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4.7 Conclusion

The digital age offers researchers the ability to run experiments that were not possible previously. Not only can researchers run massive experiments, they can also take advantage of the specific nature of digital experiments to improve validity, estimate heterogeneity of treatment effects, and isolate mechanisms. These experiments can be done in fully digital environments or using digital devices in the physical world.

As the chapter showed, these experiments can be done in partnership with powerful companies or governments, or they can be done entirely by the researcher; you don’t need to work at a big tech company to run a digital experiment. If you do design your own experiment, you can drive your variable cost to 0, and you acn use the 3 R’s—Replace, Refine, and Reduce—to build ethics into your design. Researchers’ increasing power to intervene in the lives of millions of people means that we should have a corresponding increase in our attention to ethical research design. With great power comes great responsibility.