Official records lacking in EMA location allotment

Corriere dela Sera writes:

Doubts emerge over EMA ballot and “burnt” voting slips

Various aspects of assignment to Netherlands of EMA headquarters still unclear, also due to lack of official records regarding draw by lot

The assignment of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to Amsterdam by lot – to the detriment of Milan – was made official at the EU General Affairs Council on 20 November. But it has now emerged that there is no documentary evidence to reassure European citizens everything was done correctly and according to the rules; the procedure displayed unprecedented anomalies and levels of secrecy, culminating in selection by lot. The representatives of Italy and the Netherlands were not even called to supervise the proceedings at close hand. “Even in children’s tournaments the referee allows the two team captains to watch the toss of the coin …”, commented one ambassador present on the day.

No checks
The ballot papers of the three rounds of voting by the ministers were immediately burned, and the speed with which the draw was performed made any checks either before or after impossible. Above all, on 20 November there was an attempt to shroud everything in the utmost secrecy, with not even the draw method made public. Moreover, since last week the EU Council has continued to refuse to give the Corriere any information on how the voting and count took place, let alone on the lot drawing procedure. We have been able to reconstruct what happened thanks to informal interviews with ministers and ambassadors present, who set greater importance on the value of transparency than on being sworn to secrecy.

2017 review – statistics

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

2017 Page views Posts Comments
Jan 2,475 5 74
Feb 2,764 7 100
Mar 3,463 10 259
Apr 3,189 7 127
May 3,071 9 101
June 3,018 6 92
July 2,458 6 158
Aug 2,364 6 117
Sept 2,881 8 98
Oct 3,036 8 116
Nov 3,643 6 175
Dec (to 24th) 2,468 6 90
Total 34,830 84 1,507

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

Posts were made by 17 authors during 2017. (There were, of course, many other authors quoted and linked to.)

There are currently 322 email and WordPress followers of this blog. In addition there are 279 Twitter followers (@Klerotarian) and 67 Facebook followers.

Searching for “distribution by lot” (with quotes) using Google returns Equality-by-Lot as the 4th result (out of “about 57,100 results”). Searching for “sortition” returns Equality-by-Lot as the 2nd result (out of “about 80,700 results”) – right behind the sortition entry at Wikipedia.

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

Call for 2017 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: 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010.

“The flag should be held by a student who has achieved and not randomly”

It was reported in August that a lottery is going to be used in Greece to distribute the distinction of carrying the flag. This decision is now being taken to court:

A group of parents wants the state’s highest administrative court, the Council of State, to overturn a decision by the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA for flagbearers in school parades to be chosen by lottery and not to the best student as had been the custom.

SYRIZA doesn’t believe in excellence in education nor standards for university admissions but the parents who protested said the flag should be held by a student who has achieved and not randomly.

Education Minister Costas Gavroglou issued the lottery scheme but the parents said it is unconstitutional and was driven by ideology and not merit, nor by popular demand or social necessity. He said the lottery makes the process fairer even if it excludes top students for their work.

The random selection of “an Afghan boy” as flag bearer made him the victim of violence:
Continue reading

Greece: School flag-bearers will be chosen by lot, rather than achievement reports:

The government has scrapped a long tradition of honoring top pupils by selecting them to carry the national flag in school parades. From now on flag-bearers will be chosen by lot. Opposition parties criticized this as part of the SYRIZA party’s assault on excellence.

A presidential decree published in the Government Gazette on Tuesday sets out the new procedure for selecting flag-bearers, and those flanking them, in primary school parades. Two pupils in sixth grade (the final year of primary school) will be chosen by lot each year, with one serving from the start of the academic year until January 31 and the other from February 1 to the end of the school year.

This means different pupils will carry the flag in parades to mark Independence Day on March 25 and Oxi Day on October 28, which commemorates Greece’s response to an Italian ultimatum in 1940 and the country’s entry into World War II.
Continue reading

Strictly Eating Chances: You can’t eat chances? Oh yes you can!

I say this despite David Wasserman’s snide comment on the claims made by us lottery enthusiasts. We would say that where there are more qualified applicants than places available, a lottery’s the thing. Some will then win a place — “eat”— but everyone will benefit by having had the chance of winning.

But what is the value of a chance when you win nothing? Rationally we should conclude that the value of nothing is zilch, zero, nada.

In another swipe at advocates of lotteries for sharing Wasserman comments:

if it makes sense to treat an expectation as a good, it also makes sense to ask whether the value of that good increases the longer it is held by the recipient.

It’s nice to see a bit of sarcasm from a philosopher whose main concern is medical ethics!

Instead, I’d like to take up Wasserman’s challenge, and propose that your ‘expectation’ — your ticket to the lottery — can indeed be made more valuable by spinning out the process.

Take for example the way the TV hit show Strictly Come Dancing (in the US it’s called Dancing With the Stars) operates. They start with a dozen or so stars. Each week they dance competitively, and by a complex process one star is eliminated. Over the next weeks the process is repeated, one ‘loser’ every week until there are three left. It is then decided by a Grand Finale.

I take it as axiomatic the producers know how to give the public good entertainment value. That’s show business!
Continue reading

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