COVID-19 non-pharmaceutical intervention (NPI) policies have been one of the most important and contentious decisions of our time. Beyond even the "normal" inherent difficulties in impact evaluation with observational data, COVID-19 NPI policy evaluation is complicated by additional challenges related to infectious disease dynamics and lags, lack of direct observation of key outcomes, and a multiplicity of interventions occurring on an accelerated time scale. Randomized controlled trials also suffer from what is feasible and ethical to randomize as well as the sheer scale, scope, time, and resources required for an NPI trial to be informative (or at least not misinformative).
In this talk, Dr. Haber will discuss the challenges in generating useful evidence for COVID-19 NPIs, the landscape of the literature, and highlight key controversies in several high profile studies over the course of the pandemic. Chasing after unknowables poses major problems for the metascience/replicability movement, institutional research science, and decision makers. If the only choices for informing an important topic are "weak study design" vs "do nothing," when is "do nothing" the best choice?