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Who’s afraid of evidence-based policymaking?

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CHICAGO/ITHACA, NEW YORK – Without rigorous research and open inquiry, the breakthroughs that have defined the modern era, saving countless lives and delivering tremendous economic growth, never would have happened. From discovering the laws of physics and the germ theory of disease to developing public policies, scholars have used experimentation to move society forward.

Now, as societies struggle with reviving travel, reopening schools and workplace safety in the shadow of new COVID-19 variants, social experiments are urgently needed to ensure that we implement policies with a proven record of success.

In doing so, we will be building on a storied tradition. In 1881, Hippolyte Rossignol, a famous French veterinarian who was skeptical of the germ theory of disease, challenged Louis Pasteur to test his hypothesis by vaccinating animals on his farm outside Paris. Pasteur had no choice but to accept the public challenge, even though no vaccine had ever been tested outside the laboratory.

On May 5, 1881, a couple dozen animals at Rossignol’s farm were inoculated against anthrax (and received another “protective injection” two weeks later). A similar group of animals received no vaccine. On May 31, both groups were injected with virulent anthrax. Two days later, a group of farmers, veterinarians, pharmacists and agriculture officials gathered at Rossignol’s farm to observe the results. Pasteur’s theory was confirmed: all of the vaccinated animals were alive and well, while the unvaccinated were dead, dying, or in bad condition.

We owe much to such early experiments, which have officially come to be known as randomized controlled trials. RCTs play two important roles: they help scientists........

© The Japan Times

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