SciCast College Bowl Kicks off Today

April 29, 2014
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For Immediate Release

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FAIRFAX, VA

Announcing the 1st Annual College Bowl Competition in Science and Technology Forecasts

SciCast is pleased to announce the SciCast College Bowl, an open competition to see who the best forecasters are in science and technology. People wishing to enter the competition can join a team representing the college of their choice and win individual and team prizes for accuracy in their forecasts and other activities.

When participants register on the site they will choose from a variety of questions and make forecasts on the outcomes. Detailed background information will be provided for each question. Forecasts can be updated any time until the question closes. Updates can be based on what you learn or just a change in opinion.

The College Bowl is scheduled to run until May 31 and is designed to engage college students, alumni, faculty, researchers, professionals, and hobbyists interested in current innovations in science and technology. Questions in the College Bowl will include topics such as 3-D printing, medicine, robotics, and space sciences.

First prize in the SciCast College Bowl is a $500 gift card to Chipotle or Amazon (winners’ choice) for the most accurate forecaster. Top 10 forecasters from winning teams will also be awarded prizes both for accuracy and level of participation.

For more information and to enter, visit https://scicast.org/collegebowl

About SciCast: SciCast is a crowdsourced forecasting platform for science and technology run by George Mason University. It is based on the idea that the collective wisdom of an informed and diverse group is often a better predictor than the judgment of a single expert. Part of the Forecasting Science and Technology (ForeST) Program funded by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), SciCast questions are generated by its participants, as well as ForeST teams at Inkling Markets, George Mason University, BAE Systems and SRI International.

We’ve Given Everyone More Points!

As the number of open questions on SciCast increases, some users are finding their points stretched too thin.  We want our users to make forecasts when they have the interest and knowledge. To make this possible, we’re giving every registered user an extra 4000 points, and starting out all new users with 5000 points.

This change will not immediately affect any person’s rank on the leaderboard, though it might offer new opportunities to move up or down in the rankings. If you have run out of points or are extremely short on points, you now have the assets you need to make more forecasts.  Please use these new assets and opportunities wisely. The overall accuracy of SciCast’s market forecasts is improving, and we all want to see a steady continuation of that trend.

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Bitcoin/Amazon question has resolved

The question, Will bitcoin be accepted at online retailer, Amazon, by March 31, 2014? has resolved “False/No” because bitcoin has NOT been accepted by online retailer, Amazon. However, for information on how to use bitcoin to shop on Amazon (via digital gift card purchase) view this Forbes article.

Analysis of the Predictions

Analysis

Our raw market Brier Score1 (before smoothing or adjustments) was 0.02.

The Brier Score (Brier 1950) is a measurement of the accuracy of probabilistic predictions. As a distance metric, a lower score is better than a higher score.  The market Brier Score ranges from 0 to 2, and is the sum of the squared differences between the individual forecasts and the outcome weighted by how long the forecasts were on the market. On a binary (Yes/No) question, simply guessing 50% all the time yields a “no courage” score of 0.5.

There were 214 forecasts made by 86 unique users.

There were 12 participants’ comments. Here are a few:

Apple recently moved to remove iOS apps that handle bitcoin, apparently to avoid legal issues related to bitcoin’s current ambiguous legality. I would not think Amazon would move in the opposite direction by March 31.

 

More woes for Bitcoin: Bitcoin Trading Technology In Question As Currency Dives After Glitch

 

It is still too early for bitcoin. It will take at least another 4 or 5 years for a company of size or a country to accept bitcoin. Changes in currency, let alone international, having in many cases required more than decades to make decisions regarding changes which result in acceptance. How many years did it take the Euro?

 

I don’t see the Euro as a great comparison point. At this stage, Bitcoin isn’t trying to replace another currency, even if that’s what some of its more ardent supporters see as its endgame. For this question to resolve as true, there doesn’t need to be any massive shift in public policy. Amazon doesn’t need to stop accepting dollars. It just needs to do what overstock.com did.

Check out these related forecasting questions that are still active on the market.

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1. The Ordered Brier is officially known as RPS.

User Activity (1st Quarter, 2014)

By March 31, SciCast had 5425 forecasts, 1375 users, and 444 questions.

The graph below (click to enlarge) shows some user activity statistics through the end of March. Registrations have leveled off, but the number of daily forecasts per active user is rising. Since January, the average number of forecasts per day among people who make comments and forecasts on SciCast questions has roughly doubled (from 2.5 to 5).

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The number of registered users has increased over the same time frame, but most registration occurred early in the year. We had about 800 new users in January but only about 200 new users in both February and March. April will see some new outreach campaigns and incentives.

Please help the SciCast team by encouraging other people to join in our forecasting challenge. Our crowdsourcing approach to predicting science and technology benefits from having a crowd to forecast on every question.

The more competitive users might like to take advantage of the daily and weekly cycles in forecasting. Timings show we still have a strong U.S. bias: few forecasts occur during our night, but mornings also have fewer forecasts than afternoons and evenings. There are roughly half as many forecasts each hour from 07:00 to 11:00 as there are each hour from 11:00 to 19:00. (All times U.S. Eastern, GMT-5/4).

Weekends also have slightly fewer forecasts. There are four forecasts per day on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday for every five forecasts per day on Tuesday through Friday.

by Ken Olson

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Academic Stats Prediction Markets from Overcoming Bias

By Robin Hanson

In a column, Andrew Gelman and Eric Loken note that academia has a problem:

Unfortunately, statistics—and the scientific process more generally—often seems to be used more as a way of laundering uncertainty, processing data until researchers and consumers of research can feel safe acting as if various scientific hypotheses are unquestionably true.

They consider prediction markets as a solution, but largely reject them for reasons both bad and not so bad. I’ll respond here to their article in unusual detail. First the bad:

Would prediction markets (or something like them) help? It’s hard to imagine them working out in practice. Indeed, the housing crisis was magnified by rampant speculation in derivatives that led to a multiplier effect.

Yes, speculative market estimates were mistaken there, as were most other sources, and mistaken estimates caused bad decisions. But speculative markets were the first credible source to correct the mistake, and no other stable source had consistently more accurate estimates. Why should the most accurate source should be blamed for mistakes made by all sources?

Allowing people to bet on the failure of other people’s experiments just invites corruption, and the last thing social psychologists want to worry about is a point-shaving scandal.

Read the full post at Overcoming Bias.