Sunday, September 30, 2012

Kidney exchange in Europe

The Spanish transplant organization is attempting to collaborate with other European nations to create a bigger pool--a thicker marketplace--for kidney exchange.

España, Italia y Francia estudian hacer trasplantes en cadenaHay más de 162 parejas dispuestas para un trasplante renal cruzado | En junio se llevó a cabo el primer trasplante en cadena intercontinental

or, via Google translate:

Spain, Italy and France to study transplant chain There are more than 162 couples willing to cross a kidney transplant | In June he held the Intercontinental chain first transplant.

" At this time, according to data provided by this organization, there are 72 couples willing to cross a kidney transplant, while in France there are another 70 and Italy 20. ...
"The closing of this agreement would open the door to cross-border donation and transplantation in Europe (Spain had isolated interventions in Portugal) .
" Last June, the Alliance of Paired Donation agency reported the completion of the first transplant in U.S. international chain, incorporating two Greek citizens."

On the APD exchange between Greece and the U.S., see previous post here.

HT: Flip Klijn

Saturday, September 29, 2012

An unusual non-directed kidney donor

A recent kidney exchange NEAD chain (NEAD = non-simultaneous extended altruistic donor) began with quite an unusual altruistic donor. Apparently she first got the idea of donating one of her kidneys when she was just 8 years old. Here's the story:
Paying it forward: Oklahoma woman's kidney donation continues to help others.  Ever since she was a child, Liz Gay wanted to donate her kidney. At 31, she donated her kidney and made medical history. 

"It's not easy to explain now, but at 8 years old, Liz Gay knew that she would one day donate a kidney.
Not just knew — felt called by God.
"Gay is what's known as an altruistic donor, a healthy person who donated a kidney without a specific person in mind as the recipient. To start the donation process, Gay went to the Alliance for Paired Donation and signed up to donate.

"Once she passed through the screening and testing process, a recipient was selected, a man living across the Atlantic Ocean.

"Michalis Helmis, a resident of Greece, had been on dialysis for six years. Initially, his wife, Theodora Papaioannou-Helmis, signed up to be his donor. But when doctors ran the tests, they determined she wasn't a match.

"Theodora Papaioannou-Helmis spent the next two years lobbying Greek politicians to change the country's law restricting organ donation.

“The only reason I did that is I believed he could not be on dialysis for his whole life,” she said through a translator. “I just couldn't accept that, and I had to do it to get him well.”

"Under Greek law, only spouses and first-degree relatives could donate kidneys to other family members. Once the law was modified, the couple flew to Ohio.

"The agreement was that Gay's kidney would go to Michalis Helmis, and a few months later, Theodora Papaioannou-Helmis would come back to the states and donate her kidney to a man in Pennsylvania.

"Everything worked out as planned, and a few months later, Michalis Helmis feels healthier than he has in years. He still can't believe Gay's generosity."

That was, I think, the very first intercontinental exchange. I blogged earlier about it here:
Mike Rees and Greece: an intercontinental kidney exchange

The story about the Oklahoma donor includes a great line about Mike Rees:
"Dr. Michael Rees, the Alliance for Paired Donation chief executive officer, describes himself as “probably the biggest advocate of paired kidney donation.” 

Friday, September 28, 2012

"Incentive" spectrum auctions take another step forward

The NY Times reports on today's events in Washington: F.C.C. Backs Proposal to Realign Airwaves

"WASHINGTON — The government took a big step on Friday to aid the creation of new high-speed wireless Internet networks that could fuel the development of the next generation of smartphones and tablets, and devices that haven’t even been thought of yet.

"The five-member Federal Communications Commission unanimously approved a sweeping, though preliminary, proposal to reclaim public airwaves now used for broadcast television and auction them off for use in wireless broadband networks, with a portion of the proceeds paid to the broadcasters.

"The initiative, which the F.C.C. said would be the first in which any government would pay to reclaim public airwaves with the intention of selling them, would help satisfy what many industry experts say is booming demand for wireless Internet capacity."
Paul Milgrom is leading an impressive group of auction designers in the novel technical aspects of this effort.

Washington State liquor stores--followup on the auction

As I wrote in March, Washington State auctioned off its state liquor stores in an online auction that  opened March 6, 2012 and closed April 20, using an entirety auction, in which either all the stores would be sold together to one bidder, or each store would be sold separately.  The separate bidders won. However, 18 of them failed to come forward and pay their bids, and so a second re-auction followed, on May 24. (The re-auction of those 18 seems to have been well attended.)

Here are the results of the initial auction (the 18 failed bids wouldn't have changed the outcome...)

By the Numbers
• Total sum of individual bids       $30.75 million
• High all-store bid                      $4.6 million (will not count)
• Registered bidders                    551
• Total number of bids                 14,627
• Single stores to individuals        93
• Multiple stores to individuals     28
• Lowest winning bid                    $49,600 for Store 186 in Spokane (Division street)
• Highest winning bid                   $750,100 for Store 122 in Tacoma (72nd and Pacific)
• Increase in bids on final day      $23.7 million
Like many online auctions, if a bid was placed during the final five minutes of the auction, the end time would automatically extend for an additional five minutes. The official planned end of the auction was 4:00 p.m. PDT. However, heavy bidding activity extended the auction until 6:25 p.m. Friday evening.
The re-auction of the 18 liquor stores brought in an additional $5.9 million.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

New Orleans School Choice: bringing one application process to all schools

Progress is being made: New Orleans school officials push holdout charters to join single-application process

"After years of complaints from parents over how complicated it can be to register a student in New Orleans public schools, the city's top education officials have come tantalizingly close to bringing every school within one streamlined enrollment system. A single obstacle remains: persuading a dozen or so independent charter schools -- including four selective magnet schools whose limited seats are especially prized -- to join a common application. It's a turning point that will affect how thousands of pupils go about choosing a school and help shape a first-of-its-kind public education system, potentially knitting back together an enrollment process balkanized by the momentous changes that took place after Hurricane Katrina.

"The charter schools in question are the 12 that fall under theOrleans Parish School Board, the elected body that lost control of most city schools to the state-run Recovery School District after the storm, along with three charter schools in New Orleans -- known as Type 2 charters -- that are authorized by the state board of education and accept students from around the state.

"In a rare joint interview this week, officials with the School Board and the Recovery District said they are deep into conversations with each of those schools about joining the OneApp; all of them are governed by independent charter boards that will make the decision for each school."

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Unravelling in college football

There are some big eighth graders out there.

LSU Gives Scholarship Offer To 8th Grader
"It's a scene that plays out on college campuses every single summer, although this offer was different for one main reason -- Dylan Moses has yet to start eighth grade.

"Considering the Tigers are only just starting to hand out offers to members of the Class of 2014, it came as a bit surprise for a 2017 prospect to get one."

And so did the University of Washington

"Washington made a splash in the recruiting world Wednesday, but don't bother checking the ESPN 150 for the newest Huskies commit. He won't be included in that list this year, next year or the one after that.

"It's highly unlikely a single Washington player still will be on the roster by the time Tate Martell makes an appearance in purple and gold, but after receiving a scholarship offer from the Huskies three weeks ago, the soon-to-be eighth-grade quarterback committed to coach Steve Sarkisian on Wednesday, Martell's father, Al, confirmed to

"The Washington coaching staff is not able to confirm whether it has accepted the commitment from the 14-year-old Martell. Schools are not able to offer a written scholarship until Sept. 1 of a prospect's senior season, according to NCAA rules. Martell won't be able to sign a national letter of intent until Feb. 1, 2017."

HT: Vikram Rao

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Law review submissions: too cheap?

It has always been the custom to submit papers to multiple law reviews, but the new ExpressO system makes it so easy that some journals are no longer accepting papers from it. Dan Filler at the Faculty Lounge write: Is Now the Moment to Re-jigger the Law Review Submission Process?

"As I noted here, the University of Chicago Law Review and California Law Review are no longer accepting submissions from ExpressO.  They now accept articles submitted for five dollars a pop via Scholastica.  The Stanford Law Review and Yale Law Journal only accept pieces submitted through their proprietary submission systems.  The anachronistic law review publication system has always been problematic - both because law students with limited knowledge make the big decisions and because, given multiple submissions and an expedite bid system, those student editors are asked to read vastlymore articles than they are ever going to have a shot at publishing. (Of course the two are related; you could never find enough faculty volunteers to referee one article seventy-five times per submission season.  And efforts to create a referee bank - like this - have had limited success.)
I strongly suspect that the volume generated by the low-cost convenience of ExpressO might literally be breaking this camel's back. If ever there was a time to get journals on board for some sort of rationalization, it might be now.  "

Monday, September 24, 2012

Allocating deceased donor kidneys for transplant: problems, some proposed changes, and how can we get more donors?

Two recent NY Times stories discuss the allocation of deceased donor kidneys:

In Discarding of Kidneys, System Reveals Its Flaws

Kidney Transplant Committee Proposes Changes Aimed at Better Use of Donated Organs

A few different things are intertwined here: the long waiting lists, the congested process of offering kidneys and having them accepted or rejected and offered to the next person on the list, and the ordering of the list, which in turn might influence how often people need a second transplant, which comes back to how long the waiting lists are...

There are lots of interesting and important questions about how to most efficiently allocate the scarce supply (see e.g. Zenios et al.)

 But organ allocation has an unusual aspect: how organs are allocated may also influence the supply, by changing donation behavior. I'll be giving a seminar this afternoon on aspects of that question (in joint work with Judd Kessler):

 Mon, Sep 24, 3:30PM - 5:00PM,   Deceased Organ Donation and Allocation: 3 Experiments in Market Design, GSB E-104

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Istanbul Bilgi University, and its rector

I've written before about the culture of universities and the obstacles that face new ones. The 2012 game theory world congress was hosted by Istanbul Bilgi University, which turns out to be quite a new institution. Its Rector Remzi Sanver is a well known member of the game theory/social choice/economic design community, and his opening address refers to some of the difficulties he faces as the head of a new, secular university in Turkey.

"Istanbul Bilgi University, since its foundation, has taken clear and unequivocal positions throughout the democratization process of our country. That encompasses a long list of conferences held within our offices when no one wanted to host such conferences, as well as students accepted in classes when sartorial conditions were imposed almost everywhere else. We have been harshly criticized for most of our positions and deeds. We are still sometimes severely criticized, but we continue to abide by our values, which are universally and largely accepted, to safeguard our liberal and pluralistic stance." 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Older kidneys work fine (thank you for asking:)

Older Kidneys Work Fine for Transplants

"Using data from more than 50,000 living donor transplants from 1998 through 2003, researchers at the University of British Columbia concluded that the age of the donor made no difference to the eventual success of the transplant — except for recipients ages 18 to 39, who were more likely to succeed with a donor their own age. Patients in this group accounted for about a quarter of all the patients studied.
The scientists also analyzed lists of people waiting for a kidney from a deceased donor and found that the probability of becoming ineligible for donation within three years was high, varying from 21 percent to 66 percent, depending on age, blood group and severity of disease.
Waiting can be fatal, the authors contend, and an offer of a kidney should not be rejected simply because of the donor’s age." 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Same sex marriage in the different states of the European Union

In Europe as in the U.S. different states have different laws about same sex marriages, and some states don't recognize the same sex marriages performed in other states:
On Gay Marriage, Europe Strains to Square 27 Interests

"The European Commission, the guardian of European Union treaties, has been working on ways to make life easier for people who move across borders.

"But although for two years it has been studying ways to facilitate the free circulation of civil status documents, including birth, death and marriage certificates, the proposal is still awaiting action. And when it goes forward later this year, the plan may not cover marriage. “For now, I think it is important to take one step at a time,” Viviane Reding, the European justice commissioner, said in an e-mailed response to questions.

"Opponents of gay marriage argue that any attempt in Brussels to require countries to recognize same-sex marriage certificates issued in another member state would, in effect, require them to introduce gay marriage whether they wanted to or not.

“A general application of the rule of mutual recognition of civil status documents will result in a situation where the political and social choices of some member states would be imposed on all the others,” CARE for Europe, a Christian lobby group, argued in its submission to the commission, echoing numerous opponents.

"So for now, gay couples and families are fighting their own battles — often at considerable expense."

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Forecasting school enrollment in Los Angeles

LA is looking ahead: Nation’s Second-Largest District Builds Enrollment Forecasting Platform

Los Angeles (Calif.) Unified School District enrolls over 680,000 students, and the Budget Services and Financial Planning office uses enrollment forecasts on which to base resource allocations to schools. This process determines the number of teachers, textbooks, supplies, custodians, nurses, administrators and food service staff at each school campus. Enrollment forecasting has high stakes, but like every other district in the nation, LAUSD has made major financial cutbacks—$1.5 billion between 2008 and 2010. One program on the chopping block in 2009 was Roadshow, an in-person student-enrollment-forecasting review process that cost over $400,000 annually. So LAUSD needed to find a new, cost-effective forecasting review process.


"The answer was an online program. In January 2010, LAUSD launched the Electronic School Forecasting System, known as E-CAST, an Internet-based platform that replaced Roadshow. The in-person review process had consumed 8,700 staff hours, 17,000 reimbursable travel miles for visits to schools and 52,000 paper data collection forms over the six-week review. “Back in 2006, it was pretty clear that it would be helpful to move this process online to make it more efficient without wasting time and expense in the field gathering data,” says Valerie Edwards, chief enrollment analysis coordinator at LAUSD."

"Looking Forward

"After tackling forecast enrollment, LAUSD is now discussing the possibility of adding a school-capacity assessment module to E-CAST to evaluate space and seating capacities. According to Edwards, space use varies in middle and high school classrooms more than elementary classrooms, where students spend the majority of their day with the same teacher.
“We want to use algorithms to figure out utilization and track classroom spaces electronically. LAUSD can use this information to make sure the district is effectively using space and to plan for maintenance and operations,” says Edwards.
It’s essential, as the district has over 13,000 buildings and about 8,000 projects, ranging from moving portable units to building new schools. If everything goes as planned, Edwards says the school-capacity assessment module should be operational in the 2013-2014 school year."

(LA's chief prognosticator is Valerie Edwards, with whom we had the pleasure of working on Boston Public Schools' school choice system...)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The market for "zero day" software vulnerabilities

What can you do if you discover a brand new, never exploited ("zero day") vulnerability in a ubiquitous piece of software? Forbes is on the case: Shopping For Zero-Days: A Price List For Hackers' Secret Software Exploits

"A clever hacker today has to make tough choices. Find a previously unknown method for dismantling the defenses of a device like an iPhone or iPad, for instance, and you can report it to Apple and present it at a security conference to win fame and lucrative consulting gigs. Share it with HP’s Zero Day Initiative instead and earn as much as $10,000 for helping the firm shore up its security gear. Both options also allow Apple to fix its bugs and make the hundreds of millions of iPhone and iPad users more secure.

"But any hacker who happens to know one Bangkok-based security researcher who goes by the handle “the Grugq”–or someone like him–has a third option: arrange a deal through the pseudonymous exploit broker to hand the exploit information over to a government agency, don’t ask too many questions, and get paid a quarter of a million dollars–minus the Grugq’s 15% commission."
"The Grugq is hardly alone in his industry. Small firms like Vupen, Endgame and Netragard buy and sell exploits, as do major defense contractors like Northrop Grumman and Raytheon.

"Netragard’s founder Adriel Desautels says he’s been in the exploit-selling game for a decade, and describes how the market has “exploded” in just the last year.  He says there are now “more buyers, deeper pockets,” that the time for a purchase has accelerated from months to weeks, and he’s being approached by sellers with around 12 to 14 zero-day exploits every month compared to just four to six a few years ago."

And here's a related article about a French firm, Vupen (which describes itself as follows: "As the leading source of advanced vulnerability research, VUPEN provides government-grade exploits specifically designed for the Intelligence community and national security agencies to help them achieve their offensive cyber security and lawful intercept missions using extremely sophisticated codes created in-house by VUPEN.).")

HT: Duncan Gilchrist

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Cramton on the Medicare auction

Market design can be frustrating: Peter reports from the front line.
Medicare auction gets failing grade at Congressional hearing

Market design course at Stanford (Econ 285, Autumn 2012)

Muriel Niederle and I will be teaching an introduction to market design this quarter (the first quarter of a three quarter graduate sequence whose other quarters will be taught by Paul Milgrom and Fuhito Kojima).

The first class session is on Monday September 24.

This will be the first course I've taught at Stanford since 1978 (when I taught a course on Axiomatic Models of Bargaining, while on leave from the University of Illinois), and it will likely resemble the market design course I taught last Fall at Harvard. You can find the web page for that course, which includes the slides I lectured from here. (Since this will be followed by a quarter taught by Paul Milgrom, we plan to spend less time on auctions than when I taught at Harvard, and more time on matching markets: see the course description below.)

We think the class might be interesting not only to economists but also to operations researchers and computer scientists...

ECON  285 - 01   Market Design
Stanford University | 2012-2013 Autumn | Lecture
Class Details
Class Number
Regular Academic Session
2 - 5 units
Class Components
9/24/2012 - 12/7/2012
Letter or Credit/No Credit
Stanford Main Campus
Stanford Main Campus
Meeting Information
Days & TimesRoomInstructorMeeting Dates
MoWe 11:00AM - 12:50PM
Econ 106
Alvin Roth,
Muriel Niederle
09/24/2012 - 12/07/2012
Class Availability
Class Capacity
Wait List Capacity
Enrollment Total
Wait List Total
Available Seats
This is an introduction to market design, intended mainly for second year PhD students in economics (but also open to other graduates students from around the university and to undergrads who have taken undergrad market design). It will emphasize the combined use of economic theory, experiments and empirical analysis to analyze and engineer market rules and institutions. In this first quarter we will pay particular attention to matching markets, which are those in which price doesn¿t do all of the work, and which include some kind of application or selection process. In recent years market designers have participated in the design and implementation of a number of marketplaces, and the course will emphasize the relation between theory and practice, for example in the design of labor market clearinghouses for American doctors, and school choice programs in a growing number of American cities (including New York and Boston), and the allocation of organs for transplantation.  Various forms of market failure will also be discussed.
Assignment:  One final paper. The objective of the final paper is to study an existing market or an environment with a potential role for a market, describe the relevant market design questions, and evaluate how the current market design works and/or propose improvements on the current design.