Read the news coverage of the project here.

The Abdul Latif Jameel World Education Lab (J-WEL) hosted a webinar. The recording is available online.

The “Behavioral Science in the Field” course, a collaboration between the MIT Governance Lab and the Busara Center for Behavioral Economics, uses an interdisciplinary approach to train graduate students from MIT, other U.S. universities, and universities in East Africa in cutting-edge behavioral science research.

Behavioral science uses innovative methods and data to better understand determinants of human behavior (for example, incentives for healthier eating, improved educational pedagogy, or effective policy design for public health compliance). Lab-in-the-field experiments, in particular, are one of the gold standards to test behavior using a method that most closely resembles real life. The Behavioral Science in the Field course has three tracks in economics, political science, and social psychology, all of which include training in the full cycle of lab-in-the-field research. The course syllabus is available online.

In this seminar, we will discuss lessons from the course pilot held in Kenya in early 2020, including progress on our key pedagogical outcomes: to test and iterate a new practicum model for students to complete a full research cycle (from ideation to field testing and data collection and analysis); to encourage innovative thinking beyond disciplinary boundaries; to provide U.S.-based students with substantive intellectual engagement with their African counterparts as peers; and to deliver training in behavioral sciences as a critical skill to bridge the gap between theory and practice with proven potential to achieve real-world impacts.

Following the presentation, an interactive Q&A will cover course outcomes, critical lessons learned, and recommendations for future iterations.

Who should attend

This talk is relevant for a range of faculty and researchers interested in new pedagogical models for graduate students, how to structure an intensive course from theory to research design to data collection. interdisciplinary approaches to teaching and research (e.g., economics, political science, and social psychology), cutting-edge quantitative behavioral science methods (lab-in-the-field experiments), and cross-cultural exchange in the Global South.

About our speakers

Lily L. TsaiFaculty Director, MIT Governance Lab, Ford Professor of Political Science, MIT
Lily L. Tsai is Faculty Director of the MIT Governance Lab and the Ford Professor of Political Science at MIT. Her research focuses on accountability, governance, and political participation in developing contexts, particularly in Asia and Africa. Full bio online.

Kelly ZhangResearch Affiliate, MIT Governance Lab
Kelly Zhang, PhD, is a Research Affiliate with the MIT Governance Lab. Her research focuses on the impact of information on voter attitudes and behavior. Her portfolio of work aimed to bridge the academic and technology worlds by supporting research in civic technology. Full bio online.

Chaning JangCSO, Busara. 
Chaning Jang, PhD, is the CSO of Busara, and has helped lead the organization since 2013.  Chaning is responsible for both internal and external strategy, and a portfolio of projects, primarily focused on research. Full bio online.


MIT Governance Lab is a group of political scientists focusing on innovation in citizen engagement and government responsiveness. MIT GOV/LAB is based in the Political Science Department of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Busara Center for Behavioral Economics, based in Nairobi, Kenya, is an organization that works with researchers and organizations to advance and apply behavioral science in pursuit of poverty alleviation.

Photo by Alisa Zomer. MIT Political Science PhD students Nicole Wilson and Stuart Russell, participants in the pilot Behavioral Science in the Field course, prepare for exploratory field research in Kenya.