Saturday, November 30, 2019

Video: Big Data and Global Kidney Matching

Here's a talk, just recently posted on the web, that I gave in China at the Luohan Academy in Hangzhou, in June 2019.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Paying participants in economic experiments, in Ireland, in jeopardy

On Wednesday I received some email correspondence about a difficulty being faced by experimental economists in Ireland, who may be forbidden from paying participants in experiments, at least if the money comes from research grants

The issue has to do with this sentence on page 6 of the research grant guidelines of the Irish Research Council.
"Participants in surveys/focus groups/workshops or other such project related activities may not
be paid..." although their travel expenses can be reimbursed.

I dashed off the following statement in support of efforts to make sure that this policy isn't interpreted as preventing standard economics experiments.

“Laboratory experiments in Economics largely depend on specifying precisely and attempting to measure or  control  the incentives of the participants in an experiment. Almost always this involves paying the participants in ways that conform to the incentives the experimenter is trying to create.  [Paying subjects] is a well established and almost universal practice in experimental economics, and often necessary for publication in internationally recognized economics journals.”

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Regulations gone awry -- an example from transplantation

A general lesson of market design is that participants have big strategy sets, so any given set of rules can have unanticipated undesirable consequences.  Here's an example from transplantation. Transplant centers are regulated in part based on their one-year survival rate.

Here's a story from the BMJ:

US hospital is accused of keeping vegetative patient alive to boost its transplant survival rate

"Federal agents are investigating a New Jersey hospital accused of keeping a patient with catastrophic brain damage alive for a year and barely consulting his family, in order to keep its one year transplantation survival rate from falling to a level where the programme’s Medicare certification might be withdrawn.

"The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which has its own law enforcement agency, will lead the investigation into Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. The hospital has launched its own internal probe.
"Newark Beth Israel’s heart transplantation programme is among the top 20 in the country by volume. A banner on the hospital’s facade says, “1000 hearts transplanted. Countless lives touched.”

"But in 2018, its one year survival rate fell significantly below the 91% national average. Young’s death would bring the average down to 81%, which staff feared would trigger sanctions from the public payer."

HT: Alex Chan

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Academic (computer science) conferences as marketplaces

Eppstein and Vazirani propose a centralized marketplace for computer science conferences:

A Market for TCS Papers??
November 19, 2019 by Kevin Leyton-Brown

By David Eppstein & Vijay Vazirani

"No, not to make theoreticians rich! Besides, who will buy your papers anyway? (Quite the opposite, you will be lucky if you can convince someone to take them for free, just for sake of publicity!) What we are proposing is a market in which no money changes hands – a matching market – for matching papers to conferences.

"At present we are faced with massive inefficiencies in the conference process – numerous researchers are trapped in unending cycles of submit … get reject … incorporate comments … resubmit — often to the next deadline which has been conveniently arranged a couple of days down the road so the unwitting participants are conditioned into mindlessly keep coming back for more, much like Pavlov’s dog.

"We are proposing a matching market approach to finally obliterate this madness. We believe such a market is feasible using the following ideas. No doubt our scheme will have some drawbacks; however, as should be obvious, the advantages far outweigh them.

"First, for co-located symposia within a larger umbrella conference, such as the
conferences within ALGO or FCRC, the following process should be a no-brainer:

1). Ensure a common deadline for all symposia; denote the latter by S.

2). Let R denote the set of researchers who wish to submit one paper to a symposium in this umbrella conference – assume that researchers submitting more than one paper will have multiple names, one for each submission. Each researcher will provide a strict preference order over the subset of symposia to which they wish to submit their paper. Let G denote the bipartite graph with vertex sets (R, S) and an edge (r, s) only if researcher r chose symposium s.

3). The umbrella conference will have a large common PC with experts representing all of its symposia. The process of assigning papers to PC members will of course use G in a critical way.

"Once papers are reviewed by PC members and external reviewers, each symposium will rank its submissions using its own criteria of acceptance. We believe the overhead of ranking each paper multiple times is minimal since that is just an issue of deciding how “on-topic” a paper is – an easy task once the reviews of the paper are available.

4). Finally, using all these preference lists, a researcher-proposing stable matching is computed using the Gale-Shapley algorithm. As is well-known, this mechanism will be dominant strategy incentive compatible for researchers." 

"With a little extra effort, a similar scheme can also be used for a group of conferences at diverse locations but similar times, such as some of the annual summer theory conferences, STOC, ICALP, ESA, STAC, WADS/SWAT, etc.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

The future of economic design: a book of short essays, edited by Laslier, Moulin, Sanver, and . Zwicker

Here's a new book that I haven't seen yet, except on the internet. There's a long table of contents at the link, and you can click on the chapters to read an abstract. It looks like most essays are four or five pages, by many distinguished authors.

The Future of Economic Design
The Continuing Development of a Field as Envisioned by Its Researchers
Editors: Jean-François Laslier, Hervé Moulin, M. Remzi Sanver, and William S. Zwicker

Monday, November 25, 2019

Matching officers to branches at West Point

West Point grads get assignments through new branching system
By Brandon OConnor

"During a ceremony Nov. 13, 1,089 members of the Class of 2020 at the U.S. Military Academy received their assignments for which branch of the Army they will start their careers in upon graduation.
"This year marked the first time West Point has assigned branches using the Army's new Market Model Branching System, which will be rolled out to ROTC next year. The new model paired cadets with a branch by considering how they ranked the 17 branches as it has in years past, but for the first time the commandants of each branch also had a vote in which cadets received their branch.

Following branch week in September, the cadets in the Class of 2020 locked in their branch preferences for the sixth and final time. They each ranked the branches one through 17, or one through 15 for female cadets who opted out of armor and infantry. Each cadet was also ranked as most preferred, preferred or least preferred by each branch based on their branch resumes and interviews, which cadets were given the option to take part in for the first time this year.

Before locking in their preferences, cadets were given information about how each branch ranked them as well as the results from a simulation using their fifth branch preference list which showed them where they would have been placed. The cadets then had the chance to use that information to adjust their preferences before locking them in for the final time.

Sunsdahl said they saw movement within the cadets' top four preferences following the simulation as cadets moved up the branches they had a better chance of receiving based on the commandant's feedback and moved down branches where their chances were lower.

"That was the market working, which helped branches get who they wanted as well," Sunsdahl said. "We talk cadet preference a lot, but branches got more of the people they wanted this year than they have in past years. That's where that commandant vote meant something. Now when somebody goes into a branch, the cadet wants to be there, and the branch wants them. It's a win-win."

Following the application of the matching algorithm, which was adapted from the medical residency matching program, and final adjustments made by West Point's branching board, 96% of the cadets in the class were placed into one of their top three preferences.

Overall, 80% of the class was placed into a combat arms branch, a 5% increase over last year. For the first time, cyber was considered a combat arms branch along with infantry, armor, engineer, air defense, field artillery and aviation. The 40 cyber spots, up from 25 last year, accounted for almost the entirety of the increase in combat arms spots."

Sunday, November 24, 2019

First kidney exchange in Denmark

The first Danish incompatible patient-donor pair has received a transplant in an exchange with a pair in "another Scandinavian country."

Mette skaffede sin mand en nyre ved at sende sin egen til en fremmed
Første dansker har fået en nyre takket være nyt nyrebyttesystem.
[Google Translate: Mette obtained her husband a kidney by sending her own to a stranger
First Danes have got a kidney thanks to a new kidney replacement system.]

"At the Kidney Association, there is great enthusiasm about the new method in kidney transplantation.

- I would go so far as to say that it is a revolution in living organ donation, says the association's vice-president, Malene Madsen.

Right now, there are approximately 400 patients at home who are on a waiting list for a new kidney. And for them it will have a huge effect if the donor chains really get going."

HT: Lise Vesterlund
See also Nyresyge bytter nyredonorer
Den første dansker har gennem et nyudviklet skandinavisk nyreudvekslingsprogram fået en ny nyre fra en nærtstående til en anden nyresyg person

"The kidney exchange program STEP (ScandiaTransplant Kidney Exchange Program) is a collaboration between the Scandinavian transplant centers in the organization Skandiatransplant. The first transplants in the kidney exchange program were performed at transplant centers in Sweden in autumn 2018. Here, a chain of three kidney transplants was performed simultaneously.

"Aarhus University Hospital works systematically to increase the number of transplants through the use of live donors and in collaboration with the Danish Center for Organ Donation and the intensive care units in Jutland to increase the number of deceased donors. Still, about 100 kidney patients are on the waiting list for a kidney transplant in Aarhus.

and see this earlier post:

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Kidney exchange in Time Magazine

Time celebrates kidney exchange:

Kidney Swaps Are Revolutionizing a Broken Organ-Donation System in the U.S.

"While kidney swaps can be performed at most transplant centers across the U.S., the majority are facilitated by the National Kidney Registry. Other swaps are organized by the United Network for Organ Sharing, the Alliance for Paired Kidney Donation, or arranged in-house at the transplant center itself with incompatible patient pairs."

Friday, November 22, 2019

Harvey Prize to Christos Papadimitriou

The Technion's 2018 Harvey Prize prize, to Christos Papadimitriou, has been only recently announced: it will be awarded this month.

From Columbia University:
Professor Christos Papadimitriou Awarded the 2018 Harvey Prize
OCT 08 2019

"The Harvey Prize for Science and Technology for 2018 is awarded to professor Christos Papadimitriou for his work on the theory of algorithms and computational complexity and its application to the sciences. Papadimitriou will receive the award at a ceremony at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. Technion first presented the award in 1972 and two awards are given yearly. The scientists behind the genome editing technology CRISPR/Cas9 are also awardees this year.
“Professor Papadimitriou is considered the founding father of algorithmic game theory, defining key concepts, formulating key questions and proving basic results,” said Peretz Lavie, professor and president of the Technion. “He is a pioneer in the application of algorithms and complexity to other fields, including economics, biology and more.”
And here's the entry at the Harvey Prize link:

The Harvey Prize, established in 1971 by Leo M. Harvey of Los Angeles, is awarded annually at Technion for exceptional achievements in science, technology, and human health, and for outstanding contributions to peace in the Middle East, to society and to the economy.
Leo M. Harvey (1887-1973) was an industrialist and inventor. He was an ardent friend and supporter of Technion and the State of Israel.
Over the years, more than a quarter of Harvey laureates have subsequently won the Nobel Prize.
The award ceremony will take place in November 2019 at Technion.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Aiming for diversity in Brooklyn schools

The Washington Post  has the story:

What happened when Brooklyn tried to integrate its middle schools  By Laura Meckler

"New York City, with more than 1 million students, is far and away the nation’s largest school district — and one of its most segregated. Resistance to integration dates to the 1950s, when mothers in Queens staged an early demonstration against busing.

"Now, in fits and starts, the city is becoming a laboratory of experimentation, examining whether it’s possible to tackle the stratification that courses through urban districts.

"First, Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) tried — and has so far failed — to overhaul the admissions process for eight elite specialized high schools, which admit few black or Hispanic students. He is now considering a recommendation for a citywide plan to eliminate most gifted and talented programs, which attract a disproportionate number of white and Asian students.
"Under the old system, criteria set by each school played a big role in deciding who went where. Certain middle schools required high test scores and excellent behavior ratings from elementary school, and affluent families gravitated to them. Over time, various schools won reputations for excellence, and with each passing year, their incoming classes grew whiter and wealthier.
"Under the new plan, family preference still matters, but 52 percent of sixth-grade seats at each school are reserved for children from poor families or for those learning English, reflecting the demographics of the district as a whole. The city’s goal is for each school to include 40 percent to 75 percent priority-group students by the program’s fourth year.
"This sort of plan is possible only because a significant number of middle-class and wealthy families live in the area covered by the integration plan, Kahlenberg said. If there are too many poor kids, he said, meaningful integration is not possible. By Kahlenberg’s calculations, integration is possible in nine of the city’s 32 school districts.

Others caution that it won’t work anywhere if affluent parents leave the public schools. When Mike Bloomberg was mayor, he worked to attract and keep these families by giving them considerable control over school placement. If you take that power away, these parents may choose private schools or to move, said Joel Klein, schools chancellor under Bloomberg.

“If you look at many urban school districts, you will find they are overwhelmingly minority because the middle class has already moved out,” Klein said."

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

NYC school choice: long lines for high school tours (and some confusion about first choices)

The high school choice process in New York City uses an algorithm that makes it safe for families to list high schools in their order of preference over them.  But forming well-informed preferences is no easy task.

The NY Times has a story about long lines forming for tours of a desirable public high school:

Why White Parents Were at the Front of the Line for the School Tour
The high stakes of high school admissions in New York — and the lengths some go to get any small advantage.  By Eliza Shapiro

"Parents who pay $200 for a newsletter compiled by a local admissions consultant know that they should arrive hours ahead of the scheduled start time for school tours.

"On a recent Tuesday, there were about a hundred mostly white parents queued up at 2:30 p.m. in the spitting rain outside of Beacon High School, some toting snacks and even a few folding chairs for the long wait. The doors of the highly selective, extremely popular school would not open for another two hours for the tour.

"Parents and students who arrived at the actual start time were in for a surprise. The line of several thousand people had wrapped around itself, stretching for three midtown Manhattan blocks.
"Many New Yorkers cannot leave work in the middle of the afternoon, and some students surely did not know that the open house — or even the school — existed in the first place."

The story goes on to talk about the matching system for high schools, which uses a deferred acceptance algorithm.  Parag Pathak points out to me that one paragraph contains a sentence that is easy to interpret incorrectly:

"Beacon, unlike Stuyvesant, does not have an admissions test. But to win a spot, students must have high standardized test scores and grades, along with a strong portfolio of middle school work and admissions essays. Students are much less likely to be accepted if they do not list Beacon as their top choice." (emphasis added)

Parag writes about this line: "while factually correct, the statement creates a misleading impression: a student is only less likely to get Beacon if they didn't list it as their top choice in the case that they were assigned their first choice school instead.  And most people who apply to Beacon list it first because it's their top choice. "

The manner in which the deferred acceptance algorithm (with students proposing) makes it safe for families to state their true preferences can be summarized this way: If you list Beacon as your second choice, and don't get your first choice, then your chance of admission to Beacon is the same as if you had listed it as your first choice.

Of course, even with that guarantee, a family's choice may not be simple if they would have liked to rank order 15 schools, and are only allowed to list 12. Then they have to consider whether, if they are rejected by their first choice, they are likely to be accepted by Beacon, or whether rejection from their first choice is a signal that they might not be competitive at Beacon either. (In which case, listing Beacon as first choice wouldn't have helped...)

See my recent post:

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Milgrom Marshall Lectures at University of Cambridge

Paul Milgrom will be giving the 2019-2020 Marshall Lectures at Cambridge today and tomorrow.  Here's a video abstract by Paul:

2019-20 Marshall Lecture by Professor Paul Milgrom

Paul Milgrom is best known for his contributions to the microeconomic theory, his pioneering innovations in the practical design of multi-item auctions, and the extraordinary successes of his students and academic advisees. According to his BBVA Award citation: “Paul Milgrom has made seminal contributions to an unusually wide range of fields of economics including auctions, market design, contracts and incentives, industrial economics, economics of organizations, finance, and game theory.” According to a count by Google Scholar, Milgrom’s books and articles have received more than 90,000 citations. - Professor Milgrom's Personal Site >>

 Professor Paul Milgrom
(Stanford Department of Economics)
will give two lectures on,
"Market Design When Resource Allocation is NP-Hard"

Venue: Lady Mitchell Hall

Tuesday 19th November 2019
5.00pm to 6.00pm
Wednesday 20th November 2019
5.00pm to 6.30pm
I'll update when Paul's lectures are available.
(In the meantime, here are my 2013-2014 Marshall Lectures on "Matching Markets and Market Design )
Update: Both lectures are now available at the Marshall Lectures site.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Interview with Parag Pathak on schools, and market design

From Business Insider:
Parents choosing high schools for their kids place more value on the students already enrolled than on the school's effectiveness, according to a study by MIT economist Parag Pathak

"A solution to school matching might be attainable, but the bigger challenge remains. "It's a success in terms of matching systems getting out there," Pathak said. "But it shines a spotlight on bigger problem - the scarcity of good schools."
"The rise of "market-design economics" has attracted a new type of person to the profession, he said. "Our folks are much more humble. We really like to get our hands dirty from very real problems," he added. "The mindset is more of an engineer — how would we put those ideas to use in actually building something in society?"

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Liver Paired Exchange: Ready for Prime Time in North America?

An editorial in the November 2019 Liver Transplantation considers, among other things, how liver exchange might be more coercive than live liver donation, because real or imagined incompatibilities might no longer serve to excuse an ambivalent donor from going through with the donation. (I recall discussions like this at the outset of kidney exchange, and my sense is that, in those days, the doctors thought that they could still excuse ambivalent donors by indicating that they weren't healthy enough to donate...)

Liver Paired Exchange: Ready for Prime Time in North America?
Talia B. Baker M.D

"The evolution of kidney paired exchange (KPE) in the United States has expanded transplant options for ABO‐incompatible and human leukocyte antigen–incompatible living donor pairs.1 The success of KPE has prompted consideration of liver paired exchange (LPE). Although the idea seems promising, its application has been limited to a handful of centers in Asia.2-4
"In the United States, approximately 3,000 patients are removed from the liver waiting list each year because they become too ill or die prior to transplant.7 Although living donor liver transplantation (LDLT) is established as the primary source of donor allografts in many parts of Asia, it constitutes approximately only 4% of liver transplants in the United States.7 The potential number of living donor and recipient pairs that might be suitable for LPE in the United States is unknown and largely unexplored.
"The indications for LPE are more complex than in KPE where immunological factors drive the process. In LPE, anatomical factors, such as hepatic mass (ie, graft‐to‐recipient weight ratio and percent of future liver remnant), and anatomical considerations, such as arterial and biliary variants, will also importantly be considered.
"coercion, which remains one of the greatest ethical concerns for the evaluation of any living donor, will have to be considered in a more robust manner. Concerns about coercion may be exacerbated by indirect exchanges, such as in LPE, because a reluctant or hesitant donor may no longer be able to invoke ABO incompatibility, size, or anatomical incompatibility as a reasonable and accepted way to withdraw from consideration as a living donor.9 ...
"Often, transplant centers are able to select the most willing donors based on their commitment to step forward, expressing unwavering interest and determination to donate. This system inherently allows willing, but ambivalent, donors to be excused based on objective medical measures (most commonly ABO incompatibility or anatomical issues) without having to admit their ambivalence. In contrast, LPE may remove or limit this potential by offering alternative options for exchanges, thereby inadvertently exposing or subjugating ambivalent donors. "

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Is repugnance to foie gras contagious?

The Guardian has the story from the UK, focusing on a particular restaurant, and its proprietor, who has withstood protests:

Pressure grows on British chefs after New York bans foie gras
Restaurateurs and MPs are turning against the delicacy after years of intense animal rights protests

"New York’s authorities have decided to ban shops and restaurants from selling it and campaigners want London – indeed, the whole of Britain – to follow suit.

“Banning it is a fad,” he says. “New York is just following a fad, going with the flow. If it is ethically raised, then I don’t see a problem. If they are [forcibly] fed on an industrial scale, I think that’s wrong. But the foie gras we serve comes from a family who look after their geese.”

"His stance is not one that most animal welfare campaigners agree with. Making foie gras generally relies on force-feeding ducks or geese for about two weeks, causing their livers to expand dramatically. Some farmers claim force-feeding – known as gavage – is unnecessary, but in France, where 98% of the foie gras eaten in Britain is made, a pâté can only be called foie gras if gavage is used."

Recent related post:

Friday, November 1, 2019

Friday, November 15, 2019

Controversial markets: Seminar at Pitt

I'll be speaking at Pitt today, in the experimental/behavioral seminar:

Controversial Markets

11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., 4940 Posvar Hall
Sponsor: Experimental/Behavioral Seminar

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Correlation Neglect in Student-to-School Matching, by Rees-Jones, Shorrer, and Tergiman

Suppose it is costly to apply to schools (perhaps because you are only allowed n applications, and have a larger set of schools you are interested in.)  Now suppose that your first choice is Yale and your second is Harvard. Should you apply to both?  How about if it is the case that, if Yale rejects you, Harvard probably will too?  That turns out to be harder for many people to figure out than you might think...

Correlation Neglect in Student-to-School Matching
Alex Rees-Jones, Ran I. Shorrer, and Chloe Tergiman

A growing body of evidence suggests that decision-makers fail to account for correlation in signals that they receive. We study the relevance of this mistake in students' interactions with school- choice matching mechanisms. In a lab experiment presenting simple and incentivized school-choice scenarios, we find that subjects tend to follow optimal application strategies when schools' admissions decisions are determined independently. However, when schools rely on a common priority — inducing correlation in their decisions — decision making suffers: application strategies become substantially more aggressive and fail to include attractive "safety" options. We document that this pattern holds even within-subject, with significant fractions of participants applying to different programs in mathematically equivalent situations that differ only by the presence of correlation. We provide a battery of tests suggesting that this phenomenon is at least partially driven by correlation neglect, and we discuss implications that arise for the design and deployment of student-to-school matching mechanisms.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Controversial markets, from kidneys to marijuana at the SF Surgical Society

This evening I'll speak at the meeting of the San Francisco Surgical Society:

November Meeting – Controversial Markets: from Kidneys to Marijuana, by Professor Alvin Roth, 2012 Nobel Laureate in Economics.
November 13 @ 6:30 pm - 9:30 pm PST
Family Club
545 Powell Street
San Francisco, CA 94108

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Economics and Computation: EC'20 call for papers

Mike Ostrovsky writes:

The Twenty-First ACM Conference on Economics and Computation (EC'20) will be held on July 13-17, 2020 in Budapest, Hungary. The main conference will take place on July 14-16, 2020 with tutorials on Monday, July 13 and workshops on Friday, July 17. The conference is co-located with the Sixth World Congress of the Game Theory Society.

We solicit paper submissions for presentation in the technical program. The deadline for submissions is February 12, 2020 at 3pm EST.  

Note that EC’20 is continuing and expanding the forward-to-journal option that was piloted by EC’19; new partner journals include Artificial Intelligence, Marketing Science, Naval Research Logistics, RAND Journal of Economics, and the Review of Economic Studies. In addition, the new feature-at-INFORMS option allows authors to have their accepted EC submissions automatically considered for presentation at the INFORMS Annual Meeting.

For more details, please refer to the full call for papers and the list of program committee members

We hope to see you in Budapest!

Best regards,
Michael Ostrovsky and Ariel Procaccia
EC'20 Program Chairs

Monday, November 11, 2019

Debate on kidney exchange in Germany

On Friday in Berlin I found myself in a debate with the chairman of the Research Committee of the Bundestag, the German Parliament, about legalizing kidney exchange in Germany. I proposed that a minimal amendment of the law, which now only allows close relatives to donate, would be to also allow them to be the intended donors of their close relatives in kidney exchange.  However it doesn't seem as if this is going to happen anytime soon (it looks like only the Free Democratic Party in inclined to support it...)

The medical newspaper ärztezeitung has the story
Lebendspende breiter aufstellen
Beim Thema Organspende rücken die Lebendspenden zunehmend in den Fokus. Ein Nobelpreisträger befeuert die aufkommende Debatte.
[Widen living donation
With regard to organ donation, living donations are increasingly coming into focus. A Nobel Prize winner fuels the emerging debate.]

"Nobel laureate Professor Alvin Roth submitted on Friday morning a proposal on how the living donation of kidneys in Germany could be broadened. Instead of considering only first and second degree relatives, spouses, registered partners and close friends as potential donors in the transplantation law, the pair organ exchange of living donors should also be possible, he said at the Nobel Prize Dialogue of the Leopoldina in Berlin. The aim of this model is to increase the chances of being able to mediate compatible organs to dialysis-dependent patients.

"The chairman of the Research Committee of the Bundestag, Ernst Dieter Rossmann (SPD) advised in his reply to not overburden the population in Germany. First, the contradiction solution must be introduced and its effect on the donor numbers to be waited, he warned.

"At the end of October, the Greens warned against commercialization and organ trade if the so-called cross-donation was introduced. At the FDP, the considerations have fallen on fertile ground."

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Rank order voting in NY (and in xkcd)

Vox has the story:
New York City adopts ranked-choice voting, a major milestone for the reform
The biggest city in the US is joining a voting reform movement.

"New York City has become the latest — and most populous — city to adopt ranked-choice voting, a major milestone for voting reform efforts.
Voters in the city overwhelmingly approved Ballot Question 1 on Tuesday, enabling voters to begin using ranked-choice voting in local primary and special elections beginning in 2021.
New York City joins 20 other cities around the country, as well as multiple states, that have already started using this method in various elections. Maine, notably, implemented ranked-choice voting for the first time in a federal election in 2018.
Ranked-choice voting works much like its name suggests. Instead of picking just one candidate on the ballot, voters rank their top five in order of preference.
Once those votes are cast, they are counted in the following way, Lee Drutman explains:
Ranked-choice voting lets voters mark their first-choice candidate first, their second-choice candidate second, their third-choice candidate third, and so on. Each voter has only one vote but can indicate their backup choices: If one candidate has an outright majority of first-place rankings, that candidate wins, just like a traditional election.
But if no candidate has a majority in the first round, the candidate in last place is eliminated. Voters who had ranked that candidate first have their votes transferred to the candidate they ranked second. This process continues until a single candidate gathers a majority."

xkcd has the cartoon:

Previous posts:

Monday, September 30, 2019

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Lifetime medical insurance for kidney donors?

Reason has the story:

New York Might Compensate You for Your Kidney
But it's just health insurance, not cash
LIZ WOLFE  11.6.2019

"On Friday, New York State Sen. James Skoufis (D–Woodbury), introduced a bill that would provide kidney donors with free health insurance for life. Skoufis' bill, S.B. 6827, would establish a kidney donor insurance fund from which the payouts would come. The new incentives would not apply retroactively to people who have already donated kidneys.
"In New York State, there are 8,006 individuals who are candidates for a kidney transplant as of October 2019, but in 2018 just 521 people in the state who chose to serve as live kidney donors," Skoufis notes in the bill's memo. "Clearly, additional incentives are required to encourage people to give the gift of life."

von Neumann award to Susan Athey

Susan Athey is the recipient of the 2019 John von Neumann Award.

"The John von Neumann Award, named after John von Neumann is given annually by the Rajk László College for Advanced Studies (BudapestHungary), to an outstanding scholar in the exact social sciences, whose works have had substantial influence over a long period of time on the studies and intellectual activity of the students of the college. The award was established in 1994 and is given annually. In 2013, separately from the annual prize, Kenneth J. Arrow was given the Honorary John von Neumann Award."

Friday, November 8, 2019

Nobel Prize Dialogue Berlin 2019 Towards Health: Equality, Responsibility and Research, Friday Nov. 8

I'll be speaking in Berlin again today:

Below is one announcement, with the agenda (and a list of speakers and panelists is here):
Equality, Responsibility and Research

10:00 A.M. – 12:30 P.M.
Opening Remarks
Jörg Hacker, Laura Sprechmann

What Does ‘Health’ Mean to You?
Peter Agre, Tolu Oni, Ursula Staudinger
Moderator: Adam Smith

Funding Research for a Healthier Future: How Should We Set Priorities?
Tomas Lindahl, Ernst Dieter Rossmann, Eleftheria Zeggini
Moderator: Juleen Zierath

Kidney Exchange
Alvin Roth

How Can We Increase Organ Donation and Transplantation?
Ernst Dieter Rossmann, Alvin Roth, Christiane Woopen
Moderator: Adam Smith

Musical Intermezzo: Berliner Cellharmoniker
How Climate Change Is Affecting Our Health
Kristie Ebi

What Can We Do About the Health Risks of Climate Change?
Kristie Ebi, Sabine Gabrysch, Sylvia Hartmann
Moderator: Gustav Källstrand

Health Inequalities Throughout The Life Course
Michael Marmot

How Can We Reduce Health Inequalities?
Nicola Bedlington, Kathryn Dewey, Michael Marmot
Moderator: Peter Tinnemann

LUNCH BREAK 12:30 P.M. – 1:45 P.M.
The Microbiome: a New Dimension in Health
Suzanne Devkota
Moderator: Adam Smith

Behind the Scenes of the Nobel Prize
Gustav Källstrand und Juleen Zierath
Moderator: Katja Patzwaldt

Vaccine Hesitancy
Michel Goldman, Tikki Pang, Harald zur Hausen
Moderator: Juleen Zierath

You are Entitled to Your Own Opinion, But Not to Your Own Facts
Tikki Pang

Health Challenges in Low- and Middle-Income Countries
Peter Agre, Tolu Oni, Tikki Pang
Moderator: Peter Tinnemann

Mental Health and Longer Lives: Positive Plasticity of Cognitive Aging
Ursula Staudinger

Mental Health, Cognition and Ageing
Edvard Moser, Ursula Staudinger
Moderator: Adam Smith

The Future of Drug Development and Precision Medicine
Nicola Bedlington, Michel Goldman, Tomas Lindahl, Eleftheria Zeggini
Moderator: Adam Smith

COFFEE BREAK 3:15 P.M. – 3:45 P.M.
ATRIUM 3:45 P.M. – 4:45 P.M.
The Role of Diet
Suzanne Devkota, Kathryn Dewey, Harald zur Hausen
Moderator: Juleen Zierath

What Level of Healthcare Can Society Afford?
Michel Goldman, Heyo Kroemer, Alvin Roth, Christiane Woopen
Moderator: Peter Tinnemann

Who Is Responsible For Our Health?
Nicola Bedlington, Kristie Ebi, Heyo Kroemer, Michael Marmot, Edvard Moser, Tikki Pang
Moderator: Adam Smith

Closing Remarks
Laura Sprechmann

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Controversial markets, at Humboldt University

This evening I'll be speaking at Humboldt University:

BSE Lecture on "Controversial markets" by Nobel Laureate Alvin E. Roth

Wann: 07.11.2019 von 14:30 bis 15:45 

Wo: Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Dorotheenstraße 24, 10117 Berlin, Fritz-Reuter-Saal, 3rd floor

Abstract:Markets need social support to work well. So do bans on markets, since without sufficient social support, bans can be ineffective and can sometimes lead to active black markets.  I’ll describe some examples of how these tensions have played out differently in different places, for example,  for markets for surrogacy, prostitution, and drugs. A particular example will be the almost (but not quite) universal ban on monetary markets for kidneys, and how this has influenced the treatment of kidney disease and the organization of kidney transplantation around the world, including the development of kidney exchange, which is growing worldwide, but is effectively banned in Germany by current German transplant law.

"If you want to attend the lecture, please register by giving the subject "Registration BSE Lecture Alvin Roth" as well as your name and your institution via email to

"After the lecture, at 16:00, up to 25 students (Master's and PhD) as well as Postdocs will have the opportunity to attend a round-table discussion with Alvin Roth in which he will address your questions. This round-table discussion will be held at room 2070a at HU's main building (Unter den Linden 6, 10117 Berlin)."

Tonight I'll also speak at an event organized by the Einstein Institute, concerning how changes in the current German transplant law could make kidney exchange practical in Germany.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

MIT celebrates Nikhil Agarwal

Optimizing kidney donation and other markets without money
MIT economist Nikhil Agarwal analyzes the efficiency of markets that match suppliers and consumers but don’t use prices.

“In economics,” Agarwal says, “we often [assume] there’s the demand, the supply, the price, and the market clears, somehow. It just happens.” And yet, he says, “That’s not how a lot of markets work. There are all these different important markets where we do not allow prices.”

Scholars in the field of “market design,” therefore, closely examine these nonfinancial markets, observing how their rules and procedures affect outcomes. Agarwal calls himself a specialist in “resource allocation systems that do not use prices.” These include kidney donations: The law forbids selling vital organs. Many education systems and entry-level labor markets, for example, also fit into this category. "

I've followed Nikhil's work for a long time--here are some other posts that mention his work.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Unraveling and (lack of) self confidence by Dargnies, Hakimov and Kübler

Online, in Management Science, a behavioral look at unraveling via early exploding offers:

Self-Confidence and Unraveling in Matching Markets
Marie-Pierre Dargnies , Rustamdjan Hakimov, Dorothea Kübler
Published Online:22 Oct 2019

We document experimentally how biased self-assessments affect the outcome of labor markets. In the experiments, we exogenously manipulate the self-confidence of participants in the role of workers regarding their relative performance by employing hard and easy real-effort tasks. Participants in the role of firms can make offers before information about the workers’ performance has been revealed. Such early offers by firms are more often accepted by workers when the real-effort task is hard than when it is easy. We show that the treatment effect works through a shift in beliefs; that is, under-confident agents are more likely to accept early offers than overconfident agents. The experiment identifies a behavioral determinant of unraveling, namely biased self-assessments. The treatment with the hard task entails more unraveling and thereby leads to lower efficiency and less stability, and it shifts payoffs from high- to low-quality firms.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Kidney donation in Israel

In Israel, as in the U.S., a lot of living kidney donations to strangers come from people associated with faith based organizations.  Tablet Magazine has the story:

Kidney donations are on the rise among Orthodox Israelis
By Sara Toth Stub October 28, 2019

"Koplovich is among the growing number of religiously observant Israelis who are volunteering to donate kidneys to people they have never met, ultimately doubling the number of kidney transplants taking place in the country each year. Officials credit the increase in living donors to improved surgical techniques, increased social welfare benefits, and the work of a nonprofit organization called Matnat Chaim, which raises awareness about and facilitates live kidney donations, especially among Orthodox Israelis.
"Rabbinic authorities, whose often stringent definitions of brain death have led to Israel’s relatively low rate of organ transplants from deceased people, are now actively encouraging live donations of kidneys, the most in-demand organ, especially as the danger to the donor has been reduced, according to recent research by Koslowsky, and nephrologists Walter Wasser and Geoffrey Boner, published in the journal BMC Nephrology.
"Two Jewish organizations in the United States, Kidney Mitzvah and Renewal, also raise awareness about and facilitate live kidney donation/
"All kidney donations and transplant pairings made through Matnat Chaim are overseen by the government-appointed National Committee for Kidney Donations, which also makes sure there is no commercial component involved.

"But donors coming through Matnat Chaim can choose the characteristics of their recipient, and most Jewish donors choose to donate to a fellow Jew. Although bioethicists are generally divided over directing organs to certain types of people, Israeli health officials allow the practice, saying that it has helped increase the overall number of kidneys available.
"While Miran Epstein, a medical ethicist at Queen Mary University of London, acknowledges that every donated kidney ultimately helps everyone waiting for a kidney, he said an organization that allows donors to stipulate certain characteristics of potential recipients—including religious affiliation—in effect practices conditional organ donation, which Israel and many other countries don’t allow. When accepting matches made through Matnat Chaim, the government-run transplant system is undermining its own ethics guidelines and public trust, he said: “The ethnic-religious condition is effectively concealed behind the fiction of directed donation. There is no doubt that Matnat Chaim has shortened the waiting list, but the question is, at what price?”

"Meanwhile, Ashkenazi said that the country’s kidney exchange program—where relatives and friends of those in need of a kidney, but who don’t match, donate to a stranger, whose family or friends in turn donate to their relative—often brings together Jewish and Arab donors and recipients."

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Egon Balas, 1922-2019

I only now learned that Egon Balas passed away in March, at the age of 96.  
I last saw him in 2017, full of energy at an IFORS conference in Quebec City. We became friends in Pittsburgh, where he was the leader of the OR community at CMU.
He came to operations research in the second half of his life, after an incredibly dramatic first half.  Here's a link to his CMU obituary:

"His early life included two imprisonments—one for joining the communist party to oppose the Nazis during World War II and the second by the communist party after the war in a Stalinist purge. He later became one of the world’s foremost experts in mathematical optimization after joining Carnegie Mellon in 1967."

Here's the WSJ obituary:

And here's the obit from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette:

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Video Interview: Peter Singer on Global Kidney Exchange

Peter Singer discusses Global Kidney Exchange, and his recent article in the Lancet, in this interview on the Practical Ethics blog at Oxford.

Video Interview: Peter Singer on The Global Kidney Exchange Programme
Published November 1, 2019 | By Katrien Devolder

"In this interview with Katrien Devolder, Peter Singer defends the Global Kidney Exchange (GKE) programme, which matches donor–recipient pairs across high-income, medium-income, and low-income countries. The GKE has been accused of being a form of organ trafficking, exploiting the poor, and involving coercion and commodification of donors. Peter Singer refutes these claims, and argues that the GKE promotes global justice and reduces the potential for people in need of kidneys in low-income and medium-income countries to be exploited."


Earlier post and link to the Lancet article:

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Global Kidney Exchange in the Lancet, by Minerva, Savulescu and Singer

And you can find all my posts on global kidney exchange here.
Update: and here's the press release for the Lancet article, from Princeton's University Center for Human Values:
Peter Singer makes the case for Global Kidney Exchange Program
Thursday, Oct 31, 2019

"Professor Peter Singer is one of three bioethicists who have published an argument in The Lancet, one of the world’s leading medical journals, in favor of a Global Kidney Exchange program that matches donors and recipients across low and middle-income (LMIC) countries with pairs in high income countries.

Singer co-authored the paper  with Oxford University Professor Julian Savulescu and  Francesca Minerva, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Ghent, in Belgium.

The three argue that, far from representing a form of organ trafficking, as some critics have suggested, a Global Kidney Exchange program would reduce suffering and save the lives of rich and poor patients alike."

Friday, November 1, 2019

No more foie gras in New York City

The NY Times has the story:

Foie Gras, Served in 1,000 Restaurants in New York City, Is Banned
Animal cruelty concerns led the City Council to approve the ban, which takes effect in 2022. One chef’s reaction: “What’s next? No more veal?”

"The New York City Council overwhelmingly passed legislation on Wednesday that will ban the sale of foie gras in the city, one of the country’s largest markets, beginning in 2022.

New York City will join California in prohibiting the sale of foie gras, the fattened liver of a duck or goose, over animal cruelty concerns."
Previous posts on foie gras here.

HT: Alex Chan