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Title Foreigner Effects in Field Research
Post date 07/11/2018
C1 Background and Explanation of Rationale

Does the presence of foreigners change individuals’ responses in and their engagement with research projects with which the foreigner is affiliated? The effects of foreigners on individuals’ responses to survey and interview questions is important to understand both for the design of field research, but also for understanding the effects of and best practices in implementing development assessments. This project adopts an experimental approach to examine the effect of foreigner presence as part of a research team on how citizens relate to the research project and how they respond to questions about themselves and their communities. Specifically, it randomly varies whether a foreigner is included in the research team that travels to study villages and conducts components of a multi-method field research project, and it randomly varies whether household survey respondents are exposed to the foreigner. By comparing survey responses and behavioral measures depending on exposure to foreigners as part of the research team, we will be able to measure the effect of foreign researchers.

C2 What are the hypotheses to be tested?

This project adopts an experimental approach to identify the effects of foreigners. Our interest in this question is mostly applied. However, we draw on existing political economy and social psychology literature to develop hypotheses about the types of responses and respondents that will be most affected by the presence of a foreigner as part of the research team and the direction of the effects. By engaging in hypothesis testing about the types of variables likely to be affected by foreigner presence, we hope to provide a theoretical structure that can help other researchers decide whether the content and location of their studies are more or less vulnerable to misreporting based on research team composition.

We will test the following hypotheses regarding the direction of effects foreigners will have on measurement levels and measurement accuracy.

Measurement Levels:

H1. Exposure to a foreign vs. a local researcher will cause respondents to provide responses more aligned with foreign interests and values on variables in which foreigners’ positions are clear and salient. (Social desirability hypothesis)

H2. Exposure to a foreign vs. a local researcher will cause respondents to provide more positive responses on variables capturing individual or community status. (Status hypothesis)

H3. Exposure to a foreign vs. a local researcher will cause respondents to provide more negative responses on variables associated with neediness. (Neediness hypothesis)

Measurement Accuracy:

H4. Exposure to a foreign vs. a local researcher will cause less accurate reporting on variables capturing foreign alignment and neediness. (Pandering hypothesis)

H5. Exposure to a foreign vs. a local researcher will cause more accurate reporting on variables that are politically sensitive. (Confidentiality hypothesis)

H6. Exposure to a foreign vs. a local researcher will cause more accurate reporting on variables that require effort in the presence of foreigners. (Stakes hypothesis)

H7. Exposure to a foreign researcher will cause respondents to provide less accurate responses on variables that can be verified with insider knowledge. (Detectability hypothesis).

Heterogenous Effects:

H8: The effects of foreigner presence will be larger in communities with more exposure to foreigners.

Other Design Effects:

Although our primary purpose in this project is to measure the effect of foreign researchers, our design also permits us to analyze the effects of conducting field research in advance of surveys. As a result, we will also test the following hypotheses:

H9: The effects of field research in advance of surveys will cause greater social desirability effects and neediness effects insofar as it gives communities a chance to rehearse their responses.

H10: The effects of field research in advance of surveys will cause less accurate responses on variables subject to pandering but more accurate responses on variables subject to confidentiality concerns, detectability and recall effort insofar as it makes the research purpose more obvious and makes the researchers appear more informed/engaged.

C3 How will these hypotheses be tested? *

This project employs an experimental methodology in order to assess the effects of including foreigners in research teams. The intervention will randomly expose villages to one of three experimental arms, as illustrated in table 2. In the control group, there will be no pre-survey research conducted in the village (aside from any short logistical visits necessary to secure permissions). In the qualitative research group, there will be one day of focus groups and elite interviews conducted by an exclusively Tanzanian field team approximately one week before the household survey. In the foreigner plus qualitative research group, there will be one day of focus groups and elite interviews conducted by a field team that includes one foreigner approximately one week before the household survey. Communities will be randomized into the treatments, stratifying by region and previous exposure to foreigners.

One week prior to the survey, mobilizing teams containing no foreigners will mobilize 20 people to participate in the household survey. In arms (2) & (3) of the study, 10 people will be selected at random and invited to participate in a focus group one or two days later, and 10 people will be selected at random to participate in a HH survey one week later. In arm (1) of the study, 20 people will be selected at random to participate in a HH survey one week later.

One or two days later, the focus groups will be conducted with the invited participants in arm (2) and (3) of the study. The focus groups will be on development issues, community needs, and local governance. In the foreigner plus qualitative research group, the foreigner will be present at the focus group. The elite interviews will be with the village chairman. In the foreigner plus qualitative research group, the foreigner will be present at this interview.

About one week later, all-Tanzanian research teams will return to the same villages to conduct a household survey (The foreigner will never return, even in condition 3).

C4 Country Tanzania
C5 Scale (# of Units) 2400
C6 Was a power analysis conducted prior to data collection? Yes
C7 Has this research received Insitutional Review Board (IRB) or ethics committee approval? Yes
C8 IRB Number 2000022712
C9 Date of IRB Approval 03/21/2018
C10 Will the intervention be implemented by the researcher or a third party? Researchers
C11 Did any of the research team receive remuneration from the implementing agency for taking part in this research? not provided by authors
C12 If relevant, is there an advance agreement with the implementation group that all results can be published? not provided by authors
C13 JEL Classification(s) not provided by authors