Sunday, September 19, 2010

Gates Foundation project

Some of the papers from the Gates Foundation project on evaluating innovative health interventions in developing countries I was involved with have now been published in the journal Health Economics. These are the stronger papers from the project.

Among the people I did not know prior to starting the project but got to know as a result of it, the Iranian group ("Family planning ...") and Jean-Louis Arcand ("Teacher training ...") were particularly impressive. Indeed, being the methods "mentor" for the Iranian group, who did not really need my help, changed my views on Iran quite a lot, as the policy being evaluated highlights aspects of internal politics within Iran with which I was quite unfamiliar. The papers by the people I did already know - Rodrigo Soares was a junior colleague of mine at Maryland and Rebecca Thornton is a junior colleague at Michigan - also impressed me.

One lesson that I learned from this project is that researchers who participate in things like this should get promises about publication outlets in writing before they commit to participating. Some of the papers in the Health Economics special issue could have been published in more prestigious journals but were not because the project organizers wanted to put all the best papers in a single special issue of a journal. The tradeoff here is between the promotion of the project as a whole, which is easier with a special issue, and the interests of the individual researchers, many of whom are untenured assistant professors, who want to get their own work in the best possible journals. I have no problem with making the tradeoff in favor of the project as a whole if the decision to do so is all spelled out in advance, but in this case it was not. This in turn led to some conflict and ill will during the course of the project, along with a bad taste afterwards, all of which could easily have been avoided.

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