The workshop on Global Challenges in Economics and Computation (GCEC'20) will take place virtually on July 17-19 (Friday to Sunday) from 10AM–1PM EST. All are welcome to attend for either the entire event or a subset of days. Register here.
Eric Sodomka (Facebook Research)
Dina Machuve (Data Science Africa; Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology)
Olubayo Adekanmbi (Data Science Nigeria; MTN Nigeria)
Katie Bernhard (United Nations Development Programme Uganda)
Katrina Ligett (SIGecom executive committee; Hebrew University)
Kevin Leyton-Brown (University of British Columbia)
The Economics and Computation (EconCS) research community is unrepresentative of the global population---broadly speaking, many of us come from similar parts of the world, have similar backgrounds, read similar papers, and work on similar problems. This relative homogeny of our community might be leading to information silos and blind spots. Are we oblivious to important social problems in other parts of the world that EconCS expertise could help solve? Are there people in these regions who could become experts in EconCS, bringing new intersections of domain and technical expertise to our research community?
The GCEC'20 workshop is meant to serve as a complement to the Global Challenges in Economics and Computation (GCEC) Request for Proposals (RFP). That RFP will provide $150K in funding to aspiring researchers from low- and middle-income countries to apply research in economics and computation (EconCS) to help achieve the U.N.’s sustainable development goals. A goal of that RFP is to grow EconCS expertise into new parts of the world, so that future students in those areas will have local experts to provide EconCS mentorship.
However, the RFP alone will not likely lead to long-lasting change for our community. Our community needs to focus its efforts on a longer-term view: changing the way in which we discover research projects and collaborate.
The main idea of this workshop is that we should more deliberately think about the problem of facilitating interdisciplinary collaborations as a market design problem. We believe this is our research community’s path to greatest societal impact—we should focus on building the engine that allows people across disciplines to tackle important social issues, and in the process, expand the technical expertise of aspiring researchers in parts of the world where it’s currently lacking. Our goal is to take a project-based approach and provide apprenticeship learning to effectively mentor people into having novel intersections of domain and technical expertise.
There are many tools of EconCS that might be relevant in helping such a market for global challenges succeed: matching markets, reputation systems, crowdfunding, badge design, referral networks, voting, prediction markets, data markets, targeting relevant practitioners through online advertising, methods for efficiently eliciting preferences and stakeholders’ understanding of their problem, and so on.
But currently, our research community at large doesn’t deeply understand the needs of these different stakeholders (e.g., established researchers, aspiring researchers, funders, data owners, international development organizations, local NGOs). Throwing tools of EconCS at the problem without actually understanding people’s needs is a recipe for solving made up problems. This workshop will thus embrace techniques from lean startup methodologies: to understand the market, prototype rapidly, get user feedback, and pivot. The focus of the workshop this year is the following:
Better understand the needs all the stakeholders mentioned above.
Get feedback from various stakeholders about what worked—and what didn’t—with what we did this year to facilitate collaborations through the RFP.
Crucially, we hope to learn by doing. The winners of this year’s RFP will serve as important case studies for understanding what factors are important for these collaborations to succeed. As such, the workshop will also contain sessions that explicitly aim to facilitate and nurture such collaborations.