Best Fieldwork Award

Awarded by the Comparative Democratization section of the American Political Science Association, 2016. Quoted after

“Committee Members: Barry Driscoll (Grinnell College); Michael Broache (University of Tampa); and Colm Fox (Singapore Management University)

Committee’s Remarks on the Award Winners: It is with great pleasure that the Fieldwork Award Committee—Barry Driscoll of Grinnell College, Michael Broache of the University of Tampa, and Colm Fox of Singapore Management University—announces that Pia Raffler of Yale University and Kathleen Klaus of UW-Madison are co-recipients of the 2016 APSA Fieldwork Award.

Pia’s dissertation develops and tests a novel theory concerning the relationship between political oversight of bureaucrats and service provision by local governments, combining qualitative and experimental methods that involved 18 months of in-depth fieldwork in Uganda.

The theory developed in Ms. Raffler’s dissertation addresses a critical question in political economy, with particular relevance to emerging democracies: how and under what conditions increased democratic accountability affects the provision of government services at the local level. Pia posits that increased oversight will improve service delivery, conditional on the underlying issue impeding effective service delivery and the integrity of bureaucrats and officials. This theory is directly informed by hundreds of in-depth, semi-structured interviews that Ms. Raffler conducted with local government officials and civil society representatives.

To test this theory, Ms. Raffler used extensive contacts with government agencies and researchers to design and implement a field experiment involving the rollout of a reform that affected local politicians’ and challengers’ access to budgetary information and capacity to exercise oversight vis-à-vis bureaucrats in 260 localities nationwide. Working in close collaboration with the Ministry of Finance, Ms. Raffler managed an extensive logistical operation, including the recruitment and training of local facilitators to administer training workshops to over 3,000 local government officials and challengers and the dissemination of local budgetary information, while at the same time organizing an impressive data collection effort that involved a panel survey of over 2,800 politicians and bureaucrats, physical inspections of over 1,200 local government project sites, and review of local-level budgeting and voting data.

The Committee also wishes to be clear that while Pia’s fieldwork is unusual in its very high levels of funding, it was neither the magnitude of the study nor the resources at her disposal that made Pia’s work stand out. Rather, what made it stand out was the complexity involved in carrying out such ambitious work, and in doing so in such a careful and methodical way. Ms. Raffler’s research provides valuable insights into the conditions under which interventions to enhance democratic accountability may promote the effective provision of government services at the local level. These insights were only possible as a result of Ms. Raffler’s rigorous fieldwork, which required deep knowledge of the country context, extensive cooperation with local officials, and management of a highly complex logistical project. Ms. Raffler’s work is therefore a deserving recipient of the Best Fieldwork Award.”