SoDa Team Workshop: Causal Impact Assessment

In May 2023, the ODISSEI Social Data Science Team (SoDa) has hosted a workshop on causal impact assessment at Utrecht University. The workshop was led by Erik-Jan van Kesteren and Oisín Ryan (SoDa / Utrecht University). The workshop materials are now available online.

What is causal impact assessment?

How do we assess whether a school policy intervention has had the desired effect on student performance? How do we estimate the impact a natural disaster has had on the inhabitants of affected regions? How can we determine whether a change in the maximum speed on highways has led to fewer accidents? These types of questions are at the core of many social scientific research problems. While questions with this structure are seemingly simple, their causal effects are notoriously hard to estimate, because often the researchers cannot perform a randomized controlled experiment. 

In May 2023 the ODISSEI Social Data Science Team (SoDa), organised a workshop that focused on those questions. During this session, Erik-Jan van Kesteren and  Oisín Ryan offered hands-on training on several basic and advanced methods (e.g., difference-in-difference, interrupted time series and synthetic control) that can be applied when assessing causal impact. The workshop focused both on the assumptions underlying these methods but also on putting them into practice. 

The workshop was met with much enthusiasm. One of the participants, Paulette Flore from SCP, said the following:

With a few colleagues I followed the ODISSEI workshop Causal effects of policy interventions. The workshop offered a clear overview of several methods aimed at causal impact assessment, and was well structured. The exercises were helpful and the workshop materials serve as an excellent starting point to get acquainted with this topic. At SCP, we often feel the need to make causal claims. The workshop certainly helped in getting a better understanding of the possibilities that causal impact assessment can offer in that regard, as well as the basics and limits of these methods.

Are you interested in learning more about the causal impact assessment but were not able to join the workshop? The material from the workshop (both the theoretical background and practical exercises) are available online. 

If you have ideas for other workshops that you would like ODISSEI to organise, please contact ODISSEI Scientific Manager Kasia Karpinska.

About the workshop leaders

Erik-Jan van Kesteren is an assistant professor in the Human Data Science group at the Methodology and Statistics department of Utrecht University. As part of ODISSEI, he leads the ODISSEI SoDa team, a team of data scientists working on several projects in the domain of computational social science. 

Oisín Ryan is a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Methodology and Statistics at Utrecht University. He works on methods for causal inference, time-series analysis, and computational modelling in social and behavioural science research. He is part of the ODISSEI SoDa team.

Photo by ODISSEI