Pre-Registration As a Self-Control Mechanism

[From the blog “Registering studies when all you want is a little more credibility” by Berk Ozler, posted at World Bank Blogs]
“Some time ago, colleagues from World Bank (WB) operations contacted me with a request to evaluate an upcoming cash transfer program for refugees in Turkey.”
“With observational studies, the default mode of operation is that the researcher gets access to all the data, picks an identification strategy, does the analysis, and writes up the results. The trouble is, I do not trust myself (or my collaborator) to not be affected in our choices by the impact findings, their statistical significance, etc. … I am worried about subconscious choices that can take the analysis in one direction than the other – exactly because I can see the consequences of these choices pretty easily if I have all the data…”
“So, this is what we did: we asked the WB task team leader (TTL) to only give us the baseline data. My collaborator would then look at various options to create proper treatment and counterfactual groups using only the baseline data, after which we would register this choice – by writing up the main identification strategy and describing the analysis that would follow once we gained access to the follow-up data.”
“The idea is that once we defined who belongs in the treatment group and who in control, then we could fall back on standard operating procedures for analyzing experimental data when we received the follow-ups.”
“We now have the data from the first follow-up and analyzing attrition – in the way we specified in the PAP. Wish us luck…”
To read more, click here.


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