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Evaluation 2 of “Money (Not) to Burn: Payments for Ecosystem Services to Reduce Crop Residue Burning”

Anonymous evaluation of “Money (Not) to Burn: Payments for Ecosystem Services to Reduce Crop Residue Burning"

Published onOct 30, 2023
Evaluation 2 of “Money (Not) to Burn: Payments for Ecosystem Services to Reduce Crop Residue Burning”

Summary measures

Overall assessment

Answer: 85/100

90% CI:

Quality scale rating

“On a ‘scale of journals’, what ‘quality of journal’ should this be published in?: Note: 0= lowest/none, 5= highest/best”

Answer: 4

90% CI:

See here for a more detailed breakdown of the evaluators’ ratings and predictions.

Written report

Overall Assessment

The paper Money (Not) to Burn focuses on a very significant environmental / health issue: crop residue burning in India, which contributes to air pollution resulting in tens of thousands of deaths each year. It does this by addressing whether the effectiveness of PES schemes could be improved by paying a portion of the money upfront and unconditionally. Addressing this issue is an important contribution to the literature on PES.

1. Advancing our knowledge and practice

The key contribution of the paper to PES’ knowledge and practice is to show that upfront payments can improve the effectiveness of PES by promoting compliance in a way that appears to be cost effective. This is very significant given that there is an ongoing debate whether PES schemes can be effective in addressing environmental problems. The paper would benefit from a clearer discussion of other PES research that has dealt with issues of upfront payments, participants’ trust of PES scheme implementers, and financial constraints to the participation of poor landholders in PES schemes.

The research is usefully carried out in the context of a developing country where PES schemes have faced more practical implementation challenges due to lack of funds/poverty among the land holders who are the focus of the PES schemes.

2. Methods: Justification, reasonableness, validity, robustness

The methods used are well-justified and clearly explained. I find them to be a reasonable approach to answering the questions considered by the research. The methods are also usefully deployed to address two key issues that are at the core of the implementation of PES in poorer countries: i) lack of finance on the part of the land holders who are asked to implement costly land management changes, and ii) to assess the impact of land holders’ trust that the PES payment will actually be provided.

The mixed methods approach that integrates survey questionnaires, statistical analysis and remote sensing analysis if well designed and very useful in addressing the research questions.

The description of the methods should clarify how the overall amount of the PES payment was set, given that this certainly has an impact on the uptake of the contract as well as compliance with it.

3. Logic and communication

The goals and questions of the paper are clearly expressed, and all the concepts clearly defined and referenced.

The reasoning presents a very high degree of transparency, as defined by Open Philanthropy's guide.

The research is presented in a logical way, and the arguments written in a way that is easy to follow.

The data and analysis is relevant to the arguments made.

Overall, the stated results and conclusions are consistent with the evidence. However, the statement presented in the first paragraph of the conclusion that the ‘insight is not PES-specific and is likely relevant for conditional cash transfer programs’ is a speculation as there is no information in the paper about cash transfer programs. The authors should either provide evidence of relevance of the research to cash transfer programs or delete the statement.

The following sentence in the conclusion (p. 16) also needs attention: ‘Fourth, the need for upfront payments might fade over time as trust in the program builds up.’ If upfront payments are required also to address financial constraints on the part of the participating landholders, as stated by the authors, then it is not clear how the need for upfront payments would fade. There would need to be an assessment of the relative significance of trust and financial constraints to clearly understand this issue.

The tables/graphs/diagrams are easy to understand in the context of the narrative.

4. Open, collaborative, replicable science and methods

4a. Replicability, reproducibility, data integrity

The method and its details are explained sufficiently to would enable credible replication. However, I am not in a position to assess whether the data is sufficiently accessible to allow easy replication.

4b. Consistency

The numbers in the paper make sense and they appear to be internally consistent throughout the paper.

4c. Useful building blocks

Data and results generated by the authors are likely to enable and enhance future work and meta-analysis.

5. Engaging with real-world, impact quantification; practice, realism, and relevance

As noted in the Overall assessment, the paper engages with a very significant real-world environmental health problem, and the relevance of its arguments, results and policy implications are clearly presented.

6. Relevance to Global Priorities

The topic, approach, and discussion of the application of PES to emissions for agricultural fires in India is certainly useful to global priorities research and interventions related to the fields of PES, environmental health, and greenhouse gas emissions.

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