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Test, Learn, Adapt: Developing Public Policy with Randomised Controlled Trials

Test, Learn, Adapt is a paper which the Behavioural Insights Team is publishing in collaboration with Ben Goldacre and David Torgerson.


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Test, Learn, Adapt is a collaboration between the Behavioural Insights Team, Ben Goldacre, author of Bad Science, and David Torgerson, Director of the University of York Trials Unit.

The paper sets out a core aspect of the Behavioural Insights Team’s methodology. The paper argues that Randomised Controlled Trials (RCTs), which are now widely used in medicine, international development, and internet-based businesses, should be used much more extensively in public policy to enable policymakers to test which interventions are most effective.

Test, Learn, Adapt also sets out nine separate steps that are required to set up any RCT. Many of these steps will be familiar to anyone putting in place a well-designed policy evaluation – for example, deciding in advance the outcome that we are seeking to achieve. Others are less familiar – for example, randomly allocating the intervention to control or intervention groups.

The paper won the Institute for Government’s ‘Inspiration for Government’ award following its publication.

Date Published

June 14, 2013