The growth of field experimentation across several disciplines has been one of the most influential innovations in recent social science scholarship. It also is a mode of research well-suited to inform policy and practice. Such work has spawned a range of critiques regarding its claims to be a uniquely robust mode of explaining social phenomena, the generalizability of experimental findings, and ethical implications. This debate provides the opportunity for innovation in the methodological processes in the social sciences. There are many key questions to answer, including:

  • When should deep contextual and historical knowledge influence the design and analysis of field experiments? 
  • When and how does deep knowledge of the “field”—of place-based culture, language, history, or social relations—enrich or challenge experimental results? 

At this initial stage, the Council is inviting scholars across a range of fields, including economics, political science, psychology, and anthropology, who are actively engaged in field experimentation and/or are committed to research that generates deeper contextual understanding. Together, they will help shape the agenda and design a project to investigate the conditions under which contextual knowledge could, and should, inform experimental research practices.