Tuesday, December 14, 2010

New York Times Article on Randomisation Designs for Housing Policy

An interesting article in the NYT covers a debate about the use of an RCT design to test the efficacy of homelessness prevention programme called HOMEBASE. Opponents of the design argue that it wasn't need given that the programme was already demonstrating efficacy and also that it is unethical to treat people like lab rats in this fashion. Proponents argue that the money is currently being spent without awareness of whether it is really having an effect and that, therefore, the use of the RCT design will be a powerful guide as to whether the programme should be continued and/or scaled up.

1 comment:

Kevin Denny said...

While mindful of researchers obligations to behave ethically some of the criticisms of RCTs are pretty stupid. As a colleague pointed out to me once, whenever the government introduces a reform, say a tax change, or a housing policy, it is doing an experiment on the population: it does not know what the consequences will be.
The difference with an RCT is that it is an experiment that you will learn something from. So why do we apply different ethical standards to these experiments?