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Experimental criminology and the free-rider dilemma

Koehler, Johann ORCID: 0000-0002-1305-891X and Smith, Tobias (2021) Experimental criminology and the free-rider dilemma. British Journal of Criminology, 61 (1). 209 - 227. ISSN 0007-0955

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Identification Number: 10.1093/bjc/azaa057


Experimental criminology promises a public good: when experiments generate findings about criminal justice interventions, everyone benefits from that knowledge. However, experimental criminology also produces a free-rider problem: when experiments test interventions on the units where problems concentrate, only the sample assumes the risk of backfire. This mismatch between who pays for criminological knowledge and who rides on it persists even after traditional critiques of experimental social science are addressed. We draw from medicine and economics to define experimental criminology’s free-rider problem and expose a dilemma. Either we distribute the costs of producing policy-actionable knowledge to the entire beneficiary population. Or we justify isolating the risk of experimental harm on that class of the population where ethical concerns are most acute.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2020 The Authors
Divisions: Social Policy
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Date Deposited: 25 Aug 2020 13:57
Last Modified: 23 Aug 2022 12:33

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