Causal inference is the new research design

I had a look today at the new syllabus for Harvard’s graduate research design course, taught by Mike Hiscox. This looks like a very useful and interesting class. It starts right off with experiments as the gold standard (the third meeting is subtitled “The Appeal of Randomization”) and goes from there to a series of weeks discussing field experiments, lab and survey experiments, natural experiments/IV, RD/DID, matching/regression before getting to what this course used to be about — case studies, “concepts, measures, surveys,” and interviews.

I am a firm believer in the wisdom of the turn towards experiments and causal inference and I think this sounds like a great course, but I hope there will be some kind of research design course that assumes students will not be focusing on the effect of a particular treatment. Most graduate students are not oriented toward questions that these methods are good at answering; I expect more will be over time, but I still believe in methodological diversity.