Sneak Peek: Sample Questions

The team is working very hard and we’re getting close to launch! We’re excited to share a sneak peek at some of the questions you will see…

Here’s an example:

What will the average arctic sea ice extent be for September 2014?

Some background: Passive microwave satellite data reveal that, since 1979, winter Arctic ice extent has decreased about 3 to 4 percent per decade. Arctic sea ice typically covers about 14 to 16 million square kilometers in late winter, and reaches a minimum of about 7 million square kilometers in mid-September.  However, recent minima have all been below 6 million square kilometers, with 2012 at only 3.4 million square kilometers.

And, another question:

What percent of managed honey bee colonies in the US will be lost during the 2013-2014 winter?

Some background: Estimates of winter loss for managed honey bee (Apis mellifera) colonies are an important measure of honey bee health and productivity. Last year’s loss of bee colonies was 31.1% which is slightly higher than the previous 6-year average loss of 30.5 percent.

There will also be an opportunity to make forecasts in questions that are “linked” where the probability of something happening in one is affected by the other. For example, we’ll also ask:

How many billions of pounds of almond meat will be harvested in California in 2013?

This is linked to the previous question because almonds depend on bees for pollination; therefore bee colony health will affect agricultural yield, and may affect the amount of almonds harvested.

If you haven’t already, be sure to sign up at www.SciCast.org to be notified the week of December 2 when we launch. We’re also looking for people to help create and edit forecast questions! Send a note to [email protected] if you have questions you’d like to see on the site.

SciCast presented at the Northrop Grumman Information Systems’ University Symposium

Members of George Mason University’s C4I Center presented SciCast and two other C4I projects at the Northrop Grumman Information Systems’ University Symposium in McLean, VA this week.  Dr. Charles Twardy (SciCast Principal Investigator) and Dr. Tod Levitt (SciCast Project Manager) discussed the SciCast market, and recruited potential question-writers and forecasters.  There was steady interest and good discussion both of the public SciCast market and other potential uses of the technology.  Our special thanks to Ludwig Tokatlian, Lolo Penedo, and the Future Technical Leaders program for the invitation.

Welcome to the SciCast blog!

SciCast is a government funded research project to forecast the outcomes of key issues in science and technology. SciCast is based on the idea that the collective wisdom of an informed and diverse group is often more accurate at forecasting the outcome of events than that of one individual.

Technically, SciCast is a prediction market. Prediction markets can be used to forecast the outcome of a wide variety of topics and are used today in large corporations and governments to understand the likelihood of meeting key performance metrics, quantify risks that may jeopardize operations, and better understand industry trends.

Unlike other prediction markets you may have heard of like Intrade or Inkling Markets, SciCast will create relationships between forecast questions that may have an influence on each other. For example, we may ask a question about the volume of sea ice in the Arctic in a given month. We may also ask a question about average temperature in this same locale or other influencing metrics. SciCast will learn from its participants how strong of a relationship these questions have to each other and will adjust their outcomes accordingly. This means if the SciCast participants forecast the average temperature will be higher in the Arctic, we’ll adjust the likelihood that the level of ice will decrease in that same time period.

SciCast will be a community-driven initiative. Participants will nominate questions and we will facilitate a process to get those questions published. Once a question is available, SciCast participants will wager their “SciCa$h” to make a forecast: the amount they wager depending on how much they want to influence the collective forecast. And unlike a survey, participants can change their mind at any time and increase or decrease their wager on a particular outcome. In this way, SciCast is a real-time indicator of what our participants think is going to happen.

After the answer to a question is known and made public, participants who answered correctly will be awarded SciCa$h based on their wager. The more correct forecasts a participant makes, the more SciCa$h they earn and the more influence they’ll have in other forecasts.

Our goal is to get thousands of participants from around the world. We’re currently reaching out to Professional Societies, Universities, and interest groups to solicit their participation. If you are part of an organization you think would like to participate, please let us know and we will introduce ourselves.

SciCast will be launched in early December, but you can pre-register now at http://scicast.org. If you’d like the SciCast participants to make forecasts on questions you’re interested in, you can also submit candidate questions now at http://signup.scicast.org/question_form.html