Policy experimentation: core concepts, political dynamics, governance and impacts

Article by Dave Huitema, Andrew Jordan, Stefania Munaretto and Mikael Hildén in Policy Sciences: “In the last two decades, many areas of the social sciences have embraced an ‘experimentalist turn’. It is well known for instance that experiments are a key ingredient in the emergence of behavioral economics, but they are also increasingly popular in sociology, political science, planning, and in architecture (see McDermott 2002). It seems that the potential advantages of experiments are better appreciated today than they were in the past.

But the turn towards experimentalism is not without its critics. In her passionate plea for more experimentation in political science for instance, McDermott (2002: 42) observes how many political scientists are hesitant: they are more interested in large-scale multiple regression work, lack training in experimentation, do not see how experiments could fit into a broader research strategy, and alternative movements in political science (such as constructivists and postmodernists) consider that experimental work is not able to capture complexities and nuances. Representing some of these criticisms, Howe (2004) suggests that experimentation is being oversold and highlights various complications, especially the trade-offs that exist between internal and external validity, the fact that causal inferences can be generated using many other research methods, and the difficulty of comparing governance interventions to new medications in medicine….(More)”.