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Event: Workshop on the foundations of randomization

Event date June 08, 2021 - June 09, 2021
Submission deadline May 09, 2021
Location Online
Host(s) SND, Sorbonne Université
Event website/information For further info, write to
Call for contributions – Online workshop on the foundations of randomization, June 8th and 9th
Randomized controlled trials have been much discussed in the last 20 years for the status they are granted within evidence-based medicine, usually at the top of hierarchies of evidence. Their importance has also been repeatedly underlined in the context of the pandemic. These discussions, in philosophy, in science and in the public debate, often presuppose, more or less explicitly, that the epistemic reasons to randomize are clearly identified and well-known. But this is not the case. The foundations of randomization fail to be consensual even in the one context where it may seem obvious that randomization is the best way to go – that is, to determine whether a given medical intervention has a causal effect on a disease. The most common view, targeted by most criticisms of randomization, is that randomization is a means to balance confounders, known and unknown, between parallel groups, and thereby to ensure that any difference between groups can be interpreted causally. However, Fisher rather introduced randomization as a device making it possible to calculate the probability of the different possible observations and to determine whether the observed difference is statistically significant. What are the different justifications of randomization and how do they compare to each other? In which situations do they hold and, for that matter, should we randomize at all? The workshop will investigate these questions, which are particularly urgent in the current, pandemic context, where we need to make informed methodological choices as regards the assessment of preventive or curative treatments. How questions about randomization relate to other topics in the philosophy of statistics – primarily the opposition between frequentist and Bayesian approaches – will also be explored.

The workshop will bring together philosophers and practitioners to think about these issues. Invited speakers will include: Jonathan Fuller (philosophy, University of Pittsburgh), Isabelle Guérin (economics, Institut de Recherche pour le Développement), Maximilian Kasy (economics, Oxford University), Stephen Senn (statistician consultant). Both invited and contributed talks will be allocated 45 minutes in total, for presentation (up to 30’) and discussion. The workshop will be held online and upon registration.


Abstracts of 500 to 1000 words should be sent to by May 9th. Decisions will be made by May 18th.

Organization: Isabelle Drouet (SND, Sorbonne Université)
Scientific committee: Isabelle Drouet and Anouk Barberousse (SND, Sorbonne Université)

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