The Utility of Social Experimentation in Policy Research

  • Allen M. ShinnJr.
Part of the Nato Conference Series book series (NATOCS, volume 6)


Social experiments are a relatively new phenomenon. None of the examples which I have considered predate the mid-sixties, when several major experiments were undertaken as a part of the expansion of social welfare programs of the Johnson administration. Social experimentation was then a largely untried and undeveloped methodology, and much was expected of it. As with other innovations, it turned out that it could not deliver as much as it promised, and we are now beginning to understand its limitations. My purpose in this paper is to review the advantages and disadvantages of social experimentation in policy research, with emphasis on its use in communications policy work. I take a rather skeptical view of it, because it seems to me that its problems may easily be underestimated. These problems are serious. They need to be anticipated and solved, or they will ruin a lot of expensive research.


Policy Research Social Experiment Ethical Problem Brookings Institution Political Goal 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • Allen M. ShinnJr.
    • 1
  1. 1.National Science FoundationUSA

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