The Metaketa Initiative is a grant-making model aimed at improving the accumulation of knowledge on topics where academic researchers and policy practitioners share substantive interests. EGAP funds and coordinates studies across countries, clustered by theme, to improve and incentivize innovative research alongside integrated analysis and publication.
Context: EGAP sees an on-going crisis of external validity of development research and few systemic efforts to address it. The business-as-usual model for many academic researchers is to select topics they find interesting and seek funding to implement the research in an original way. In practice, this often means the results may be difficult to integrate with learning developed in other contexts. Other research is done in the context of policy evaluation. In these cases, the research is sometimes commissioned by development agencies and implemented by researchers. Often this research responds strongly to particular local needs but is not designed to answer questions that span variegated contexts. A consequence of this is that major policy innovations often rest on fragile research foundations.
For example, major lessons have been drawn on the effectiveness of community-based monitoring of health workers for health gains, or on the advantages of disseminating information on corruption about politicians—all from single studies. Yet there are well known reasons for caution, not least because of the presence of publication bias afflicting academic research. Positive results get published and read, negative or null results often disappear, and little is learned about the role that context plays in determining when a finding is relevant or not.
Solution: EGAP is trying to change this challenge of external validity; in part by getting the incentives right to attract the best researchers to contribute to a collective endeavor that identifies critical areas where generalizable knowledge can have a large impact. The key idea of this initiative is to take a major question of policy importance for governance outcomes, identify an intervention that is tried, but not tested, and implement a cluster of coordinated research studies that can provide a reliable answer to the question.