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The Utility of Social Experimentation in Policy Research

  • Allen M. ShinnJr.
Part of the Nato Conference Series book series (NATOCS, volume 6)

Abstract

Social experiments are a relatively new phenomenon. None of the examples which I have considered predate the mid-sixties, when several major experiments were undertaken as a part of the expansion of social welfare programs of the Johnson administration. Social experimentation was then a largely untried and undeveloped methodology, and much was expected of it. As with other innovations, it turned out that it could not deliver as much as it promised, and we are now beginning to understand its limitations. My purpose in this paper is to review the advantages and disadvantages of social experimentation in policy research, with emphasis on its use in communications policy work. I take a rather skeptical view of it, because it seems to me that its problems may easily be underestimated. These problems are serious. They need to be anticipated and solved, or they will ruin a lot of expensive research.

Keywords

Policy Research Social Experiment Ethical Problem Brookings Institution Political Goal 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Footnotes

  1. 1.
    Joseph A. Peckman and P. Michael Timpane, eds.. Work Incentives and Income Guarantees: The New Jersey Negative Income Tax Experiment. Washington, Brookings Institution, 1975.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Alice M. Rivlin and P. Michael Timpane, eds.. Planned Variation in Education: Should We Give Up or Try Harder? Washington, The Brookings Institution, 1975.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Edward M. Grämlich and Patricia P. Koshel, Educational Performance Contracting: An Evaluation of An Experiment. Washington, The Brookings Institution, 1975.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Alice H. Rivlin and P. Michael Timpane, eds.. Ethical and Legal Issues in Social Experimentation. Washington, The Brookings Institution, 1975.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Peter H. Rossi and Katherine C. Lyall, Reforming Public Welfare: A Critique of the Negative Income Tax Experiment. New York, Russell Sage Foundation, 1976.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Pechman and Timpane, op. cit., p. 3.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    See Leo Bogart, “Warning: The Surgeon General Has Determined That TV Violence Is Moderately Dangerous to Your Child’s Mental Health,” Public Opinion Quarterly 36(4), Winter 1972–73, pp. 491–521, for a discussion of the relative political credibility of large and small studies concerned with the effect of violence on television.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    David P. Weikart and Bernard A. Banet, “Model Design Problems in Follow Through,” in Rivlin and Timpane, Planned Variation, 73–77.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Frederick Mosteller, “Comment,” in Rivlin and Timpane, Planned Variation, 169–172.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    After Flichael Timpane, who noted the problem in an early article on social experimentation. “Educational Experimentation in National Social Policy,” Harvard Educational Review, 1970 (40) 547–566.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Marshall S. Smith, “Design Strategies of Experimental Studies,” in Rivlin and Timpane, Planned Variation, 144.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Peter G. Brown, “Informed Consent in Social Experimentation: Some Cautionary Notes,” in Rivlin and Timpane, Ethical and Legal Issues, 85.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Roger Mark, et al. Final Report of the Nursing Home Telemedicine Project. Boston City Hospital, Mime, 1975.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Alphonse Chapanis, “Interactive Human Communication,” Scientific American, 232(3), March 1975, 36–42. This is a summary of a number of research reports by Chapanis and his associates.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    John Short, Ederyn Williams, and Bruce Christie, “The Social Psychology of Telecommunications”. London, Jolin Uiley and Sons, 1976.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    See, for example, G. R. Winham, “Negotiation as a Management Process,” (1976).Google Scholar
  17. G. R. Winham, “Complexity in International Negotiations,” (1976).Google Scholar
  18. Winham and Glyn R. Berry, “Trade Negotiation Simulation” (1977). All are papers of The Center for Foreign Policy Studies, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • Allen M. ShinnJr.
    • 1
  1. 1.National Science FoundationUSA

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