Using meta-analysis for benefits transfer: Theory and practice
Meta-analysis, or the "study of studies", attempts to statistically measure systematic relationships between reported valuation estimates for an environmental good or service and attributes of the study that generated the estimates including valuation methods, human population and sample characteristics, and characteristics of the good or service itself. In this paper, we discuss the general theory behind and practice of the emerging use of meta-analysis for benefits transfer. If carefully conducted following systematic protocols for model development, data collection, and data analysis and interpretation, we believe that meta-analysis may prove to be a useful tool for benefits transfer in particular applications. However, before widespread application of this method, more convergent validity tests are needed. One of the greatest strengths of using meta-analysis for benefits transfer is the ability to combine and summarize large amounts of information from previous studies. This strength can also lead to one of the greatest weaknesses of this method which is the loss of important valuation details across time and space in the aggregation process. Thus, application of this method to policy questions and issues should always proceed with caution.
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