‘Test, Learn, Adapt’ is a paper which the Behavioural Insights Team is publishing in collaboration with Ben Goldacre, author of Bad Science, and David Torgerson, Director of the University of York Trials Unit. 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.
‘Test, Learn, Adapt’ 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 introduction of a randomly assigned control group enables you to compare the effectiveness of new interventions against what would have happened if you had changed nothing. RCTs are the best way of determining whether a policy or intervention is working. We believe that policymakers should begin using them much more systematically.