and hold a staff or student position at a research institution, university, or other organization headquartered in East Africa. Applicants must already have a PhD or be working towards a PhD. Researchers from economics, epidemiology, statistics, and other quantitative social science disciplines are encouraged to apply.
This year, we will give preference to researchers interested in infectious diseases, agriculture, and digital financial inclusion. Female researchers are especially encouraged to apply.
Please see the EASST 2018 Visiting Fellowship Announcement, for more information and detailed application instructions.
Each month, EASST compiles a list of funding, research, and employment opportunities for East African researchers. To view opportunities available in the month of January, please visit the "Other Opportunities" page here.
Of note, there are several upcoming deadlines to submit papers for international conferences and workshops:
2018 Symposium on Economic Experiments in Developing Countries
The symposium, held in the Netherlands, will bring together the community of scholars who employ laboratory experimental economics methods for research in developing countries. Submissions are invited for papers that involve lab experiments in the field. Submit online by January 22, 2018.
International Workshop on Poverty, Inequality Dynamics, & Economic Development
The workshop, held at Kings College London, will focus on mixed-method research on poverty, inequality, economic development, as well as on their interactions. Refer to their website for additional information on the call for papers. The deadline for submissions of abstracts is January 31st, 2018.
Higher Education and International Development Conference
The conference, hosted at the UCL Institute of Education in London, will address the role of higher education in sustainable development and showcase innovative research in the field. Proposals are welcome for presentations on diverse aspects of higher education in low and middle-income countries, involving empirical research, policy analysis or theoretical engagement. Refer to their website for information on the thematic focus areas. The deadline for submissions of abstracts is February 1st, 2018.
When EASST Fellows come to UC Berkeley, they not only strengthen their networks by meeting with CEGA Affiliates and PhD students, but they also gain access to a wealth of opportunities to collaborate with other programs at CEGA. The following stories illustrate our fellows' connections across CEGA.
Berkeley Initiative for Transparency in the Social Sciences (BITSS) Catalysts
BITSS was established by CEGA in 2012 and “aims to enhance the practices of social scientists in ways that promote research transparency, reproducibility, and openness.” One component of the initiative is the Catalyst Program. Similar to the EASST catalyst grant program, which awards fellows grants to train others in impact evaluation, BITSS Catalysts become leaders in the open science movement by passing on their knowledge to others.
EASST Fellows Jayne Tusiime and Kizito Omala first became exposed to BITSS ideas and methods while at Berkeley, and later went on to become BITSS Catalysts. Thus far, they have conducted four research transparency trainings, and have trained over 425 participants. Most recently, Jayne and Kizito were invited to attend the 2017 BITSS Annual Meeting in Berkeley where they met with other catalysts and leaders in the movement.
Fellows’ papers accepted to the Working Group in African Political Economy (WGAPE) January 2018 Meeting
CEGA’s WGAPE program was founded in 2002 and is an international forum for academic researchers who combine deep field research experience in Africa with training in political economy methods. The meetings provide a unique opportunity for researchers to obtain in depth feedback from meeting participants, who have all read the papers that are being discussed. Two of our EASST Fellows, Constantine Manda and Michael Mbate, were recently selected to present their papers at the upcoming meeting in January 2018 at New York University-Abu Dhabi. Constantine’s paper, “Minority Presidents and Ethnic Politics,” analyzes a dataset covering 142 countries and finds that ethnic diversity and ethnic minority leadership has a negative association with the onset of civil war. Michael’s paper utilizes a spatial policy implemented in Kenya to examine the effects of politicians’ strategic interactions on public spending. He finds that “politically motivated adjustments in government spending are associated with significant short-term budgetary distortions.” The misallocation of budgetary resources is welfare reducing and significantly affect public goods with positive externalities. Although this is the first time our fellows will be presenting papers, EASST Fellow involvement in WGAPE predates the January meeting. Several fellows have attended as non-presenters to provide feedback to participants on their papers, and at the WGAPE Spring National Meeting, Michael led the impact evaluation training.