Lab experiment and field experiment in the digital age: Friend or foe?

Ravi Bapna, Gordon Burtch, Yili Hong, Tianshu Sun, Jason Thatcher

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

1 Scopus citations


The emergence of digital platforms offered new venues for quasi-controlled experimentation, e.g., MTurk, or as hosts or collaborators for field experimentation, resulting in renewed interest in experimentation as a method for understanding causal relationships in the real-world, with delicate control and precision, at unprecedented scales. While digitization has significantly expanded the scope and scale of field experimentation, it also benefits laboratory experiment researchers, as it has extended understanding of the utility of experiments for understanding many different phenomena in online environments. With the rapid growth of digital capabilities to conduct both field experiments and lab experiments, it behooves us, as researchers and experimentalists to take a fresh look at both flavors of the method, and the interplay between them. In this digital age, are field experiments and lab experiments friends or foes? While the academic field of information systems (IS), which often has taken the intellectual leadership role in matters related to digital, we have largely lagged in our discussion of this important methodological issue. Despite the rapid evolution of the experiment landscape and the strong interest from the research communities in both lab and field experimentation, no systematic discussion has been conducted to arrive at clarity about the scope and future directions for IS research on this frontier, at our conferences or at our journals. Thus, in this panel, we open a discussion of how digital capabilities have enabled large-scale, randomized field experiments, how randomized field experiments may substitute or complement traditional laboratory experiments, and how these methods may be creatively combined and advance our understanding of the digital phenomenon in the future. Below we highlight several major issues, which we provide a detailed discussion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationInternational Conference on Information Systems 2018, ICIS 2018
PublisherAssociation for Information Systems
ISBN (Electronic)9780996683173
StatePublished - 2018
Event39th International Conference on Information Systems, ICIS 2018 - San Francisco, United States
Duration: Dec 13 2018Dec 16 2018

Publication series

NameInternational Conference on Information Systems 2018, ICIS 2018


Conference39th International Conference on Information Systems, ICIS 2018
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Francisco

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Gordon Burtch is an AssoiatecProfessor of Informtion &aDecision Sciences and McKnight Presidential Fellow at the University of Minnesota, in the Carlson School of Management. His work has been published in journals such as Management Science, Informtion SaystemResesarch, and MS QuaIrterly. He is a recipient of both the AIS Early Career Award and the INFORMS ISS Sandra A. Slaughter Early Career Award, as well as the INFORMS ISR and ISS best paper award. His research has been supported by Kauffmn Fouandation, the NET Institute, the 3M Foundation, Adobe and the US Department of Education.

Publisher Copyright:
© International Conference on Information Systems 2018, ICIS 2018.All rights reserved.

Copyright 2019 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Digital experimentation
  • Field experiment
  • Lab experiment


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