The randomized clinical trial (RCT) research design has transformed medical research and is now accepted as the most reliable method for measuring the effects of drugs and other specific medical interventions. In this monograph the authors describe how randomized trials can be used to evaluate broader issues related to public health laws and policies.

This monograph is restricted to a discussion of field experiments and naturally occurring real-world randomizations, that is, interventions conducted in naturalistic settings in which the treatments and outcomes are those relevant in real world contexts. Social science laboratory experiments (Webster & Sell, 2007) can illuminate specific micro-level mechanisms of behavioral effects. However, the question of whether results obtained in laboratory settings apply in real-world settings remains an open one, and so the authors focus on field experiments, where the gap between the experimental setting and the policy setting is as small as possible.

Author(s): Alan S. Gerber, PhD, Donald P. Green, PhD, Allison Sovey, MA