VoxDev’s editor-in-chief introduces it’s new feature – VoxDevLits, dynamic literature reviews edited by a community of scholars working in the field

I usually only write a VoxDev column at the start of a new year or on our VoxDev anniversaries. So, this column is unusual… and even more unusual is that I am writing it early on Thanksgiving morning as I reflect on the past year, and as I am reminded of the many, many people I am grateful to. 

2020 has been quite a year for the world, for people we care about, for the communities we live in, and for the communities we feel a part of. Yet I am hopeful – when I look around, I am inspired by people stepping up to help all around us. From health workers and others working on the front lines and their families, to those racing to find us solutions, all of them stepping up with passion and, above all, kindness. 

It reminds me of this quote from Toni Morrison:  

I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge - even wisdom. Like art.

So, on this Thanksgiving morning, I want to give a shout out to all my communities out there for being the wisdom and the art in my life. 

One of the most important of these is my little VoxDev community: our fabulous board (Rema, Robin, and Chris), our awesome Managing Editors present and past (Nikita and Nidhi), our funders (IGC, PEDL, and CEPR), all our readers, and all our contributors. All your passion for understanding the world and using that knowledge to make the world a better place is truly inspiring. 

Over the last year or so (yes, it has taken that long), a few of us at VoxDev have been working on a new idea to add to our portfolio and we are ready to hit the road. This week, we launch what we are calling VoxDevLits.  

I think this is particularly timely. 2020 has shown us the need for dynamic information to make effective decisions, and the role of communities in both, gathering and understanding this information, and implementing solutions guided by it. 

Anyone who has written a literature review will likely have experienced the all too common feeling that their review is behind the frontier even before it is in print, and then falls further behind over time. Research is a dynamic venture, and standard literature reviews are static and often not updated for a decade. We decided this needed to be changed: we wanted to try to create dynamic literature reviews. And so, VoxDevLits was born!! Thanks to Ann Harrison for the idea and, of course, a huge thank you to the team that has worked tirelessly to make this a reality.  

VoxDevLits will be dynamic literature reviews that can be downloaded from our website. The model we use is inspired by wikis, with each Lit being a collective effort of a large group of expert scholars working on the topic addressed in the review. The Lits will be managed by one or a few Senior Editors and written with the help of many Co-Editors. They will be dynamic, in that they will be updated several times a year to incorporate new research. Each update will be posted as a different version of the Lit, with all previous versions also available on our website. We think of the editors of the Lits as also evolving over time, as new researchers join the field. We also aim to incorporate input from the broader community, and have set up a way for interested researchers and readers to email the Senior Editors of each Lit with input they think should be included.  

We launch VoxDevLits this week with a Lit on Training Entrepreneurs, edited by David McKenzie, Chris Woodruff and seven co-editors (Kjetil Bjorvatn, Miriam Bruhn, Jing Cai, Juanita Gonzalez-Uribe, Simon Quinn, Tetsushi Sonobe, and Martin Valdivia). A big thank you to them all for working to produce our first Lit. A second Lit on Mobile Money will be published early next year, and one on Access to Capital for Enterprises a couple of months after that. Our aim is to produce half a dozen Lits each year. 

If you have ideas for Lits you would like to see, or if you would like to edit one or would like join the authorship team for one, please email me at [email protected]. VoxDevLits are really a community good – I envision them as a joint product of as much of the community that is working on a particular topic as possible. They are an accumulation of all the knowledge held on a particular topic and I cannot think of better stewards of that knowledge than all of you working on it. 

I hope you will find VoxDevLits a useful resource and, as always, if you have any feedback on how we can make the Lits better, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at [email protected]

Stay well,

Tavneet

VoxDevLits Literature reviews