07 Nov 2011

Draper Team Aims to Improve Predictions Through SPADE 10/05/2011

Press Release from Draper Laboratories

CAMBRIDGE, MA – Draper Laboratory is leading a team that aims to improve long-term intelligence predictions through software that weights most heavily forecasts from analysts who tend to be most accurate in particular fields like politics, world events, and economics.

The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) is funding the effort through the Aggregative Contingent Estimation Program (ACE) with the hope of finding the most precise and timely way to crowd-source its predictions amongst its widely dispersed analysts.

Draper is leading a team named SP♠DE – the System for Prediction, Aggregation, Display, and Elicitation. The SP♠DE technical team is led by Dr. John Irvine, capability leader for information and decision support, and Dr. Sarah Miller, a senior cognitive science researcher. The team includes Drazen Prelec, a professor at the Sloan School of Management, as well as the Departments of Economics and Brain & Cognitive Sciences, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Alexander Kirlik, professor and acting head of the human factors division at the University of Illinois; Dan Martin, director of MRAC, a psychology research and consulting firm; and Bill Welch, director of the Center for Intelligence Research Analysis & Training at Mercyhurst College in Erie, Penn.

While forecasts made a few days or weeks before an event are often accurate, the challenge is far greater to look long term in order to give policy makers the best opportunity for planning, said Stuart Peskoe, associate director for mission systems in Draper’s tactical systems group and SP♠DE project manager.

The SPADE team will be enhancing Prelec’s method of Bayesian analysis that scores most highly those analysts whose predictions exhibit a surprising level of mutual consistency. Miller and Kirlik have also studied how best to take advantage of the strengths of experts and algorithms while compensating for the weaknesses of both –and successfully tested their concept with fantasy baseball predictions and actual Major League Baseball results.

The team is looking for those with interest or expertise in economics, politics, culture, and global security to participate in the study via an interactive website at

Draper Laboratory is a not-for-profit, engineering research and development organization dedicated to solving critical problems in national security, space systems, biomedical systems, and energy. Core capabilities include guidance, navigation and control; miniature low power systems; highly reliable complex systems; information and decision systems; autonomous systems; biomedical and chemical systems; and secure networks and communications.

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