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A random way to test ideas

Decision Making

When it comes to medicine, getting things right is critical. So when you are ready to try out a new idea, why not employ the same testing methods as the world of medicine?

Randomise Me is a new website working along those lines. It enables people with ideas to get them randomly tested by willing guinea pigs, and allows anyone to take part in trials just by signing up. It points out that health professionals, governments and schools use randomised testing to compare possible solutions.

The website was created by Bad Science author Ben Goldacre‘s Better Data, supported by Nesta. See Goldacre introduce the concept in the video above.

The current trials range in apparent importance: you can test whether eating cheese before bed gives you nightmares or if sleeping on a sheepskin rug helps reduce or prevent bed sores for people confined to bed. Whatever the significance attached to the trial, the method is thought to be sound. The Cabinet Office Behavioural Insights team states in its paper Test, Learn, Adapt: Developing Public Policy with Randomised Control Trials “Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) are the best way of determining whether a policy is working.”

RCTs are common practice in advertising. Different adverts can be tried out on the same category of audience to see which helps more people make the decision to buy, sign up or do whatever the advert is asking of them.

RCT can refer to two or more groups being given different treatments or options, and those being given something and those not being given something (as in a placebo-based trial). For example, you could test for the results of caffeine on participants being given different types of caffeinated coffee or those being given caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee.

Thinking of using a randomised trial to test your idea? Here are the common methods of trial:

· Split participants in to groups and within each group, give all participants the same experience.

· Let each participant receive a special experience over time. For example, at any one time, one participant is receiving a cup of caffeinated coffee while the others receive decaffeinated.

· Use pre-defined groups. For example, one household can drink caffeinated coffee while the other drinks decaffeinated coffee.

· Use a combination. Caffeine one day, decaff the next in one household, three days of caffeine, one day off and three days on for the other.

Ready to try Randomise Me? Here is the step by step guide to setting up a trial.

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