Science funding is a gamble so let’s give out money by lottery

Perhaps your life, like that of many of my friends and relatives, has been improved by propranolol – a beta-blocker that reduces the effects of stress hormones, and that’s used to treat conditions such as high blood pressure, chest pain, an uneven heartbeat and migraines. It’s considered one of the most important pharmaceutical breakthroughs of the 20th century.

Thank goodness, then, that the United States in the 1940s didn’t have the same attitude to science funding that it does today. If it had, you could expect to see seven experts sitting around a table, trying to assign a score to an unorthodox grant proposal to study the function of adrenaline in the body. ‘If I have properly understood the author’s intent, then this mechanism has already been settled, surely,’ a senior physician might say. A lone physiologist mounts a defence, but the pharmacologists in the room are dismissive, with one who remarks that the mathematics ‘look cumbrous and inconvenient’. So the pathbreaking research of the late Raymond Ahlquist, a professor at the Medical College of Georgia who laid the foundations for the discovery of propranolol, could easily end up with low marks, and his theories would never see the light of day.

Science is expensive, and since we can’t fund every scientist, we need some way of deciding whose research deserves a chance. So, how do we pick? At the moment, expert reviewers spend a lot of time allocating grant money by trying to identify the best work. But the truth is that they’re not very good at it, and that the process is a huge waste of time. It would be better to do away with the search for excellence, and to fund science by lottery.
Continue reading

Call for 2016 review input

This is the yearly call for input for the year’s end review. As in previous years, I would like to have a post or two summarizing the ongoings here at Equality-by-Lot and notable sortition-related events over the passing year. Any input about what should be included is welcome – either through comments below or via email. You are invited to refresh your memory about the events of the passing year by browsing Equality-by-Lot’s archives.

For previous years’ summaries see: 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010.

Selecting Police (partly) by Lottery

The Long Island Exchange reports that Suffolk County, Long Island, NY (Pop.1.5 mn) Police Department is holding a lottery for the order in which qualified candidates are assessed:

Gregory Hosts Lottery to Rank New Suffolk Police Candidates

(Long Island, NY) Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory on March 4 hosted a lottery in which the 3,739 individuals attaining a score of 95 on the written exam to become a Suffolk County Police Officer were ranked in priority order to advance to the next stages of the selection process. The lottery was live-streamed from the William H. Rogers Legislature Building in Hauppauge.

The additional phases of the selection process include a personality and psychological assessment, physical fitness test, medical examination, a polygraph examination and a background investigation.  After the testing and background review are completed, candidates who successfully complete all parts of the selection process will be considered for appointment in the same sequence in which their names were drawn in the lottery.

Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory pulls a name at the March 4 lottery in which the 3,739 individuals attaining a score of 95 on the test to become a Suffolk County Police Officer were ranked in priority order to advance in the next stages of the selection process. Gregory hosted the lottery at the William H. Rogers Legislature Building in Hauppauge, from which it was live-streamed. Photo Credit: Suffolk County.
Continue reading

An old idea re-cycled—babies allocated at random

What a daft notion!

If you want to, you can read the full article here:

https://aeon.co/opinions/if-babies-were-randomly-allocated-to-families-would-racism-end

2015 review – statistics

Below are some statistics about the sixth year of Equality-by-Lot. Comparable numbers for last year can be found here.

2015 Page views Posts Comments
Jan 2,648 15 256
Feb 3,453 10 284
Mar 3,168 8 169
Apr 2,497 7 137
May 2,947 13 124
June 2,593 5 137
July 1,933 5 72
Aug 1,966 5 94
Sept 2,592 11 136
Oct 2,455 10 189
Nov 2,109 12 185
Dec (to 28th) 1,671 6 109
Total 30,032 107 1,891

Note that page views do not include visits by logged-in contributors – the wordpress system does not count those visits.

Posts were made by 15 authors during 2015. (There were, of course, many other authors quoted and linked to.)

There are currently 223 email and WordPress followers of this blog. In addition there are 137 Twitter followers (@Klerotarian) and 67 Facebook followers.

Searching for “distribution by lot” (with quotes) using Google returns Equality-by-Lot as the 3rd result (out of “about 16,900 results”). Searching for “sortition” returns Equality-by-Lot as the 3rd result (out of “about 62,200 results”).

Happy holidays and happy new year to Equality-by-Lot readers, commenters and posters. Keep up the good fight for democracy!

Call for 2015 review input

This is the yearly call for input for the year’s end review. As in previous years, I would like to have a post or two summarizing the ongoings here at Equality-by-Lot and notable sortition-related events over the passing year. Any input about what should be included is welcome – either through comments below or via email.

Again, I suggest having some sort of an award for sortition-related activity, advocacy, or writing, where the awardee is selected by a vote among Equality-by-Lot readers. Nominations are hereby solicited as well.

For previous years’ summaries see: 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010.

Now even the visa lottery is unsafe?

According to the NYT,

a small number of giant global outsourcing companies had flooded the [U.S. H1B visa lottery] system with applications, significantly increasing their chances of success. […O]ne of the outsourcing companies applied for at least 14,000.

What has happened to the ‘sanitizing’ effect of the lottery?

Does it matter that well-resourced companies ‘game’ this lottery?

[‘Outsourcing‘: A practice used by different companies to reduce costs by transferring portions of work to outside suppliers rather than completing it internally. (investopia) In the UK this practice is known as ‘sub-contracting’.]