I’m currently completing a three-paper dissertation with a thematic focus on cross-regional comparative politics. Paper #1 examines how strong elite coalitions can substitute for weak institutions in postcolonial states in Africa and Asia. Paper #2 looks at the comparative expansion of welfare programs in Africa and Latin America, with a focus on how the quality of the evidence base about welfare programs shaped patterns of policy diffusion differently between the two regions. Paper #3 documents the frequency of such cross-regional comparisons within political science, and critically assesses the idea that there is some type of unspecified but strong “regional effect” which make it difficult to compare and learn from countries in different regions.
Abstract: Generalizability is widely agreed to be a desirable characteristic of social science research. Many discussions of the topic present it as a tradeoff between a study’s internal validity, and its generalizability, which is best achieved by increasing its sample size. At present, individual researchers usually bear all the costs of expanding the sample size, which means that generalizable single studies are undersupplied. I argue that disciplines should subsidize and coordinate generalizable research by building infrastructure for systemic reviews and coordinated multi-site studies. Both of these techniques expand sample sizes by aggregating data across studies, which lowers the cost to individual researchers. The biomedical sciences provide a model of infrastructure for generalization within a mature research ecosystem. The social sciences have been slower to build such infrastructure, although it has been expanding more rapidly in the last decade. The substantive implication of this argument is that researchers should focus on their preferred type of internally valid research, and disciplines as a whole should take responsibility for assessing the generalizability of research findings.
- “Elite Cohesion and Institutional Development in Weak States”
- “Evidence and the Diffusion of Welfare Programs in Latin America and Africa”
- “What Do We Learn from Cross-Regional Comparisons?”
- “How Northern Scholars can Support Their African Colleagues” (with Virginia Kamonji, Rose Mutiso, Beverlyne Nyamemba, Alesha Porisky, and Tom Wein)
- “Where is ‘The Field’? Centring the Periphery in Kinshasa.” The Republic. 9 December 2019.
- “Supporting African Scholars in the Social Sciences” (with Constantine Manda). Center for Effective Global Action. 9 November 2019.
- “Bringing Researchers and Knowledge Brokers Together for Greater Impact.” Research to Action. 29 May 2019.
- “The DRC: An Unexpected Transfer of Power, but Was It the Right One?” Democracy in Africa. 11 January 2019.
- “30% of Trips in Nairobi Are Made by Minibus. Why Were They Banned?” African Arguments. 6 December 2018.
- “Ways to Improve Your Academic Writing and Editing” Part 1 and Part 2. AuthorAID. 18 and 25 July 2017.