This Futures Game Requires Your Informed Consent

AAAS and several other organizations are partnering with SciCast – a research project run by George Mason University – in an effort to run a crowdsourced experiment in science and technology forecasting.  SciCast is a big prediction market, covering a number of topics.  The current recruiting drive appears to be focused on gathering participants interested (though not necessarily trained) in science and technology matters.  That’s because prediction markets seem to work well with informed participants, regardless of any formal experience.  Those in the market who have successful predictions gain influence in the market, and their subsequent predictions are given additional value.  The game play come in through a leaderboard, which keeps participants amused and interested so the researchers can fine tune their market algorithms.

If you want to play, you will need to register, and sign the informed consent forms.  Since the last futures/forecasting exercise I participated in didn’t have one, I was particularly interested in the details.  The project is funded, at least in part by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency (IARPA) – the intelligence community’s high-risk/high-reward research outfit.  This should be a surprise considering the value of prediction markets to intelligence agencies.  I do find it suspect that IARPA is only mentioned in the informed consent form.

Also worth noting is that the project kind of presumes that intelligence about science and technology developments is only of interest to the intelligence community.  Prediction markets could have utility for determining undersupported (and oversupported) areas of research, deficiencies in scientific and technically trained personnel, or other questions of importance to the agencies that fund, support and perform scientific and technical research.  Will IARPA be willing to share?  I have my doubts.


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