IRT Models for Expert-Coded Panel Data
62 Pages Posted: 12 Jan 2017
Date Written: January 2017
Data sets quantifying phenomena of social-scientific interest often use multiple experts to code latent concepts. While it remains standard practice to report the average score across experts, experts likely vary in both their expertise and their interpretation of question scales. As a result, the mean may be an inaccurate statistic. Item-response theory (IRT) models provide an intuitive method for taking these forms of expert disagreement into account when aggregating ordinal ratings produced by experts, but they have rarely been applied to cross-national expert-coded panel data. In this article, we investigate the utility of IRT models for aggregating expert-coded data by comparing the performance of various IRT models to the standard practice of reporting average expert codes, using both real and simulated data. Specifically, we use expert-coded cross-national panel data from the V–Dem data set to both conduct real-data comparisons and inform ecologically-motivated simulation studies. We find that IRT approaches outperform simple averages when experts vary in reliability and exhibit differential item functioning (DIF). IRT models are also generally robust even in the absence of simulated DIF or varying expert reliability. Our findings suggest that producers of cross-national data sets should adopt IRT techniques to aggregate expert-coded data of latent concepts.
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