Dissertation Grant: Social Science's Use of Controlled Field Experiments

Project: Research project

Project Details


The use of randomized controlled field experiments to evaluate the impact of policy interventions and test social science theory in low-income countries has grown dramatically throughout the field of international economic development in the past two decades. The conferment of the 2010 John Bates Clark Medal to a development economist for work using the method, creation of development economics journals dedicated to publishing field experiments, formation of research centers and increased funding of projects, and wide coverage in the press indicate the growing success of the method by the various members of the international economic development community. The adoption of this method and its elevation on hierarchy of evidence is changing the landscape of both development knowledge and policy intervention. Despite the growing attention to the method, its historical trajectory and implications for the field have not been analyzed. Through interviews with social scientists who conducted the earliest field experiments in low-income countries as well as current scholars and practitioners, archival research at key development institutions such as the World Bank, and content analysis of field experiments from 1960 to today, this project traces the institutionalization and implications of the adoption of this method as a technology of knowledge creation for international development intervention to illustrate the role of hybrid networks of experts - “epistemic communities” - in changing the understanding of what counts as credible knowledge.
Effective start/end date3/15/162/28/18


  • National Science Foundation (SES-1556343)


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