How will you provide information on context?

We’re continuing to answer the questions we received. Please use this link to send us your questions! This question comes from Paul Niehaus, assistant professor at the University of California, San Diego.

The full comment: “This is something we think about a lot in summarizing evidence on cash transfers – there is of course no such thing as “the effect” of cash transfers since by design they are flexible and people use them very differently in different contexts. Even within our own randomized controlled trial sample you see very clearly that poorer people with starving kids prioritize nutrition while less poor households invest more in land, livestock, housing.”

We’re trying to code up the different factors that describe a study’s setting. So, if someone wanted to look only at studies in India, for example, they could do that by going to our meta-analysis app and choosing to include only those studies that were done in India in their analysis. (Note: right now you will only see a couple of sample filters as the demo version. Behind the scenes, we have coded up an extensive list of variables for each study, including country and other characteristics of the sample studied. We are still discussing how to put these up in a user-friendly way, as nobody wants to wade through dozens of options. Please feel free to send us your comments about which filters you most want to see added or any usability suggestions.)

Now, adding filters would reduce the number of studies that would be included substantially, so the user will have to make trade-offs. If they want to pick the closest study to their specific situation, they can find just that one study. If they think their situation is somewhere in between several situations, they can include all the studies in the situations they believe might be relevant.

While we’ve been collecting data on a long list of characteristics of studies and the samples they are based on, we’re not going to catch all the characteristics one might possibly care about on our first try. As we grow, you’ll be able to suggest missing filters, which we can go back and add in. Again, the analogy is that this work is like building a Wikipedia from scratch – slow at the start, but, with the help of many individuals, we’ll serve as a good resource.

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