Warranting the use of causal claims: A non-trivial case for interdisciplinarity

Rol, M. & Cartwright, N., May-2012, In : Theoria-Revista de teoria historia y fundamentos de la ciencia. 27, 2, p. 189-202 14 p.

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To what use can causal claims established in good policy studies be put? We isolate two reasons inferences from study to target fail. First, policy variables do not produce results on their own; they need helping factors. The distribution of helping factors is likely to be unique or local for each study, so one cannot expect external validity to be all that common. Second, researchers often give too concrete a description of the cause in the study for it to carry over to the target. Abstraction is necessary to get causes that travel. There is no sure-fire way to guard against these problems. But the unavailability of one perfect tool does not imply there are no second best contrivances. Two general pointers for Good Practice in policy advice follow from our diagnosis: focus on the concrete details in the target and use cross discipline heuristics that diversify background knowledge.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-202
Number of pages14
JournalTheoria-Revista de teoria historia y fundamentos de la ciencia
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May-2012


  • causal inference, ceteris paribus, policy evaluation, abstraction, prediction, external validity
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