Tuesday saw the What Works Team in the Cabinet Office launch the government’s Trial Advice Panel – a free service developed in partnership with the Economic and Social Research Council that offers Whitehall departments technical support in designing and implementing controlled experiments. This innovation owes much to the work of the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT). Set up in the Cabinet Office in 2010, BIT has promoted the application of insights from the behavioural sciences in the design of public policy and done so through a steadfast commitment to supporting departments in finding out what works through using randomized control trials (RCTs) and other types of quasi-experimental methodologies. BIT’s much-downloaded report of 2012, Test, Learn, Adapt, made a persuasive case for expanding the use of controlled experiments in government and David Halpern, BIT’s Chief Executive, went on to be appointed the UK Government’s National What Works Adviser. At a recent roundtable we held with NESTA’s Alliance for Useful Evidence to mark the publication of their report on experimental government, it was clear that we have seen increased experimentation in Whitehall over the last few years. But experimental and quasi-experimental methodologies are still under-used. Of course, there are plenty of demand-side causes […]

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