Positioning prediction markets

I was speaking with some academic friends about the possibility of using prediction markets and crowdsourcing to democratize the process for evaluating journal articles and scholarly manuscripts. My initial attempts at explaining how the process works could be summarized roughly like this: allow ANYONE who wants to to submit a review and then have them "bet" play money on the outcomes…

BOOM. Right at that instant, with the use of the words ANYONE and BET I nearly ruined the credibility of the idea in the mind of the academic. Why? Because these words, especially BET, have strong negative connotations that are not at all scholarly. After discussing with them a bit more, I realized a different positioning would have worked better…

Problem: There are too few "qualified" people willing to review scholarly works and so it is hard to get works evaluated and evaluated fairly. Yet there are many gifted people outside of the "known" networks or who are too expensive (in terms of time) to find, evaluate, and work with.

Solution: Allow ANY scholar who wishes to evaluate works to do so using an special website. On this website each scholar is granted a certain amount of "reputation" points. When they make a review of a work, they must stake some of their reputation points on their review. If time proves them right, they earn more reputation points. If they are wrong, they loose reputation.

This is simply formalizing the very process that we all use informally. Technology simply allows us a dramatically more effective way to do so. In this way, a brilliant junior professor who happens to be teaching at a community college, and therefore NOT in the usual circles of people who get asked to review books, has a chance to show the world just how talented they are. Because scholars must formally stake some of their reputation on their reviews, over time the best will rise to the top by gaining reputation.

This is a win-win-win. We who enjoy reading scholarly works get BETTER scholarly works because more gifted people are involved in the evaluation. The editors of the journals and publishing houses increase the quality of their product – something they care deeply about. The scholars, especially young or non-ivy-league ones, gain a means of proving to the world their capabilities. The website’s formal reputation system will also boost the scholar’s informal reputation in the Academy, increasing their ability to get the positions they desire.

2 thoughts on “Positioning prediction markets

  1. As usual great thoughts Paul! But there is a lot of resistance in academic circles both to technology and to non-“expert” (people with lots of degrees) input on academic matters. My fiance (who comes from an academic background) and I (who as you know come from a tech/business/entrepreneurial background) have talked about ways for technology to bring more transparency and access to academic circles, and better connect academics.

    Academics have trouble spreading their ideas, connecting with collaborators, and ultimately getting acceptance for their ideas just as startup folks do, so we’ve talked about a linkedin like social network for academics to share idea’s and connect, but the impression I get is that there is just a lot of resistance to putting their work out there for anything but official peer review by other experts with at least as many degrees as them.

    It seems to me that the easy publishing offered by technology would the perfect way for academics to get feedback from peers early and often, but as I sense you found in your discussions they don’t want it out there until it’s ready for a journal article, and even then they don’t want just anybody to be able to comment.

    1. Terran, well said. I have been speaking with an Ivy League university press that is actually considering trying something SOMEWHAT like this – and if they do it could open the doors for others. They have a clever way to deal with the “only ‘quality’ people should see my work” that, if it works, could lead to a slow lowering of the walls. We’ll see! 🙂

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