Large-scale MFS II-evaluation conducted by Wiebe Bijker claims without evidence

Artificial behaviour

Artificial behaviour

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200 scientists wrote 8000 pages in which they evaluated 200 Dutch development projects carried out by 19 alliance of 64 development organizations (called MFS II evaluation). The supervision fell under Wiebe Bijker, professor of Technology and Society at the University of Maastricht. The report claims without evidence and thus this research is anything but scientific. It is a missed opportunity and that’s a shame.

NGOs in the South are extremely dependent on aid, resulting in an artificial relationship. In many developing countries government officials in a ministry make around € 200, – per month. In developing countries, small amounts of development aid from several thousand to hundreds of thousands of euros, could proportionally be compared with several hundred million to a billion euros of free aid in the Netherlands. The dependency relationship is thus quite intense. Many NGOs come up with a track record that everyone is parroting. Fabricated tables rolling out of meetings, appear in all kinds of flyers so they suddenly are accepted as truth. The more an imaginary fiction is quoted somewhere, the more it will render and get value. At one time it has come so far that an NGO no longer needs to prove a track record, but a critic has to prove the contrary. The people in the South know very well what Western journalists and researchers want to see and hear. They are masters of creating tableaux vivants in which even schools are mobilized to put things into scene. Many people are bought off to tell stories how fantastic it is. For little money (little from a Western perspective) people are artificial.

Peer Reviews 1Is it possible to identify this mentality? Certainly. Everything that is claimed, from a track record of an NGO to a certain output of a project, must be proven. First, researchers must raise a blockade when people in the South are claiming. For it is not at all interesting what people say. A good scientist doubts at all times. A good scientist is not friendly to statistics. A good scientist is not interested in a ‘fun’ or ‘friendly’ relationship with the actor that he / she examines. If in any way there is a binding to an actor, scientific neutrality will disappear like snow in the sun and the factor of granting increases.

Second, you can prove data by counting, possibly by means of a sample. And that is precisely the crux of this review because Bijker only uses peer reviews. As a reader, crucial questions are popping up. How is data reproduced? Are the training sessions counted (which person attended which training session on which dates, are there any lists with names and are some people visited through a scientific sample so we know that these people exist and really took part on these training sessions?) Is hardware also counted (and if so, is there is a list of hardware that has been visited on his existence?)? Not one discription of counting is found in these so-called 8000 pages thus we can ask ourselves seriously whether all that is claimed by NGOs is not slavishly taken over.

I’ll give you an example from the Country Report Bangladesh. ‘Our qualitative interviews confirmed our quantitative analysis in thatthere was a strong endorsement of the effectiveness and comprehensiveness of the different training and awareness raising activities around health and sexual and reproductive rights. “(Page 39) Who went to which training on which date? I can not find it anywhere.

Another example: “An Increase in the number of children with disability being enrolled in schools” (page 142). Is there a list with kids names and are these names monitored? Are these fictitious names or real persons? How are these lists monitored? Am I able to see this lists for a check? In this way, I can cite hundreds of examples with the same kind of questions arising from the concept of ‘counting’.

By claiming something, this ‘something’ does not suddenly exist. By quoting something over and over again, ‘something’ that is false does not become bit by bit more true.

If a counting did not occured then that what is assumed is nothing but an artificial environment with imaginary fabrications. In short, it does not exist. By claiming something, this ‘something’ does not suddenly exist. By quoting something over and over again, ‘something’ that is false does not become bit by bit more true. Not the contrary of a proposition must be proved, a proposition must be proven (within the world of development cooperation, this is the opposite). Taking over statistics or taking over alleged statistic without a ‘scientific’ proof, such as a count, has no value whatsoever. Scientifically it is automatically given the indication ‘false’. Evaluations based on peer review is nothing less than to reproduce what is claimed. In addition, a westerner relies totally on the truth in an honest and intimate friendship. This is the bottleneck of this study because it complies totally with the described relationship of dependence and cultural heritage in the South. The people in the South are much more persistent in creating an artificial world than Western journalists and researchers suspect. That in itself might have been a nice topic to investigate.

Peer Reviews 2Before writing my opinion I had contact with Bijker by putting forward these thoughts. He writes me:

‘Careful peer review by the best international experts determined the scientific quality of the evaluations, which have been nuanced positive about the Dutch development interventions.’

How well your people are, if your method is wrong then you are scientifically useless and unserviceable. I challenge all global development organizations, (inter)national governments, global research institutions to write the first review in the world where ‘count’ is centered, zoomed in on the track record of the relevant NGO as well as the development project that you evaluate. To this day, such a report does not exist.

I personally suspect that western researchers simply do not dare to ask ‘difficult questions’. They would rather opt for a friendly relationship and creating an atmosphere in which actors in the South are willing to cooperate. I have heard many researchers talk enthusiastic, not about the results, but the fact that an amicable relationship of trust is built up so that the willingness to receive information or read reports has increased. The more difficult questions a researcher is asking, the stiffer the confidence band becomes. However, a rough and bureaucratic attitude of NGOs is just one of the weapons used as a trade chip. In addition, with an amicable bond the NGOs are breaking the scientific neutrality so their artificial attitude and imaginary fabrications become more credible. Basically, it’s a game. Western researchers do not detect that they are part of a game and consequently they are cheated.

It is important to know that university researchers are qualitatively educated, not quantitative. You can also conclude: university researchers do not know better. In 1997, I was the first student at my university of social science who, since its founding in 1973, graduated with a quantitative research and to this day I am even the only one in 42 years. Too sad for words. I challenge Bijker to mention the number of qualitative theses which he has tutored in proportion to the number of quantitative theses. I think that with the outcome of his answer we are able to infer that this terrible expensive and time consuming evaluation can not be taken very seriously.

The phrase ‘a lot’ does not imply ‘good’ but the word ‘good’ implies ‘a lot’

Unfortunately, I can only conclude that professor Bijker with 200 scientists have committed a serious fallacy by a research methods that is just not scientific. In particular Bijker should have known this. With 200 man, Bijker could have counted as much as he wanted, giving the public a better understanding about the actual status of development. With this opinion, I also criticize Partos and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs who apparently accept a qualitative study without any count as objective/neutral. I am the first to embrace Bijker’s conclusions, but only through a proper scientific research. Based on peer reviews an unprecedented number of 8000 pages is written. However, the phrase ‘a lot’ does not imply ‘good’ but the word ‘good’ implies ‘a lot’. In my view, this assessment is nothing but a waste of time, a waste of money but above all a waste of awareness.

Portret 2AUTHOR: H.R.J. Sluijter MA
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