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A pre-registration is a time-stamped research plan that researchers can create and upload before conducting a study. The objective of pre-registration is to provide researchers with an overview of ongoing studies in their field and to build research transparency by reducing selective reporting. While pre-registration is commonplace for clinical health trials, its use in development economics is more recent.

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  • Pre-registration promotes transparency and provides researchers with comprehensive knowledge of current research in their field.
  • The American Economic Association (AEA), The International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie) and Open Science Framework are all platforms on which researchers can register their studies.

Where can I register?

The American Economic Association (AEA) hosts a trial registry specifically for randomized controlled trials; the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie) provides a registry for experimental and quasi-experimental research in developing countries; and Open Science Framework offers a platform for registration and houses registries here.

What information should be included?

The information required for pre-registration typically includes the country and title, a brief description of the project, the timeline, outcomes to measure, sample size, study design, and ethical approval details. Some of the details provided can be uploaded and time stamped but hidden from public view prior to study completion. A pre-analysis plan, which provides a detailed description of how the analysis will be conducted, can also be uploaded, though this is typically not mandatory for pre-registration.

When should I register?

While clinical trials in health are expected to be registered before patient enrolment, there is currently no formal requirement for development economics trials to be registered by a particular stage of the research. In cases where intervention delivery is uncertain, development economics researchers may wait to register their trials until after baseline and interventions completed, but before any follow-up data collection or analysis takes place.

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This article is part of the topic Research Ethics

Additional Resources

  • David Mellor of the Center for Open Science gives answers to 8 questions about registered reports.
  • This Berkeley Initiative for Transparency in the Social Sciences (BITSS) module discusses the advantages of registration and explores the debate over how useful pre-analysis plans are.
  • Andrew Foster, Dean Karlan, and Ted Miguel discuss the Journal of Development Economics (JDE)’s pre-results review track pilot, which offers authors the opportunity to have their prospective empirical projects reviewed and approved for publication before the results are known.
  • Andrew Foster, Dean Karlan, and Ted Miguel offer early insights on the Journal of Development Economics (JDE)’s pre-results review track pilot.
  • Ted Miguel’s slides discuss the prospects for pre-specifying research hypotheses.
  • The World Bank’s David McKenzie discusses trial registries and differentiates between the 3ie Registry and the AEA RCT Registry.