Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa
Conseil pour le développement de la recherche en sciences sociales en Afrique
Conselho para o Desenvolvimento da Pesquisa em Ciências Sociais em África
مجلس تنمية البحوث الإجتماعية في أفريقيا

African perspectives on experimentation in the social sciences

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Randomised controlled trials have become the research method of choice for scholars in a number of social science disciplines, including development economics, where both the associated methodologies and research findings have become very influential. So while the first randomised controlled trials (RCTs) in social science were pioneered in the United States in areas such as military propaganda, school class size, and income protection, RCTs are now
increasingly conducted on people in the global South by scholars based in the global North.
That shift has been associated with a corresponding shift in the types of research questions, how research is carried out, power dynamics in the research process, and the way research findings are used to inform policy – amongst others. While there has increasingly been critical debate about the role of such RCTs in scholarship and policymaking, much of this debate has focused on what scholars in the North have to say on the matter. There has been little space for Southern debates, not least African debates, about the emergence of this new research industry that appears to be having a profound influence on critical societal decisions.

This special issue of Africa Development aims to help address this gap. It is dedicated to investigating and understanding the role of RCTs from African and Southern perspectives more broadly. It draws on contributions to two special issues of CODESRIA’s Bulletin on RCTs, which suggest several lines of enquiry. These include: its influence on African development and development policy; the research-policy nexus; the dynamics of effective research governance; race, power and participants’ resistance to experimentation; the intellectual history of RCTs; and comparative perspectives with medical experimentation, amongst others.

Africa Development invites submissions from scholars in Africa and beyond that address these lines of enquiry or seek to develop new lines of enquiry into experimentation in the social sciences. Potential contributors will:

► First need to submit an abstract of up to 500 words by 23 October 2020 to
► Thereafter, selected authors will be invited to submit a full manuscript of between 7000 and 8000 words for peer review by 28 February 2021.
► Authors who submitted short pieces to the Bulletin in 2020 are strongly encouraged to resubmit fully-developed papers to
► Guidelines of how to submit manuscripts including style and word limits can be found on the journal’s website at

Any questions about this special issue can be directed to:
► Dr Grieve Chelwa,
► Dr Seán Muller, and
► Dr Nimi Hoffmann, at