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Over the last decade, the emergence of pervasive online and digitally enabled environments has created a rich source of detailed data on human behavior. Yet, the promise of big data has recently come under fire for its inability to separate correlation from causation-to derive actionable insights and yield effective policies. Fortunately, the same online platforms on which we interact on a day-to-day basis permit experimentation at large scales, ushering in a new movement toward big experiments. Randomized controlled trials are the heart of the scientific method and when designed correctly provide clean causal inferences that are robust and reproducible. However, the realization that our world is highly connected and that behavioral and economic outcomes at the individual and population level depend upon this connectivity challenges the very principles of experimental design. The proper design and analysis of experiments in networks is, therefore, critically important. In this work, we categorize and review the emerging strategies to design and analyze experiments in networks and discuss their strengths and weaknesses.


This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Proceedings of the IEEE, volume 102, issue 12, in 2014 following peer review. This article may not exactly replicate the final published version. The definitive publisher-authenticated version is available online at

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