Tag: forecasting

Bioethics Blogs

The Back Story on “Can cancer researchers accurately judge whether preclinical reports will reproduce?

How well can researchers accurately predict whether high profile preclinical findings will reproduce? This week in PLoS Biology, STREAM reports the result of a study suggesting the answer is “not very well.” You can read about our methods, assumptions, results, claims, etc. in the original report (here) or in various press coverage (here and here). Instead I will use this blog entry to reflect on how we pulled this paper off.

This was a bear of a study to complete. For many reasons. Studying experts is difficult- partly because, by definition, experts are scarce. They also have limited time. Defining who is and who is not an expert is also difficult. Another challenge is studying basic and preclinical research. Basic and preclinical researchers do not generally follow pre-specified protocols, and they certainly do not register their protocols publicly. This makes it almost impossible to conduct forecasting studies in this realm. We actually tried a forecast study asking PI’s to forecast the results of experiments in their lab (we hope to write up results at a later date); to our surprise, a good many planned experiments were never done, or when they were done, they were done differently than originally intended, rendering forecasts irrelevant. So when it became clear the Reproducibility Project: Cancer Biology project was a go and that they were working with pre-specified and publicly registered protocols, we leapt at the opportunity.

For our particular study of preclinical research forecast, there was another challenge. Early on, we were told that the Reproducibility Project: Cancer Biology was controversial.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Degrees of Maybe: How We Can All Make Better Predictions

June 27, 2017

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Turn on the TV, and you’ll find no shortage of people who claim to know what’s going to happen: who’s going to get picked for the NBA draft, who will win the next election, which stocks will go up or down.

These pundits and prognosticators all have an air of certainty. And why shouldn’t they? We, as the audience, like to hear the world’s complexity distilled into simple, pithy accounts. It doesn’t help that these commentators rarely pay a serious price when their predictions don’t pan out.

Lurking in the background are scores of ordinary people who do a much better job of predicting the future than the so-called experts. They’re the subject of the book, Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction, co-authored by psychologist Phil Tetlock and journalist Dan Gardner.

For years, Tetlock and his team of non-experts — among them, a retired irrigation specialist and former ballroom dancer — competed against the government’s top intelligence officers in a forecasting tournament. The people tapping at their keyboards at their public libraries or in their homes while their kids played nearby did better on questions about whether Greece would leave the Eurozone or whether Russia would invade Ukraine — questions that were literally all over the map.

Tetlock discovered important ways these “superforecasters” differed from the rest of us. They’re not all members of Mensa or polymaths. Their feats of prediction are more attainable than that: They view prediction as a skill that can be cultivated.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Academics Call Time on $100,000 Cancer Drugs

February 9, 2017

(Reuters) – A group of academic researchers has demanded an end to cancer medicines costing more than $100,000 a year and proposed a new model of low-cost drug development that would capitalize on recent advances in science. A group of academic researchers has demanded an end to cancer medicines costing more than $100,000 a year and proposed a new model of low-cost drug development that would capitalize on recent advances in science. Sky-high prices have made oncology hugely profitable, with IMS Health forecasting global cancer drug sales of at least $150 billion by 2020. Scientists, however, believe today’s prices are simply not sustainable as more and more people need treatment.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Oxford Uehiro Prize in Practical Ethics: Should We Take Moral Advice From Our Computers? written by Mahmoud Ghanem

This essay received an Honourable Mention in the undergraduate category of the Oxford Uehiro Prize in Practical Ethics.

Written by University of Oxford student, Mahmoud Ghanem

The Case For Computer Assisted Ethics

In the interest of rigour, I will avoid use of the phrase “Artificial Intelligence”, though many of the techniques I will discuss, namely statistical inference and automated theorem proving underpin most of what is described as “AI” today.

Whether we believe that the goal of moral actions ought to be to form good habits, to maximise some quality in the world, to follow the example of certain role models, or to adhere to some set of rules or guiding principles, a good case for consulting a well designed computer program in the process of making our moral decisions can be made. After all, the process of carrying out each of the above successfully at least requires:

(1) Access to relevant and accurate data, and

(2) The ability to draw accurate conclusions by analysing such data.

Both of which are things that computers are very good at.

To make a case otherwise is to claim one of two things: either that humans have access to morally relevant data, which is in some way fundamentally inaccessible to computers, or that humans can engage in a kind of moral reasoning which is fundamentally uncomputable. I will address these two points before moving on to a suggestion of what such a computer program may look like. Finally, I will address the idea that consulting computers will make us morally lazy, by showing how a well designed program ought to, in fact, achieve the opposite.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Book Forum — Richard Keller’s Fatal Isolation by Todd Meyers

 

Richard Keller’s Fatal Isolation: The Devastating Paris Heat Wave of 2003 is a careful accounting of the toll the heat wave took on those most vulnerable in the neighborhoods surrounding Paris.  The book is about the shape of vulnerability and its amplification over time — in fact, Fatal Isolation requires us to pause on the ideas of risk, vulnerability, and precarity in order to consider the scale, grain, reach, and quality of disaster (natural, designed).  By weaving together official history, epidemiological forecasting, and statistical reckoning — along with what Keller calls “anecdotes,” individual stories that give necessary texture to the invention and indifference of catastrophe — the book tells a story that allows the unease of the event’s chronology to come through: slow and then all of a sudden, concluded but lingering long after all is said and done, a rupture with a long preamble.

What follows is a collection of commentaries that take up Keller’s masterful study in different ways: some are deeply reflective and personal, others more directly highlight the civic, political, and global character of disaster, and underscore the associated alienation and negligence which both precedes and follows seemingly anomalous events. We hope you enjoy the comments on Richard Keller’s Fatal Isolation and his response.

 

Comments on Richard C. Keller’s Fatal Isolation: The Devastating Paris Heat Wave of 2003 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015):

 

On Vulnerability and the Anecdote
Sara B. Pritchard
Cornell University

Modernity as a Fragile Milieu
Peter Redfield
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

History, Theory, and Limit Events
Camille Robcis
Cornell University

Bodies of/and Knowledge
Kim Fortun
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

The Temporality of Disaster
Miriam Ticktin
The New School for Social Research

 

Response
Richard C.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Making Disability Count: Demography, Futurity, and the Making of Disability Publics by Faye Ginsburg

If one considers people who now have disabilities, people who are likely to develop disabilities in the future, and people who are or who will be affected by the disabilities of those close to them, then disability affects today or will affect tomorrow the lives of most Americans. The future of disability in America is not a minority issue. (Institute of Medicine 2007, p. 16)

Disability is an ambiguous demographic, but one that is unambiguously increasing. (Fujiura 2001, p. 1)

Disabled people have more than a dream of accessible futures: we continue to define and demand our place in political discourses, political visions, and political practice, even as we challenge those very questions and demands. More accessible futures depend on it. (Kafer 2013, p. 169)

How are we as a society to successfully incorporate and support the increasing numbers of Americans with disabilities, a future that ultimately includes all of us? What kinds of cultural innovations are expanding our frameworks of inclusion to create “inhabitable worlds”? This question has been fundamental to our research project entitled Disability, Personhood and the “New Normal” in 21st Century America. As the quotations above indicate, the number of people with disabilities has been growing dramatically over the last decades. As disability scholar/activist Alison Kafer persuasively argues, the political and existential stakes for the recognition of disability are high, especially in imagining and creating what she calls “accessible futures”. Is it possible to bring the knowledge being produced both by demography and disability studies into conversation, to better understand the relationship between “counting disability” and “making disability count”?

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

DNA Phenotyping and Baby’s First Portrait

Some researchers are at work generating images of people’s faces by relying on DNA samples alone, in a process known as DNA phenotyping. The process involves linking genetic traits and their typical manifestations in traits such as eye color, hair color, and features associated with ancestry. The research is in its early stages, and DNA does its work only in the context of developmental effects, so the facial images are not exact matches, but they are often within the ballpark.

Right now, the interest in DNA phenotyping is mostly forensic, of interest to police agencies trying to identify people who have left no trace of themselves at a crime scene other than blood, semen, or other bodily substance. To help identify suspects through a visual image, private companies already market DNA phenotyping to various police agencies around the country.

It is unlikely that DNA phenotyping will remain of interest only to the law. I expect that some prospective parents might be interested in taking embryonic or fetal DNA to produce a predictive phenotype of what their child might look like as an adult. Will the child look more like the father or the mother? Will the child inherit the father’s generously sized ears or maybe the mother’s aquiline nose? What will its eye and hair color be? Will there be any asymmetry in the child’s face? And what about other body traits? How tall is the child likely to be?

Visual answers to these questions will all depend on the extent to which researchers can meaningfully link genetics to expected physical traits and in a way that is not disturbed by the “noise” of developmental variation.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

UK launches space weather forecast centre

The UK officially opened its first space weather forecasting centre this week.

Funding for the Met Office Space Weather Operations Centre, based at the organisation’s headquarters in Exeter, was announced by the government late last year.

Solar flare July 2012

NASA/Royal Observatory Belgium/SIDC

Since May the centre has been operating 24/7, ahead of its public launch on 8 October. As well as giving early warning of space weather threats to critical infrastructure, such as the National Grid, the Met Office now also provides publicly-available forecasts, published on its website.

‘Space weather’ is a term which covers how radiation and high-energy particles, ejected from magnetic storms in the Sun, interact with Earth’s magnetic field and impact terrestrial technology. Severe space weather can knock out satellite communications and disrupt global positioning systems (GPS) and power grids.

The centre came about following three years of discussion between the Met Office and its US counterpart, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service, based in Boulder, Colorado, which was keen to establish a backup for their Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC).

To determine how soon a solar event will be felt on Earth, forecasters at the SWPC and Met Office will use the same models, based on data from the same spacecraft. But by running the models at slightly different times, forecasters will be able to compare the results and generate a more accurate picture, says Catherine Burnett, space weather programme manager at the Met Office.  The UK’s centre will also use different ground-based data to hone its forecasts for the UK, she adds.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.