What are randomised controlled trials good for?

  title={What are randomised controlled trials good for?},
  author={Nancy Cartwright},
  journal={Philosophical Studies},
Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) are widely taken as the gold standard for establishing causal conclusions. Ideally conducted they ensure that the treatment ‘causes’ the outcome—in the experiment. But where else? This is the venerable question of external validity. I point out that the question comes in two importantly different forms: Is the specific causal conclusion warranted by the experiment true in a target situation? What will be the result of implementing the treatment there? This… 

What’s in a gold standard? In defence of randomised controlled trials

It is argued that at least in the case of medical research, the authors know enough about the relevant causal mechanisms to be justified to ignore a number of factors and that the stance of evidence-based medicine that RCTs are the best available method to assess a treatment’s efficacy is defended.

What does randomisation achieve?

A response to Worrall and others who challenge the epistemological value of RCTs, which argues that randomisation offers no advantage over balanced systematic designs in which experimental and control groups are carefully matched according to known confounders.

Assessing the Overall Validity of Randomised Controlled Trials

  • A. Krauss
  • Economics
    International Studies in the Philosophy of Science
  • 2021
ABSTRACT In the biomedical, behavioural and social sciences, the leading method used to estimate causal effects is commonly randomised controlled trials (RCTs) that are generally viewed as both the

Randomised trials for policy: a review of the external validity of treatment effects

The paper provides a first survey of the literature on external validity. The starting point for this are debates regarding the use of randomised evaluations to inform policy. Besides synthesising

Policy Evaluation, Randomized Controlled Trials, and External Validity – A Systematic Review

A theoretical framework of external validity is presented and the potential hazards that compromise generalizing results beyond the studied population, namely Hawthorne effects, general equilibrium effects, specific sample problems, and special care in the provision of the randomized treatment are identified.

What role should Randomised Control Trials play in providing the evidence base underpinning conservation?

The effectiveness of many widely used conservation interventions is poorly understood because of a lack of high-quality impact evaluations. Randomized control trials (RCTs), in which experimental

Generalization in the Tropics: Development policy, randomized controlled trials, and external validity

It is found that the majority of published RCTs does not discuss these hazards and many do not provide the necessary information to assess potential problems, and calls for including external validity dimensions in a more systematic reporting on the results of R CTs.

The Virtues and Limitations of Randomized Experiments

Despite the consensus promoted by the evidence-based medicine framework, many authors continue to express doubts about the superiority of randomized controlled trials. This paper evaluates four

What role should randomized control trials play in providing the evidence base for conservation?

It is argued that conservation should aim to avoid a rerun of the polarized debate surrounding the use of RCTs in other fields, and that Randomized control trials can be useful and could become a more widely used tool for the evaluation of conservation impact.

The Confounding Question of Confounding Causes in Randomized Trials

  • J. Fuller
  • Psychology
    The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science
  • 2019
A thought experiment is run, the CONFOUND study, and a new account of causal inference in ideal and real comparative group studies is suggested that helps clarify the roles of confounding variables and randomization.



Better reporting of randomised controlled trials: the CONSORT statement

It is entirely reasonable to require higher standards for papers reporting randomised trials than those describing other types of study, since randomised controlled trials are the best way to compare the effectiveness of different interventions.

What is this thing called efficacy

This paper is about efficacy, effectiveness, the need for theory to join the two, and the tragedies of exporting the Cochrane medical-inspired ideology to social policy. Loosely, efficacy is what is

Evidence-based policy: what’s to be done about relevance?

How can philosophy of science be of more practical use? One thing we can do is provide practicable advice about how to determine when one empirical claim is relevant to the truth of another; i.e.,

Estimating causal effects of treatments in randomized and nonrandomized studies.

A discussion of matching, randomization, random sampling, and other methods of controlling extraneous variation is presented. The objective is to specify the benefits of randomization in estimating

[The evidence (in) the evidence-based medicine].

  • K. Bock
  • Medicine
    Medizinische Klinik
  • 2001
Methods and importance of meta-analyses are critically discussed as well as the meaning of the term publication bias, which will improve some steps in the transfer process.

Hunting Causes and Using Them: Is There No Bridge from Here to There?

Causation is in trouble—at least as it is pictured in current theories in philosophy and in economics as well, where causation is also once again in fashion. In both disciplines the accounts of

Randomization and Social Policy Evaluation

This paper considers the recent case for randomized social experimentation and contrasts it with older cases for social experimentation. The recent case eschews behavioral models, assumes that

Error in economics: the methodology of evidence-based economics

What is the correct concept behind measures of inflation? Does money cause business activity or is it the other way around? Shall we stimulate growth by raising aggregate demand or rather by lowering

Statistical Explanation and Statistical Relevance

The ontological difference between the hypothetical frequency interpretations advanced by Kyburg [1974], [1978] and by van Fraassen [1977], [1979] and the single-case dispositional analysis advanced

Hunting Causes and Using Them: Approaches in Philosophy and Economics

Introduction Part I. Plurality in Causality: 1. Preamble 2. Causation: one word, many things 3. Causes: warranting them and using them 4. Where is the theory in our 'theories' of causality? Part II.