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randomization ethics

Incorporating participant welfare and ethics into RCTs

Berk Ozler's picture

One of the standard defenses of an RCT proposal to a skeptic is to invoke budget and implementation capacity constraints and argue that since not everyone will get the desired treatment (at least initially), the fairest way would be to randomly allocate treatment among the target population. While this is true, it is also possible to take into consideration the maximization of participants’ welfare and incorporate their preferences and expected responses to treatment into account while designing an RCT that still satisfies the aims of the researcher (identify unbiased treatment effects with sufficient precision). A recent paper by Yusuke Narita seems to make significant headway in this direction for development economists to take notice.

Blog links November 7: Impact Evaluation Existential Angst, Our Innate Grasp of Probability, big data, and More…

David McKenzie's picture

Ethical Validity Response #2: Is random assignment really that unacceptable or uncommon?

David McKenzie's picture
In his post this week on ethical validity in research, Martin Ravallion writes:
 “Scaled-up programs almost never use randomized assignment so the RCT has a different assignment mechanism, and this may be contested ethically even when the full program is fine.”

Lotteries aren’t so exotic

Taking Ethical Validity Seriously

Martin Ravallion's picture
More thought has been given to the validity of the conclusions drawn from development impact evaluations than to the ethical validity of how the evaluations were done. This is not an issue for all evaluations. Sometimes an impact evaluation is built into an existing program such that nothing changes about how the program works. The evaluation takes as given the way the program assigns its benefits. So if the program is deemed to be ethically acceptable then this can be presumed to also hold for the method of evaluation.