Methodical Snark critical reflections on how we measure and assess civic tech

research links w41


Papers / Findings

  • A special issue of the Journal of Communication Law and Policy offers five articles on the US Freedom of Information Act. The Editor’s conclusion: “The case made by all these articles is that FOIA is not doing the job that was intended, and that a major overhaul of the act is needed to ensure requisite access to government documents and activities. Access is key to a democratic republic, and fifty years after its adoption, FOIA must be revised to provide that access.”
  • Two german researchers developed a theoretical framework claiming to show that a large electorate of ignorant voters can can acheive high levels of accountability through elections. Sigh, in the days of trump, hard to take such claims srsly on the basis of zero empirical data.
  • On civic engagement. Data from US-based phone survey suggests that network

    diverisity and arguing on social media are the best predictors of political engagemetn. Online panel data (also from the US) suggests that social media use is associated with political consumerism (think fair trade coffee). A case study of a British city council suggests that nobody agrees on what civic engagement is in the first place, and that this gets in the way of engagement.

  • The US Government Accountability Office survyed “open inovation” practives in the federal government, and presented 6 illustrative case studies in this report, together with a typology of 5 strategies (crowdsourcing, idea generation, open data collaboration, and competition).

Community and Commentary

  • ICT Works shared a blogpost with tricks and pro tips for using google sheets in M&E. Useful.
  • When the Juice Isn’t Worth the Squeeze – Winner of the best title of the week, this blogpost describes a failed research effort to document the effects of beneficiary feedback on program implementation and donor perceptions. It’s a worthwhile question, but essentially fell apart when all beneficiary organizations refused to participate. This basically because they were being treated like research objects and not organizations/ppl. The discussion of incentives to acheive statistical power is both instructive and disturbing. #responsibledata
  • Ezra Klein interviewed Francis Fukuyama, who made some interesting observations about how the social sciences aspire to quantative methods, but how that only works for really narrow questions, and how we still need speculative theory for the big questions policy questions around democratic governance (from 52:30).
  • The beta version of Open Trials was launched last week, a search-driven linked database for accessing publically available information on clinical trials that have been conducted around the world. Billed as “All the data, on all the trials,” it’s not clear how many trials are included in the beta database, in either absolute or relative terms


Miscellenea / Absurdum

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Methodical Snark critical reflections on how we measure and assess civic tech