Sometimes I re-read a paper and remember how nice a sentence or paragraph was (especially when thinking that a benevolent or benign dictator might make research so much easier, as though easy was the main goal of research).
So it is with the paper by Gary King and colleagues (2007) on “a ‘politically robust’ experimental design for public policy evaluation, with application to the mexican universal health insurance program”.
Scholars need to remember that responsive political behavior by political elites is an integral and essential feature of democratic political systems and should not be treated with disdain or as an inconvenience. Instead, the reality of democratic politics needs to be built into evaluation designs from the start — or else researchers risk their plans being doomed to an unpleasant demise. thus, although not always fully recognized, all public policy evaluations are projects in both political science and political science.
What would be nice is if researchers would share more of their experiences and lessons learned not just in robust research design (though this is critical) but also in working to (and failing to) persuade local political leaders to go along with randomization schemes and to potentially hold off any kind of scale-up until the results are in… and only if they are promising!