New guidance on evaluating natural experiments
posted on: Aug 15, 2011
The MRC report “Using natural experiments to evaluate population health interventions” was published on 11th July 2011.
Natural experiments are interventions or policies which are not under the control of researchers, but which are amenable to research – and therefore present opportunities for researchers to further their understanding.
The aim of the guidance is to help producers, users, funders and publishers of evidence understand how and when ‘natural experiments’ can be used to good effect. Specifically, the guidance focuses on how researchers can use the variation in exposure that is generated by interventions to analyse their impacts.
While there is growing interest in using natural experiments to evaluate large-scale interventions to improve population health, the relevant methodological literature is dispersed across disciplines and there is a lack of general guidance either on the range of approaches available, or on the circumstances in which they are likely to be useful. This report has been produced to fill this gap.
The guidance was prepared on behalf of the Medical Research Council by:
Peter Craig, Programme Manager, MRC Population Health Sciences Research Network
Cyrus Cooper, Director, MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit
David Gunnell, Professor of Epidemiology, Department of Social Medicine, University of Bristol
Sally Haw, Principal Public Health Adviser and Associate Director, Scottish Collaboration for Public Health Research and Policy
Kenny Lawson, Research Fellow in Health Economics, Centre for Population and Health Sciences, University of Glasgow
Sally Macintyre, Director, MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit
David Ogilvie, Clinical Investigator Scientist and Honorary Consultant in Public Health Medicine, MRC Epidemiology Unit, University of Cambridge
Mark Petticrew, Professor of Public Health Evaluation, Department of Social and Environmental Medicine, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Barney Reeves, Professorial Fellow in Health Services Research and co-Head, Clinical Trials and Evaluation Unit, University of Bristol
Matt Sutton, Professor of Health Economics, Health Methodology Research Group, School of Community-based Medicine, University of Manchester
Simon Thompson, Director, MRC Biostatistics Unit