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12:30 - 13:30 22 November 2016

What’s wrong with ‘What Works for Whom, Where’?


G16 | 9-11 Endsleigh Gardens (link Map)
London | WC1H 0ED | United Kingdom

Open to: Academic | Alumni | Public | Student
Admission: Free
Ticketing: Open

Speaker information

Professor Nancy Cartwright, Department of Philosophy, University of Durham and at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD).

As we know, Random Controlled Trials, if well blinded and monitored, can be taken to give an unbiased estimate of the mean treatment effect in the population enrolled in the study. Without additional assumptions, the estimate need not be very precise. This means that the result from one run of the experiment may give results far from the true mean on that population. Also: If this particular population with these specific individuals in it is not the one of interest, what use can be made of the estimate of its mean treatment effect?

This talk will argue that it is unlikely that many of interventions we consider in social policy have any such ‘goal-directed power’. When they work they generally do so because local arrangements call a number of different causal principles into play together that would not be at work together in other arrangements. It is now widely acknowledged that few social interventions work the same way. Hence the move to ‘What works for whom, where?’.


Ian Shemilt
+44 (0)20 6712 6391 | i.shemilt@ucl.ac.uk


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