ICD is focused on the intersection between information technology, information and humans: our research is motivated by problems of social import.
As a small sample, in recent projects our trainees and faculty developed a rapid response housing locator meta-service for Hurricane Katrina victims; proposed a novel spam reduction technique that is reflected in new practices at AOL and Yahoo; demonstrated the extent to which Internet filtering was predictably blocking access to medical information by teenagers and others; developed methods to increase voluntarism in online communities pursuing socially constructive activity; and tested several methods to increase online giving to public information resources (like public libraries).
Incentive-Centered Design (ICD) is the science of designing systems or institutions that align participants’ (individual) incentives with overall system (social) goals. Incentive-centered design is fundamental for modern information systems because performance of distributed and collaborative systems depends critically on the strategic choices users make when interacting with the system and with each other, yet mismatch between individual interests and system goals is pervasive. Careful attention to individual incentives can lead to vast improvements in systems and institutions. This approach necessarily builds equally on the social sciences that address motivated human behavior, cognition and group processes, and on the engineering sciences that address computation and communications system design. We take a broad view of individual motivations for strategic behavior, drawing on economic, psychological, and sociological theories, and combine these with the design and engineering sciences of artificial intelligence, software, operations research and networking.
ICD in various forms it is gaining interest from many overlapping research communities. Nevertheless, as a coherent field ICD is still quite young, and its potential as a multidisciplinary foundation for research on information system problems has not yet fully developed. Extending the boundaries of ICD and building its core set of methods for a multidisciplinary constituency will be a major contribution of our program. Participants in our proposed program represent an unusual critical mass of ICD researchers with roots in diverse technical communities and experience in interdisciplinary collaboration. The STIET program provides a unique opportunity to unify a large number of Ph.D. students and faculty in the development of the emerging field of ICD, thereby training the Ph.D. students in multidisciplinary team research, while simultaneously building on early success to develop a powerful research method.
The 2007 Nobel Prize in Economics was awarded to three pioneers of the foundations of ICD. For more information, see Jeff MacKie-Mason's ICD Stuff blog.