Monday, December 31, 2012

Repugnant transactions at year's end...

Each of the stories below is about a transaction still regarded as repugnant in England, Israel, and Australia, respectively, but for which things may be different in the coming year...including the final story from Russia, about an effort to make U.S. adoptions illegal (so that Russian orphans would remain so...)

Gay marriage plans are totalitarian, says Archbishop of Westminster

Record number turn out at Boxing Day hunts after Tories admit defeat on ban

Israel to Review Curbs on Women’s Prayer at Western Wall

Women who donate their eggs deserve compensation

Putin Signs Bill That Bars U.S. Adoptions

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And here are some stories about transactions that are less repugnant than they used to be...

Same sex marriage becomes legal in Maine
"Voters approved the new law in November, making Maine one of the first three states, along with Washington and Maryland, to allow same-sex marriage by popular vote. The law has already taken effect in Washington State; Maryland’s will do so on Tuesday.
"Same-sex marriage was already legal in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and the District of Columbia, but those laws were enacted either by lawmakers or through court rulings."

in vitro fertilization (IVF): "For a while, the press kept track of each new I.V.F. birth: one more reported before the end of 1978; four by the middle of 1980; the first in the United States at the end of 1981. In 1982, Lesley gave birth to another daughter, Natalie; she was the world’s 40th test-tube baby. And then people stopped counting. I.V.F. had moved almost imperceptibly in the public mind from unethical to frightening to just a bit unusual — and then, finally, to something so ordinary it wasn’t even noticed anymore."


Sunday, December 30, 2012

Celsius' temperature scale (and other delights at Uppsala University)

While in Sweden I had a delightful visit to Uppsala University.

It was there, in the 1700's (as the University was  already nearing its 300th anniversary) that Anders Celsius undertook the meteorological research that required his invention of the temperature scale that bears his name. Except not quite in the form we know it today.  Here's a picture I took of one of his original thermometers, through the display case in a University museum: If you can click through and look at the enlargement, you'll see that the top of the scale (far left), which marks the boiling point of water, is marked 0 degrees, while the middle of the scale, which marks water's freezing point, is marked 100. (Celsius apparently felt that solids were 'more' than gases...). The reversal to what we know today as the conventional Celsius scale came in 1745, shortly after his death.

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It turns out that Uppsala University has other interesting museums, and in one of them I took a picture of what is said to be an example of the first circulating bank note...

Saturday, December 29, 2012

More photography business in Stockholm

My recent trip to Sweden made me of interest to a variety of professional photographers, and in turn gave me a glimpse into the ways they earn their livings. Here's the website of the Swedish photographer Otto Westerlundh. If you scroll down his web page you can get some idea of the wide variety of pictures he shoots. He took some pics of me at a reception in Stockholm.

Speaking of photos, below is one my wife took with her phone, at the rehearsal for the Nobel award ceremony. You can see me practice receiving the award from a stand-in for the Swedish king. You can also pick out the Californians from among the laureates: my Stanford colleague Brian Kobilka is the other fellow in jeans...(The same photo, more or less, later in the day at the actual ceremony is here.)

Friday, December 28, 2012

Towards decriminalizing drugs?

The Economist reports on remarks by the outgoing Mexican President Felipe Calderón: "Impossible" to end drug trade, says Calderón

"Mr Calderón’s comments sum up what seems to be a growing consensus: stopping or even seriously reducing drug consumption has so far proved impossible, so it is time to focus on ways of making that consumption less harmful. That sort of thinking has been fashionable for a long time on the demand side, with innovations such as needle exchanges and methadone replacement now common in many rich countries. The next step is to explore legal ways of managing the supply side, as Colorado and Washington have recently voted to do.

"Sitting presidents such as Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia and Otto Pérez Molina of Guatemala are pushing for a rethink. As a result of this agitation the Organisation of American States, a regional body, is compiling a report on drug policy which is expected to explore alternatives to the current regime. It will be interesting to see if Mr Calderón, who is widely expected to take up a post at Harvard after leaving the presidency in December, gets bolder still in his retirement."

HT: László Sándor

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Returning items at stores in the US and Europe: two different equilibria?

A recent article about the policies adopted by American stores regarding returns, particularly of gifts, has gotten me thinking about the different equilbria which (I am under the impression) exist in Europe and the U.S.

Most U.S. stores have a no questions asked return policy. Subject to some limitations, you can return an item, for any reason, i.e. it doesn't have to be broken. The limitations may include things like time elapsed since purchase, whether the item has been used, etc. But policies are more lenient on items received as Christmas gifts (and here's the story that made me think of all this: Navigating Retail Holiday Return Policies. In many cases you can get your money back, in some cases you might just get credit for another purchase.

My impression is that in Europe you can return items for repair, but not for exchange.

Why are the policies different?  It seems to me that they may both be in equilibrium, so that it is hard to switch from one to another.

If an American store were to adopt a no return policy, that might seem to signal something about the unobserved quality of their goods, and it would shift sales to competitors who maintained easy return policies. And easy returns promote sales, since there is less risk in buying something, bringing it home, and seeing how it looks.

But if a European store were to adopt an easy return policy, while its competitors did not, then it would invite adverse selection of shoppers who were planning to return things (e.g. returning a gown after wearing it once). These shoppers plague American stores too, but they are spread among all stores and are a cost of doing business. But a European store that was the first to adopt an easy return policy would attract all the bad apples...

Perhaps European readers can tell me if my impressions are correct about the differences in store policies across the water...

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Kidney exchange in Canada

Moving to chains in Canada too...


Heartbeat: A chain of faith, a gift of life: Revolutionary organ exchange program can involve a domino chain of up to 10 people across Canada, and it drastically reduces wait times for transplant recipients

 "Nemeth was feeling increasingly ill and didn’t have that long to wait.

"Luckily, she didn’t have to. In early 2012, at her doctor’s urging, she joined the Living Donor Paired Exchange program.

"In the registry, donor-recipient pairs whose organs are incompatible with each other can be matched with others in the same situation and the organs swapped to complete transplants. There are Good Samaritans — non-directed anonymous donors — who simply donate a kidney out of altruism also entered in the registry. Algorithms determine matches to optimize use of rare blood and antibody types: swaps that result can involve up to five-pair chains — up to 10 people in cities across Canada all intricately linked in a complex “domino” transplant.

"The registry was founded as a pilot project in three provinces, including B.C., in 2009. It has since gone national and is overseen by Canadian Blood Services, which conducts three (formerly four) searches or “runs” a year.

"To date, there are about 145 registered pairs.

"More than 140 transplants have been performed, with the first cross-country multi-hospital swap in June 2009. Nemeth’s own chain involved three pairs: done at St. Paul’s and in Winnipeg.

"The program not only shortens waits and saves lives, but it also saves money: dialysis costs $60,000 a year while a kidney transplant is around $25,000 plus $6,000 a year for medication.

"Even before the national registry, provincial hospitals like St. Paul’s were doing ad hoc local swaps for just these reasons.

“We were basically doing these on the back of an envelope,” Dr. Landsberg said, adding St. Paul’s did its first regional domino transplant around 2006.

"But the national registry has been a true game-changer. Because of it, he said, “the number of difficult to match patients who were stacked on that wait-list and who I predicted would be on there forever have been able to get transplants.”

"And despite the tenuous nature of the chains, so far, he said, “We’ve never had a donor back out.”

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The global strategic maple syrup reserve

The global strategic maple syrup reserve has been breached, here's the NY Times story: In $18 Million Theft, Victim Was a Canadian Maple Syrup Cartel

And here is the site of the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers

I used to bring small bottles of New England maple syrup with me as American themed house gifts when I traveled overseas...but it turns out that Canada is the big producer (I guess the Canadian flag is a clue...)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Same sex marriage in France: protest and counterprotest

Protests erupt in France over same-sex marriage

"More than 100,000 protesters organized by Catholic groups staged separate demonstrations in French cities over the weekend to protest against government plans to legalize same-sex marriage next year.
"Most of them took to the streets on Saturday, backed by the French Catholic Church and joined by several senior clerics, and several thousand more paraded with ultra-traditionalist Catholics in Paris on Sunday."
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Topless activists clash with an anti-gay marriage protest in France

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Market designers at Yahoo!, Google, eBay and Microsoft

The Economist recently celebrated the contributions of Preston McAfee, Hal Varian, Steve Tadelis and Susan Athey: Micro stars, macro effects: Meet the economists who are making markets work better

Friday, December 21, 2012

Video of Nobel prize awards ceremony

I'm almost recovered from my trip to Stockholm:) Here is the video of the Nobel presentation ceremonies. Economics starts around 1:12. with intro in Swedish by Thorsten Persson, and 1:16 in English
http://www.svtplay.se/video/892980/prisutdelningen-i-konserhuset

And here are the iconic pictures from the Nobel website:





Update: the Nobel Foundation website now has short video clips of both me and Lloyd receiving our prizes:
Alvin Roth receives his prize
Lloyd Shapley receives his prize

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Martin Shubik

The celebration of Lloyd Shapley at the recent Nobel week naturally makes people think of his long term collaborator Martin Shubik. There's a nice discussion of his work by the archivists at the Duke University libraries, which houses his papers: The Martin Shubik Papers: From Early Game Theory to the Strategic Analysis of War

"While Shubik was born in New York City in 1926, he received his early education in England. After moving to Canada, he graduated with a B.A. in mathematics and subsequently with an M.A. in political economy from the University of Toronto in 1947. Equipped with this background, Shubik arrived at Princeton University in 1949, where the archival record begins. He received a Ph.D. in economics in 1953 under the supervision of Oskar Morgenstern, one of the founding fathers of game theory. The influence of his supervisor becomes apparent in Shubik’s collection, not only through the class notes Shubik took of Morgenstern’s lectures and in the correspondence with him throughout the years, but also indirectly through Shubik’s life-long contributions to game theory and its application to economic problems. And, like Morgenstern, Shubik frequently voiced a critical attitude towards purely theoretical work.

"Shubik’s collection is a treasure-house of primary resources on economics, especially for researchers interested in the early years of game theory. Shubik was part of an inspiring group of students during his stay at Princeton, including Harold Kuhn, John McCarthy, John Milnor, John Nash (Nobel Prize, 1994), Norman Shapiro, and Lloyd Shapley (Nobel Prize, 2012), who were pioneers in the field of game theory and would continue to shape the history of American mathematical economics during the second half of the 20th century. Innumerable drafts of Shubik’s collaborative works, often accompanied by correspondence and research notes by his co-authors, afford an inspiring set of resources evoking that historical period. The collection contains Shubik’s and Shapley’s drafts and notes on their joint works on game theory, from their early papers in the 1950s to their collaboration during the 1970s at the RAND corporation. The collection also allows for personal glimpses into Shubik’s life. For example, Shubik’s life-long friendship and professional collaboration with Shapley is reflected in the extensive correspondence throughout their academic careers. Similarly, Shubik’s exchanges with Nash (sometimes through humorous cards and joke letters) offer a unique source for historians interested in the early years of game theory and the history of modern economics."

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Market design is a team sport

Muriel Niederle has been posting some pictures from Stockholm, and here are some of mine...

First, the final slide from my Nobel lecture:


It turns out that parts of the teams for kidney exchange, school choice and medical matches made it to Stockholm, and those folks look a little different in tails and gowns:

School choice: Parag Pathak, Al Roth, Atila Abdulkadiroglu, Neil Dorosin

Medical matches: Elliott Peranson, Al Roth, Muriel Niederle

Kidney Exchange: Frank Delmonico, Al Roth, Mike Rees, Itai Ashlagi

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

David Warsh on Lloyd Shapley and his colleagues

After a head feint towards another topic, David Warsh writes about Lloyd Shapley and his colleagues David Gale, Herb Scarf, and Martin Shubik.

"The book I yearn to read some day is a deep examination about the way that psychology and strategic behavior came to economics in the twentieth century, in the guise of game theory. So far its leading characters pop up as individuals, either the subjects of biographies (John von Neumann in books by Steve Heims  and Norman Macrae) or recipients of Nobel Prizes – John Nash eighteen years ago (not long thereafter the subject of Sylvia Nasar’s A Beautiful Mind), and now Lloyd Shapley. If you had gotten up early yesterday morning, you could have seen, streaming live from Stockholm, via the Internet, the 89-year-old Shapley, an old man grasping a sheaf of notes, attempting to deliver a stripped-down talk about one aspect of his work, intermittently puzzled and confident, until a wave of applause relieved him of the need to persevere.
Against long odds, Shapley won the game that senior players sometimes call “Beat the Reaper.” Considering that he and Nash met as young men in the extraordinary hothouse that was the Princeton University Department of Mathematics in the days soon after World War II he is fortunate indeed. In a setting dominated by the polymath von Neumann, he and Nash quickly shouldered aside the founding father and divided up among themselves and their friends the competing programs that game theorists have pursued ever since.
You have to admire the alacrity with which the committee of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences acted, pairing Shapley, of the University of California at Los Angeles, with the vigorous, young Alvin Roth, who just left Harvard for Stanford University (a stripling at 60.) They did much the same in 1996, with William Vickrey, 82, of Columbia University; and, in 2007, with Leo Hurwicz, 90 of the University of Minnesota, pairing them in each case with much younger men. In Hurwicz’s case they beat the Reaper by less than a year; Vickrey died a few days after learning of his award, his heart burst from the renewed excitement of the chase. "
...
"The problem with the prizes is that they obscure the networks that have led to them, with countless others left out. Characteristically, the last slide of Roth’s lecture yesterday contained the photographs of fifteen or twenty collaborators who helped turn market design into one of the most exciting fields in economics: surgeons, medical administrators, educators, junior colleagues.  Such a slide, had it been prepared to accompany Shapley’s lecture, would have included a very different dozen or two collaborators, beginning with the mathematician’s famous father, the Harvard astronomer Harlow Shapley, who was a story in his own right, having successfully described in 1918 the size of the Milky Way galaxy and determined our sun’s position in it, only then to fight and lose a lifelong battle with Edwin Hubble about what lay beyond the boundaries of our galactic home (nothing, Shapley said). Three other contemporaries whom the younger Shapley met first atPrinceton, back in the day, would stand out.
There would be David Gale, who died in 2008. at 86, Shapley’s mathematician collaborator on the 1962 paper “College Admissions and the Stability of Marriage,” which was the beginning of the skein of work for which this year’s prize was given.  Had he lived a little longer, Gale might well have shared in the award. But there seemed nothing unfulfilled about Gale’s life, which was described inthis excellent article by the University of California at Berkeley (where he taught for forty years), as a passionate father, puzzle-monger, avid skier, tennis player, traveler and jazz aficionado. (He kept an office in the Ecole Polytechnique inParis as well.)
Then there is Herbert Scarf, 82, ofYale University, Shapley’s co-author on a key paper in 1974, “On Cores and Indivisibility.”  Scarf’s contribution to the study of traditional one-sided markets, which is the way the process of kidney exchange is understood, was discussed at some length in the long citation that accompanied the Nobel award. Unexamined, however, was Scarf’s forty-year quest to achieve a satisfying mathematical description of economies in which increasing returns, meaning falling costs, play a prominent role. Such increasing returns, or economies of scale, exist everywhere in the modern world, at least up to a point. Yet a satisfying framework for examining them so far had eluded mathematical economists, including Scarf.  The editor of his collected papers quotes a Chinese poem in this connection: “An old war-horse may be stabled, yet still it longs to gallop a thousand miles; and a noble-hearted man, though advanced in years, never abandons his proud aspirations.”
Finally there is Martin Shubik, 86.  Shubik, too, collaborated with Shapley often over the years; their 1971 paper on the “assignment game” was a key step in the  clear statement of the line of work for which the prize was given. “He was a superb mathematician, and I had a good economic intuition,” Shubik says of Shapley; “together we made a very good mathematical economist.” But Shubik has work of which he is more proud.  His 1959 article, “Edgeworth Market Games,” was the first to relate a truly economic concept (the contract curve) to a game-theoretic concept (the core),according to Eric Gordon, and so formed a bridge which game theorists have been crossing ever since.  By the time he and Shapley stated the connection formally ten years later, in “On Strategic Market Games,” Shubik’s future was assured.  It was Shubik who apparently campaigned successfully for Shapley for this year’s prize."

Monday, December 17, 2012

Allocating top level domain names

While I was away, Peter Cramton has been busy with an interesting allocation problem: Update on Applicant Auction Conference.

He also includes the following links:


"To better understand what the Applicant Auction is about please take a look at the following two posts on CircleID:
Finally if you want to get into the technical details of bidding incentives and bidding strategy take a look at our research paper on the topic:


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Saturday, December 15, 2012

After dinner speech

After the Nobel banquet, a two minute speech.

Update: here it is on a local file...
video

Friday, December 14, 2012

Muriel Niederle is blogging about experimental and behavioral economics

Here's her first post, posted from Stockholm:

Experimental Economics Coming of Age

Interview by the Nobel foundation

Here's a 25 minute interview, which starts a bit slowly, but in which I get to talk about matching: Video interview with Alvin E. Roth

Around minute 19 I'm asked about free markets and I talk about how free markets have rules that let them operate freely. I suggest the metaphor of a wheel that can rotate freely, because it has well oiled bearings: "wheels don't occur naturally, they're human creations. And so are markets."

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Nobel lectures in Uppsala

Nobel lectures in Uppsala: many of the science lectures are heard again at Uppsala University on Dec 13.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Saint Lucia Day in Stockholm tomorrow.

It is St. Lucia day in Sweden tomorrow. What should I expect?

Here are some clues:  Early in the morning,
It has become tradition to surprise the Nobel Prize winners early in the morning when they are still in bed at their hotel, with a singing Lucia procession. One year though, a winner got really angry and upset, so since then they all get to know about it in advance... 

Late at night there's a dinner and a ball at Stockholm University, and, apparently, induction into the Order of the Frog

Perhaps there will be dancing at the Ball: Here's a story from an English language Swedish newspaper, interviewing one of the many student volunteers who are taking excellent care of us this week.

"When asked which of the recipients she would like to dance with, she smiles and answers “Alvin E. Roth.”
"He is the winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics.
"“He seems really laidback. Today, at the rehearsal, he showed up in torn jeans and a knitted cardigan. So, of the winners, I would actually like to dance with him the most.”
"If Dalman doesn’t get to dance with him tonight, she will get a second chance on Thursday.
"It may mark the end of her Nobel duties, but once she is done organizing the unofficial end of the Nobel Week, the Lucia Ball, she might end up taking a twirl with her favourite laureate.
"One winner always attends the event, and this year it's a Alvin E. Roth who will attend.
"So, that’s lucky."

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Nobel Economics Prize Lectures by Lloyd Shapley and Al Roth

The Nobel lectures for the Economics Prize were given on Saturday December 8, and are now available online.  Lloyd lectured first, and I followed. We were both introduced by Tomas Sjostrom.

Lloyd Shapley's lecture: Play

My lecture (Al Roth) Play

Here's my banquet speech (although I deviated a little from the prepared text). and here are

Alvin E. Roth's Diploma 
Lloyd S. Shapley's Diploma 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Where do Nobel laureates come from, and other statistics...

Some nonpartisan stats, and some more partisan ones...

http://visualizing.org/visualizations/how-much-did-you-know-about-nobel-prizes-and-nobel-laureates

http://www.thejournal.ie/chocolate-nobel-prizes-infographic-632579-Oct2012/

holykaw.alltop.com/nobel-prizes-by-country-infographic


New York Jews won’t stop winning Nobel Prizes
"On Monday in Stockholm, the Royal Academy of Sciences will present the Nobel Prize in chemistry to Bronx-reared Dr. Robert Lefkowitz, and the Nobel in economics to Queens-raised Alvin Roth. Lefkowitz, a graduate of the prestigious Bronx High School of Science, and Roth, soon to depart the faculty of Harvard for Stanford, are the 39th and 40th graduates of New York City public high schools to win a Nobel Prize."

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Nobel Prize award ceremony: tomorrow, Monday

The Nobel Prize Award Ceremony 2012

The Nobel Prize Award Ceremony takes place at the Stockholm Concert Hall, Sweden, on 10 December every year – the anniversary of Alfred Nobel's death. At the ceremony, the Nobel Prize in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature and the Prize in Economic Sciences are awarded to the Nobel Laureates.

Live Webcast from Stockholm!

atch the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony at the Stockholm Concert Hall, Sweden, 10 December 2012, 4:20 p.m. (CET) – 6:00 p.m. (CET).
That's 10:20am for you East Coast Americans, and 7:20am for you Californians...probably here: http://www.nobelprize.org/ 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

AEA signaling, and coffee, viewed from Stockholm

At a dinner hosted by the Economics Prize Committee in Stockholm, conversation turned to the signals just transmitted by the American Economic Association, from new Ph.D. economists to potential employers. Each of the Swedish universities represented by those sitting nearest to me, including the Universities of Stockholm and Uppsala, had received signals, and had decided to interview at least one candidate based on having received a signal.

Incidentally, 1,285 candidates sent their two signals to 666 employers this year, and these signals were sent out on Dec 3, and confirmation emails were sent to candidates on Dec 4. If you were one of those candidates, good luck, and please fill out the attached survey.

 Dinner was held in the "Ghost Castle" of the University of Stockholm, which houses two impressive art collections, of paintings, and of glassware.  Here's a picture I like, showing that coffee has long played a role in serious discussions.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Some light hearted Swedish TV fare during Nobel week

Check out two of the videos that have played this week on Swedish tv, to see me try on a suit, or how Swedish tv interpreted my work at Stanford.


Not to mention this and some other pics at Den ekonomiske ingenjören Alvin Roth

Nobel lectures in Economics tomorrow (Dec 8): early in the U.S.


Prize Lectures in Economic Sciences

LIVE WEBCASTSaturday 8 December, 1:00-2:15 p.m. CET
Information about Alvin E. Roth's Prize Lecture
Information about Lloyd S. Shapley's Prize Lecture
More information about the prize



 Note that 1:00PM Central European Time is 7:00am on the East Coast of the United States and 4:00am on the West Coast. But I think the lectures will be available on the Nobelprize.org website for more leisurely viewing later.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Miscellaneous Nobel related links

We've arrived in Stockholm so my blog posting may be erratic (and postings may be brief, or from blog inventory).  I'll try to have some posts related to the ceremonies in the coming days of activities.  In the meantime, here's a selection of post-announcement pre-Stockholm interviews and news stories that I bookmarked.

Joshua Gans: A Nobel Prize for Market Design, Oct. 15 on Digitopoly.

Life-saving economics 20 Oct 2012 (BBC)

Mon, 22 Oct 12
Duration:
10 mins
Professor Al Roth tells Tim Harford about the work for which he has just been awarded the 2012 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.


From the publishing house John Wiley: Below is a selection of papers by Alan E. Roth and Lloyd S. Shapley, available on Wiley Online Library - all freely available online!* (and more here)

Virginia Postrel on An Economics Nobel For Saving Lives, Oct 16 on Bloomberg.

BBC's Richard Knight on Al Roth: An economist who saves lives, Oct. 20

The NY Times sensibly seeks some remarks from Parag Pathak: 2 From U.S. Win Nobel in Economics, Oct. 15

Financial Times: Practical approach secures Nobel award. Oct. 15 (gated, requires free registration, but they approve of my work:)

INFORMS, the Opeations Research/Management Science site, has a nice post by Michael Trick, with which I largely agree: An Operations Research Nobel?, Oct. 15.

Daily Beast: The Nobel Winner’s Guide to Love, Oct. 16.

Stanford news quotes me as pointing out that "Coffee is a big part of science," Oct. 15.

Jewish news service (Nov 4) quotes me as saying "One of the very nice things of this Nobel Prize for me is that I’ve gotten it for work that I am still doing right now. There are still valuable things to do, so it’s quite a thrill for me to have work recognized that is what I will go back to as soon as I stop being awarded for it."

Here's a link to a 14 November podcast of me being interviewed on the Malaysian program The Breakfast Grille

Here's a podcast of an interview on Israeli radio, which aired on November 25 on the program Goldstein on Gelt (15 minutes).

And, just to keep a busy period busier: Alvin Roth, 1 of this year’s winners of the Nobel Prize for economics, has a book deal

Update: here's a nice radio interview I missed, with John Hockenberry, on the NPR show The Takeaway (he says that my metaphor about a freely rotating wheel is a good takeaway:)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

What is the place of Economics in Science?

The AAAS, which publishes Science magazine, has elected a new list of Fellows, 701 in all this year, including several economists (among whom I am one, which is what brought it to my attention):

Section on Social, Economic and Political Sciences
  • Howard E. AldrichUniv. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Nicole Woolsey BiggartUniv. of California, Davis
  • Herbert GintisCentral European Univ., Hungary
  • Randy HodsonOhio State Univ.
  • Edward Paul LazearStanford Univ.
  • Deirdre McCloskeyUniv. of Illinois at Chicago
  • Melvin L. OliverUniv. of California, Santa Barbara
  • Zhenchao QianOhio State Univ.
  • Alvin E. RothHarvard Univ.
  • John SkvoretzUniv. of South Florida
  • Richard Michael SuzmanNational Institute on Aging/NIH
I am a long-time subscriber to Science, but not for it's publications in Economics. So I was interested to note that the new Economics Fellows aren't in a section devoted to Economics, but rather one that is apparently devoted to Sociology, Economics, and Political Science.

That doesn't seem like an unnatural grouping, except for the fact that the other Sections seem to concentrate much more narrowly. Here's the list of all 24 Sections:

AAAS Sections
The 24 sections arrange symposia for the Annual Meeting, elect officers, and provide expertise for Association-wide projects.
For a listing of section officers, click on the sections below.
Agriculture, Food, and Renewable Resources (Section O)
Anthropology (Section H)
Astronomy (Section D)
Atmospheric and Hydrospheric Sciences (Section W)
Visit the AAAS Section W Web site
Biological Sciences (Section G)
Visit the AAAS Section G Web site.
Chemistry (Section C)
Dentistry and Oral Health Sciences (Section R)
Education (Section Q)
Engineering (Section M)
General Interest in Science and Engineering (Section Y)
Geology and Geography (Section E)
History and Philosophy of Science (Section L)
Visit the AAAS Section L Web site
Industrial Science and Technology (Section P)
Information, Computing, and Communication (Section T)
Linguistics and Language Science (Section Z)
Mathematics (Section A)
Medical Sciences (Section N)
Neuroscience (Section V)
Pharmaceutical Sciences (Section S)
Physics (Section B)
Visit the AAAS Section B Web site
Psychology (Section J)
Social, Economic, and Political Sciences (Section K)
Societal Impacts of Science and Engineering (Section X)
Statistics (Section U)
I'm reminded of the quote by Keynes:"If economists could manage to get themselves thought of as humble, competent people on a level with dentists, that would be splendid. " Looking at the list (Dentists have almost their own Section), I can see that we have a way to go, at least in the AAAS and Science.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Custom, Contract, and Kidney Exchange

A new paper by Kieran Healy and Kim Krawiec at Duke deals with some of the unique, nuanced emerging features of non-simultaneous kidney exchange chains: Custom, Contract and Kidney Exchange, November 8, 2012, Duke Law Journal, Vol. 62, 2012

Abstract:
"In this Essay, we examine a case in which the organizational and logistical demands of a novel form of organ exchange (the nonsimultaneous, extended, altruistic donor (NEAD) chain) do not map cleanly onto standard cultural schemas for either market or gift exchange, resulting in sociological ambiguity and legal uncertainty. In some ways, a NEAD chain resembles a form of generalized exchange, an ancient and widespread instance of the norm of reciprocity that can be thought of simply as the obligation to “pay it forward” rather than the obligation to reciprocate directly with the original giver. At the same time, a NEAD chain resembles a string of promises and commitments to deliver something in exchange for some valuable consideration — that is, a series of contracts. 

"Neither of these salient “social imaginaries” of exchange — gift giving or formal contract — perfectly meets the practical demands of the NEAD system. As a result, neither contract nor generalized exchange drives the practice of NEAD chains. Rather, the majority of actual exchanges still resemble a simpler form of exchange: direct, simultaneous exchange between parties with no time delay or opportunity to back out. If NEAD chains are to reach their full promise for large-scale, nonsimultaneous organ transfer, legal uncertainties and sociological ambiguities must be finessed, both in the practices of the coordinating agencies and in the minds of NEAD-chain participants. This might happen either through the further elaboration of gift-like language and practices, or through a creative use of the cultural form and motivational vocabulary, but not necessarily the legal and institutional machinery, of contract."
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Kim Krawiec has blogged about the paper herself, here.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Alex Peysakhovich defends his Ph.D. dissertation



Alex (tieless in suit), David Laibson, Drew Fudenberg, Uma Karmaker and me (via  Skype)
Skyping the post-defense champagne
Alex Peysakhovich defended his dissertation on Friday at Harvard; I skyped in from California. Alex is a man of many projects: the one he spent the most time talking about at his defense is this one:

Alex is a behavioral economist who is always looking to expand his horizons, and he'll be doing a postdoc this coming year with Dave Rand and Martin Nowak. Look for Alex (and Aurelie) on the market next year.

Welcome to the club, Alex.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Charitable contributions will fund automation of the Kidney Paired Donation Program

Here's the story: Charitable contributions will fund automation of the Kidney Paired Donation Program


The UNOS Foundation has received $750,000 in charitable contributions for the Kidney Paired Donation (KPD) program: $500,000 from United Health Foundation and $250,000 from Pfizer.
The Foundation, UNOS staff, and a KPD working group (Dr. Ken Andreoni, Dr. Rich Formica, and Dr. John Friedewald) have been working to raise $1.58 million from private sources to help fund the KPD system and to cover costs not budgeted by the OPTN. These include software programming; software licensing; educational materials for patients and donors, and user training/resources for professionals.
UNOS has worked to develop a national KPD program since 2004, led by the KPD working group of the OPTN/UNOS Kidney Transplantation Committee. Currently, more than 120 kidney transplant programs are participating. The working group is now approaching the final phase – full automation of the KPD system.
UNOS’ KPD work has been funded, in part, through the OPTN contract, but has needed additional support to accomplish the project sooner, without further pressure on the registration fee. In addition to the hours devoted to this project by the working group volunteers, the KPD project has attracted enormous volunteer support from many others in the transplant community, as well as gifts from charitable foundations and in-kind donations of software and consulting from Johns Hopkins and Carnegie Mellon Universities, the New England Organ Bank, EDS Consulting and ILOG.
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Note: A recent UNOS KPD committee conference call discussing the desirability of "full automation" was cut short when the automated conference calling software declared the hour was over...

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Kidney exchange in India


Outcome of kidney paired donation transplantation to increase donor pool and to prevent commercial transplantation: a single-center experience from a developing country.

Source

Department of Nephrology and Clinical Transplantation, Institute of Kidney Diseases and Research Center, Dr. HL Trivedi Institute of Transplantation Sciences (IKDRC-ITS), Civil Hospital Campus, Asarwa, Ahmedabad, 380016, Gujarat, India, drvivekkute@rediffmail.com.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Economic constraints in operating an effective maintenance dialysis program leaves renal transplantation as the only viable option for end-stage renal disease patients in India. Kidney paired donation (KPD) is a rapidly growing modality for facilitating living donor (LD) transplantation for patients who are incompatible with their healthy, willing LD.

MATERIALS AND METHODS:

The aim of our study was to report a single-center feasibilities and outcomes of KPD transplantation between 2000 and 2012. We performed KPD transplants in 70 recipients to avoid blood group incompatibility (n = 56) or to avoid a positive crossmatch (n = 14).

RESULTS:

Over a mean follow-up of 2.72 ± 2.96 years, one-, five- and ten-year patient survival were 94.6, 81, 81 %, and death-censored graft survival was 96.4, 90.2, 90.2 %, respectively. Ten percent of patients were lost, mainly due to infections (n = 4). There was 14.2 % biopsy-proven acute rejection, and 5.7 % interstitial fibrosis with tubular atrophy eventually leading to graft loss.

CONCLUSION:

The incidences of acute rejection, patient/graft survival rates were acceptable in our KPD program and, therefore, we believe it should be encouraged. These findings are valuable for encouraging participation of KPD pairs and transplant centers in national KPD program. It should be promoted in centers with low-deceased donor transplantation. Our study findings are relevant in the context of Indian government amending the Transplantation of Human Organs Act to encourage national KPD program. To our knowledge, it is largest single-center report from India.