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To what extent can civil rights NGOs protect ethnic minorities against unequal treatment? We study this question by combining an audit experiment of 1260 local governments in Hungary with an intervention conducted in collaboration with a major Hungarian civil rights NGO. In the audit experiment we demonstrated that Roma individuals were about 13 percent-points less likely to receive responses to information requests from local governments, and the responses they received were of substantially lower quality. The intervention that reminded a random subset of local governments of their legal responsibility of equal treatment led to a short-term reduction in their discriminatory behavior, but the effects of the intervention dissipated within a month. These findings suggest that civil rights NGOs might face substantive difficulties in trying to reduce discrimination through simple information campaigns.
We fielded an experiment on a sample of approximately 400 Black state legislators to test whether they would be more responsive to an email that mentioned the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) relative to an email that mentioned Black Lives Matter (BLM). The experiment tested Cohen's theory of secondary marginalization (1999), whereby relatively advantaged members of a marginalized group regulate the behavior, attitudes, and access to resources of less advantaged members of the group. We expected that Black legislators would be less responsive to an email that referenced BLM, an organization that is associated with more marginalized members of the Black community. Contrary to our hypothesis, Black legislators were as responsive to emails referencing inspiration from BLM as they were to emails referencing inspiration from the NAACP. Thus, we do not find any evidence of intragroup discrimination by Black state legislators. To our knowledge, this is the first field experiment to test Cohen's theory of secondary marginalization.1
Informed consent has been a mainstay of all ethical research guidelines since the 1970s, but the proliferation of field experiments in the social sciences – which include audit experiments, correspondence experiments, canvasing experiments, social media experiments, and information experiments – has brought with it an increasing resistance to procuring informed consent. This essay grapples with the now common practice of denying research subjects an opportunity to voluntarily consent to participate in research. It provides a framework for thinking about virtual consent, a situation in which the researcher consents for participants. Drawing on a Rawlsian thought experiment, I argue that ethical research is that to which a reasonable person, not knowing whether she would be the subject or the scientist, would consent. This type of reasoning provides a way for thinking about potential downstream consequences not just for the individual subject, but also for society writ large. Yet, because virtual consent does not entail voluntary participation, in constitutes a bronze standard, rather than a best practice, for ethics in experiments.
We review recent experimental research on the behavior of street-level bureaucrats. These front-line government workers are tasked with implementing most government policy in both advanced democracies and developing countries, but their behavior is often difficult to observe. We highlight how experimental approaches have helped to address classic questions about street-level bureaucratic behavior, and then consider design challenges that arise in running experiments in this context. Finally, we raise several ethical concerns about experimentation on street-level bureaucrats, and propose strategies to minimize the social costs, and maximize the social benefits, of such research.
Ten years since the publication of the first edition of this handbook two things are clear: The world is no less complicated than it was a decade ago and we are better at designing, running, and analyzing experiments today than we were then. In light of these observations, in this chapter I highlight the areas in which political scientists and their collaborators have excelled and how they have done so; but I also point out the challenges –in fact, in some cases, the pure limitations – that remain. Still, the prescription is for more work, more science, and more explanation in the service of reducing the apparent chaos of the interactions between the people and institutions around us.
Experimental political science has transformed in the last decade. The use of experiments has dramatically increased throughout the discipline, and technological and sociological changes have altered how political scientists use experiments. We chart the transformation of experiments and discuss new challenges that experimentalists face. We then outline how the contributions to this volume will help scholars and practitioners conduct high-quality experiments.
Experimental political science has changed. In two short decades, it evolved from an emergent method to an accepted method to a primary method. The challenge now is to ensure that experimentalists design sound studies and implement them in ways that illuminate cause and effect. Ethical boundaries must also be respected, results interpreted in a transparent manner, and data and research materials must be shared to ensure others can build on what has been learned. This book explores the application of new designs; the introduction of novel data sources, measurement approaches, and statistical methods; the use of experiments in more substantive domains; and discipline-wide discussions about the robustness, generalizability, and ethics of experiments in political science. By exploring these novel opportunities while also highlighting the concomitant challenges, this volume enables scholars and practitioners to conduct high-quality experiments that will make key contributions to knowledge.
Inoculation of symbiotic N2-fixing rhizobacteria (rhizobia) in legumes is an alternative to reduce synthetic N fertiliser input to crops. Even though common bean benefits from the biological N2 fixation carried out by native rhizobia isolates, the low efficiency of this process highlights the importance of screening new strains for plant inoculation. Two rhizobial strains (SEMIA 4108 and SEMIA 4107) previously showed great potential to improve the growth of common beans under greenhouse conditions. Thus, this study evaluated the growth and grain yield of common bean plants inoculated with those strains in field experiments. The rhizobial identification was performed by 16S rRNA sequencing and the phylogeny showed that SEMIA 4108 and SEMIA 4107 are closely related to Rhizobium phaseoli, within a clade containing other 18 Rhizobium spp. type strains. Common bean plants inoculated with SEMIA 4107 showed similar productivity to N-fertilised (N+) plants in the first experiment (2016/17) and higher productivity in the second experiment (2018/19). The development of inoculated plants was different from that observed for N+. Nonetheless, comparing inoculated treatments with N-fertilised control, no yield or productivity losses at the end of the growing process were detected. Our results showed that inoculation of the rhizobial isolates SEMIA 4108 and SEMIA 4107 improved the growth and grain yield of common bean plants. The observed agronomical performance confirms that both strains were effective and can sustain common bean growth without nitrogen fertilisation under the edaphoclimatic conditions of this study.
The chapter concludes the book by synthesizing key arguments from previous chapters and making comprehensive arguments about redesigning civil service systems. Previous chapters are examined to question if prior analysis was too optimistic. The chapter discusses processes for advancing the civil service reform agenda, including leveraging small wins to achieve incremental change and aiming for comprehensive reforms. Two examples of navigating comprehensive change, Georgia and South Africa, are discussed. Finally, research surrounding the integration of public service motivation and civil service reform is reviewed. An analysis of systematic programs of field experiments and macro-research about variations in national performance precedes a discussion of the dark side of public service motivation. The chapter concludes with a call for further scholarly scrutiny of public service motivation-related policies to be supplemented with real-world experimentation.
Social media may help civil society organize and mobilize for different campaigns. However, the extent to which social media campaigns simply recruit like-minded individuals as compared to exerting a causal impact on joiners’ attitudes is difficult to disentangle. We test both the organizational and transformative potential of a civil society campaign in a randomized field experiment deployed via Facebook or an email newsletter in collaboration with a Bulgarian environmental campaign. As expected, we find that Bulgarian Facebook users who are active in pro-environmental groups, and those who decide to follow the campaign, are more highly educated than those who decide to stay at the sidelines. Moreover, beliefs in the effectiveness of civic society, character traits and prior activism systematically predict whether a Bulgarian Facebook user decides to join the cause on Facebook, or subscribe to the email newsletter. In contrast, we find little evidence that the campaign affected opinions, knowledge, or self-reported behavior. We conclude that social media campaigns that are commonplace among civil society organizations are effective at selecting activist-types, but changing the views and behaviors of the broader social media population may be more difficult than assumed.
While concerns about the public's receptivity to factual information are widespread, much less attention has been paid to the factual receptivity, or lack thereof, of elected officials. Recent survey research has made clear that US legislators and legislative staff systematically misperceive their constituents' opinions on salient public policies. This study reports the results from two field experiments designed to correct misperceptions of sitting US legislators. The legislators (n = 2,346) were invited to access a dashboard of constituent opinion generated using the 2016 Cooperative Congressional Election Study. Despite extensive outreach efforts, only 11 per cent accessed the information in Study 1 and only 2.3 per cent did so in Study 2. More troubling for democratic norms, legislators who accessed constituent opinion data were no more accurate at perceiving their constituents' opinions. The findings underscore the challenges confronting efforts to improve the accuracy of elected officials' perceptions and suggest that elected officials may indeed resist factual information.
To promote good governance, citizens can inform governments directly and routinely about the implementation of policies and the delivery of public services. Yet citizens lack incentives to provide information when they do not expect governments to be responsive, and citizen disengagement in turn often prevents governments from providing public goods effectively. In two field experiments, we studied potential remedies to this dilemma related to solid waste services in Uganda. We randomly assigned reporters to be recruited by community nomination and to be recognized by community leaders in an attempt to select for and motivate information sharing. We also randomly assigned reporters to hear from the government about how their reports were used to make real improvements to waste services. Community nominations and public announcements did not increase reporting. However, responsiveness boosted participation over several months for reporters who had been recruited earliest and had been reporting longest, highlighting the critical role of timely government responsiveness in sustaining information flows from citizens.
Behavioral economists and social psychologists have shown that extrinsic motivations can crowd out intrinsic motivations to act. This study examines this crowding out effect in the context of legislative behavior. By exploiting the federal nature of Swiss elections, we examine if response rates to requests of voters residing inside or outside a candidate's district vary based on the electoral competition candidate legislators face. We report two main findings. First, we find a high response rate among Swiss candidates (66 percent) which remains high for voters who reside outside a candidate's district (59 percent) suggesting that intrinsic motivations are a key driver of constituency effort. Second, the response to voters who reside inside a candidate's district is more pronounced for candidates confronted with a high degree of electoral competition. This suggests that extrinsic motivations are important for constituency work, but at the same time their presence might crowd out intrinsic motivations. This evidence suggests that the relationship between electoral competition and responsiveness might be less straightforward than assumed.
This study uses field experiments to investigate consumer preferences for oysters. In total, 486 adult participants completed a series of revealed-preference dichotomous-choice tasks and a demographic survey. Using a random effects logit model, we investigate factors that influence participants’ decisions to purchase oysters. As expected, price had a significant negative effect, while income had a positive effect. Older individuals and those who were relatively selective regarding shell color or smell are less likely to buy oysters, but consumers who valued size, oyster species, and harvest location were willing to pay more.
We report the results of a field experiment conducted in New York City during the 2013 election cycle, examining the impact of nonpartisan messages on donations from small contributors. Using information from voter registration and campaign finance records, we built a forecasting model to identify voters with an above-average probability of donating. A random sample of these voters received one of four messages asking them to donate to a candidate of their choice. Half of these treatments reminded voters that New York City's campaign finance program matches small donations with public funds. Candidates’ financial disclosures to the city's Campaign Finance Board reveal that only the message mentioning policy (in generic terms) increased donations. Surprisingly, reminding voters that matching funds multiplied the value of their contribution had no effect. Our experiment sheds light on the motivations of donors and represents the first attempt to assess nonpartisan appeals to contribute.
Field, greenhouse, and laboratory experiments were conducted to investigate resistance to glyphosate in tropical sprangletop biotypes (Lv8 and Lv9) collected in Persian lime from Veracruz, Mexico. Assays to determine the dose required to reduce seedling fresh weight by 50% indicated a resistance factor (RF) of 4.9 and 3.2 for biotypes Lv8 and Lv9, respectively; whereas the LD50 showed a RF of 4.4 and 3.3 for biotypes Lv8 and Lv9, respectively. On the other hand, the RFs using whole plant dose–response assays were lower (RF of 3 for Lv8 and 2.3 for Lv9). The susceptible biotype (LvS) accumulated 5.5 and 11.8 times more shikimate than biotypes Lv8 and Lv9, respectively, at 96 h after treatment (HAT). In field experiments, alternatives to glyphosate-resistant tropical sprangletop management were identified. Indaziflam + glufosinate and paraquat + diuron provided over 80% control of in-field populations of tropical sprangletop at 60 d after treatment (DAT). These results confirmed the first reported case of glyphosate-resistant tropical sprangletop.
In democratic theory, two frequently occurring ideas are that deliberation and direct voting in referendums can increase perceived legitimacy of democratic procedures. To evaluate this claim, we conducted a controlled field experiment in which 215 high school students participated by being subject to a decision on a collective issue. The decision was made either by direct voting or as a non-voting procedure (decision made by the teacher). Additionally, we manipulated the opportunities for deliberation prior to the decision. Our primary finding is that both voting and deliberation significantly increase perceived legitimacy compared with a procedure in which these components are absent. However, applying both voting and deliberation does not yield significantly higher perceived legitimacy than applying voting without deliberation. We also found that perceived influence in the decision-making process mediates the effect of both voting and deliberation, whereas the epistemic quality of the decision, which is heavily emphasized in deliberative democratic theory, gained no support as a mediator.
Experiments with a nonlinear trajectory-tracking controller for marine unmanned surface vessels are reported. The tracking controller is designed using a nonlinear robust model-based sliding mode approach. The marine vehicles can track arbitrary desired trajectories that are defined in Cartesian coordinate as continuous functions of time. The planar dynamic model used for the controller design consists of 3 degrees of freedom (DOFs) of surge, sway, and yaw. The vessel only has two actuators, so the vessel is underactuated. Therefore, only two outputs, which are functions of the 3-DOF, can be controlled. The Cartesian position of a control point on the vessel is defined as the output. The orientation dynamics is not directly controlled. It has been previously shown that the orientation dynamics, as the internal dynamics of this underactuated system, is stable. The result of field experiments show the effectiveness of tracking control laws in the presence of parameter uncertainty and disturbance. The experiments were performed in a large outdoor pond using a small test boat. This paper reports the first theoretical development and experimental verification of the proposed model-based nonlinear trajectory-tracking controller.
Information about cigarettes can help smokers come to an informed decision about what cigarettes to purchase. Countermarketing information can help smokers make informed decisions, but little is known about the value of this information to smokers. In this article, we use data from experimental auctions to estimate the value of countermarketing information that counters industry claims about reduced-risk cigarettes. We find that this information has significant value to smokers who have been exposed to marketing information from tobacco companies touting reduced-risk cigarettes, but we find no evidence it provides value to smokers not exposed to this marketing information.
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