Clinical Trials in Economics

2 Pages Posted: 9 Aug 2011

See all articles by Hal R. Varian

Hal R. Varian

School of Information; University of California, Berkeley - Operations and Information Technology Management Group; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: September 6, 2010


The gold standard for scientific research is reproducible controlled experiments. In the last two or three decades economics has made much progress in implementing experiments in both the laboratory and in the field. I propose that the NSF should set up a program to fund field experiments/clinical trials in a variety of areas in economics. These clinical trials should be designed to resolve fundamental debates in economics. Proposals for experimental designs should be submitted to a special program and be reviewed by referees and a panel of experts, as with current experiments. Unlikely current proposals, we would expect some iteration with respect to the experimental design. When a consensus (or a significant majority) is reached about experimental design, funding would be offered to the researchers. It would be helpful to involve researchers from public health and other fields who are familiar with the problems involved with large clinical trials.

Suggested Citation

Varian, Hal R., Clinical Trials in Economics (September 6, 2010). American Economic Association, Ten Years and Beyond: Economists Answer NSF's Call for Long-Term Research Agendas, Available at SSRN: or

Hal R. Varian (Contact Author)

School of Information ( email )

UC Berkeley
Berkeley, CA 94720-4600
United States
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510-642-5814 (Fax)


University of California, Berkeley - Operations and Information Technology Management Group ( email )

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United States
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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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