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We have also relied on methods like the ones Tom Valente mentioned in  
many of our observational studies, and we summarize the pluses and  
minuses of this approach in a new paper here:

http://jhfowler.ucsd.edu/examining_dynamic_social_networks.pdf

I also in principle like the actor-oriented model approach of Siena,  
but in the past I could never get the model to converge for networks  
larger than 1000 nodes (this might be my own failing, though, as there  
is always a bit of art to getting models like that to work).

We also have relied on experiments like this one in PNAS:

http://jhfowler.ucsd.edu/cooperative_behavior_cascades.pdf

and I am a big fan of David Nickerson's voter experiment and Sinan's  
new RCT.

But I would resist abandoning evidence from observational studies.

The resistance to observational studies reminds me of this Onion story:

Multiple Stab Wounds May Be Harmful To Monkeys
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6CSIFi78Nw

:)

j

James H. Fowler
Professor of Medical Genetics and Political Science
UC San Diego
http://jhfowler.ucsd.edu

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