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Spring conference 2019 Working Group on Methods: Causality and Plausibility – Evaluation between Science and Practice

We are pleased to invite you to this year's spring conference of the Woking Group "Methods in Evaluation" on Causality and Plausibility – Evaluation between Science and Practice. The conference will take place in Vienna on June 21st and 22nd and will be hosted by the Austrian Development Agency and the Department on Development Studies of the University of Vienna.


To register for the conference, please refer to the following site:  (Deadline for registration is 11.6.2019)


Description of the conference:

Today more than ever, evaluators are faced with the task of meeting the scientific and methodological demands of evaluations. A central and recurrent topic was the use of adequate methods for causality analysis, as a result of which various approaches were pointed out: In addition to the supposed gold standard of experimental approaches and quasi-experimental designs, there are now also scientific theoretical alternatives available with theory-based evaluation approaches that are not based on the investigation of a counterfactual. However, in particular causality analyses in the context of evaluations in practice are sometimes very different from scientific studies: Restrictions in the implementation of recognized methods are often seen as unavoidable with reference to a difference between science and practice and reference is made to 'plausibility' or 'plausibility considerations'. Yet, plausibility is not defined in more detail and accordingly used differently and depending on the evaluator. Ultimately, it is unclear what is meant by 'plausibility'. It is also unclear what concrete difference exists between science and (evaluation) practice, which might require plausibility, and to what extent this goes hand in hand with a lower methodological quality of evaluations.
The Spring Conference 2019 of the Working Group on Methods is intended to make a contribution to closing this definition gap. Before the overarching question of whether and how evaluations differ from scientific studies in methodological terms, the concept of plausibility will be examined from different perspectives and discussed as to the extent to which plausibility can correspond to scientific quality and which minimum standards must be met. At the same time, a discussion about potential boundaries between science and evaluation and how to overcome them should be conducted.


The following keynotes and presentations will guide the discussions:

  • Kick-off discussion: »Science and Practice: Views on and requirements of evaluations« Fishbowl-discussion with Sophie Zimm & Erwin Künzi, Austrian Development Agency (ADA), Prof. Dr. Antje Daniel & Alexandra Heis, IE University of Vienna. Moderation: Karin Küblböck, Austrian Foundation for Development Research (ÖFSE)

  • Prof. Dr. Conny Wunsch, University of Basel, Switzerland: »Causality and plausibility in experimental and quasi-experimental evaluations/studies«

  • Prof. Dr. Derek Beach, University of Aarhus, Danmark: »Plausibility and causal claims in theory-based studies and evaluation«

  • Dr. Jos Vaessen, IEG Methods Advisor, World Bank Group: »Evaluation design: a balancing act between feasibility, utility and scientific rigor«


Further information on the conference as well as the venue can be found here.

Prof. Dr. Alexandra Caspari

Evaluationsforschung, Methoden der empirischen Sozialforschung und Statistik Fachbereich 4, Soziale Arbeit und Gesundheit
Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences
Nibelungenplatz 1,
D-60318 Frankfurt am Main
Tel.: +49 (0)69-01533-2660

Dr. Jan Tobias Polak

Senior Evaluator/Teamleiter
Deutsches Evaluierungsinstitut der Entwicklungszusammenarbeit (DEval)
Fritz-Schäffer-Str. 26
53113 Bonn
Tel.: +49 (0)228 336 907 967