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IES Grant

Title: thinkCausal: Practical Tools for Understanding and Implementing Causal Inference Methods
Center: NCER Year: 2020
Principal Investigator: Hill, Jennifer Awardee: New York University
Program: Statistical and Research Methodology in Education      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years (07/01/2020 – 06/30/2023) Award Amount: $899,876
Goal: Methodological Innovation Award Number: R305D200019

Co-Principal Investigator: Scott, Marc

The purpose of this grant is to develop a highly scaffolded multi-purpose causal inference software package, thinkCausal, with the Bayesian Additive Regression Trees (BART) predictive algorithm as a foundation. This will allow education researchers from varied backgrounds to access and better understand these versatile estimation tools. The core BART algorithms will be extended beyond what is available in current software packages to accommodate a wider range of data structures. The performance of the methodological extensions to the underlying BART software in R will be evaluated using simulations that extend the corpus of 7700 datasets created for the 2016 Causal Inference Data Analysis Challenge.

The new software will scaffold the education researcher through the data analytic process, from uploading data all the way through to graphical and tabular displays of results. The software will also have interactive educational components in order to provide researchers with the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the methods and their underlying assumptions. As part of the software development process, the research team will receive feedback on the software through their education research colleagues, through their advisory board research network and during training sessions at conferences. The researchers will also form an education-focused user group and a methods-focused user group via Google groups to provide a central forum for software experiences and issues of general interest.