IMEEL’s Physical Infrastructure
IMEEL uses a host of methods to conduct both computerized and paper-based experiments. Whether an experiment should be conducted using a computer or other form of input such as pencil and paper depends on several factors, including (1) the research question, (2) the nature of the experiment, and (3) the participants. IMEEL’s participants are typically smallholders in poor rural communities, who may have limited experience with advanced technologies. Therefore, IMEEL decides on a case-by-case basis which method is best suited for conducting a particular experiment. When computerized experiments are warranted, IMEEL has portable computers that can be carried into the field and connected to a portable server by means of an offline, wireless local-area network ensured by an access point. IMEEL also has handheld devices used for conducting shorter experiments or administering surveys, as well as additional peripherals to support the laboratory’s operation and mobilization. IMEEL’s experiments take into account local factors (such as language) in order to accommodate participants. In this context, IMEEL works closely with local field experts and translators to assure that the main purposes of its experiments are achieved.
How IMEEL is Different from Other Experimental Laboratories
Many academic institutions and some private organizations have experimental laboratories, some of which have a portable component. IMEEL is unique in that it is the first mobile laboratory developed by an international organization that exclusively studies the world’s poor, using hands-on decisionmaking experiments. By dedicating a mobile experimental laboratory to specifically study decisions made by smallholders around the world, IFPRI and MTID are pioneering new approaches to assessing the impact of policies on hunger, malnutrition, and poverty.