There is a story that floats around my department about an invited seminar speaker a few years back. Someone from the audience asked the speaker how they originally thought of the research idea. The speaker answered, “Well, my co-authors and I found some exogenous variation in our data and so we began to look for a relevant outcome.”
Earlier this year I read Tim Ogden’s book entitled, “Experimental Conversations: Perspectives on Randomized Trials in Development Economics“*. Including interviews from the “randomistas” (e.g. Michael Kremer, Ester Duflo, Abijit Bannerjee, Dean Karlan), “skeptics” (e.g. Angus Deaton), and folks not typically associated with RCTs (e.g. Tyler Cowen), it was an interesting book to read. One of the “dogs that didn’t bark” in the book was the statement that RCTs are the gold standard.