[SciPy-user] Software for economic experiments

Robert Kern robert.kern@gmail....
Wed Dec 3 17:07:25 CST 2008

On Wed, Dec 3, 2008 at 16:34, Guilherme P. de Freitas
<guilherme@gpfreitas.com> wrote:
> Hi all
> One of our professors here at Caltech is working on regulations of
> fishing activity in the Pacific coast. He needs software to run some
> experiments that would help test possible regulatory designs. The
> rough picture is that the subjects are fishing companies that are
> assigned a fishing quota and should be allowed to, at each period,
> fish, trade their fishing quotas, and participate on auctions of
> fishing quotas whenever the regulator decides to have an auction. An
> experiment without the trading or auctions would be a start. The
> problem is: we need someone to write the software. Nobody in our
> research group is a programmer, and I was wondering if this could not
> be done with Python.
> A still rough but more detailed description can be found in the bottom
> of this email. I will provide a better description later, this is just
> so you can have an idea. Let me know if you want to see the
> theoretical work.
> So the questions are:
> 1. Does anybody know if Python is a good choice of language for
> creating this kind of software?

Yes, quite so.

> 2. Can anybody point to work already done by someone in the community
> that is similar to the one we need?

Caltech runs a number of such web-based Econ experiments fairly
frequently. Making money from them was a common hobby when I was an
undergrad (Ruddock '03). You may want to ask around. Most likely, they
were written by students long-since graduated and are poorly
documented, but you never know. I would be surprised if you couldn't
find examples of similar scope.

> 3. Can anyone recommend individual programmers or companies that would
> be able to do this job?
> 4. Does anybody have an idea of how much such a job would cost?
> (Please, three prices: without auctions or trading, with auctions
> only, with trading only)
> 5. Maybe we will find someone to do the coding, but still it may be
> useful to have an external "consultant"  that provides support to the
> coder, and informs us of the quality of the code, makes sure it is
> well documented, etc. I personally think it is easy to fall in the
> trap of having someone come up with a hack that works for some
> situations, and that is ill documented, etc. So, questions 3 and 4
> apply to this kind of professional too.

I'm not sure you'd get many takers for this, and you probably won't
get your money's worth. It would be more cost-effective for you to
simply hire a professional.

> 6. What else on top of the rough sketch below does one need to know to
> have a good idea of how to do the job and how to price it? I intend to
> define the variables and its relations soon.

Some examples of the transition laws, quota allocation strategies, and
cost functions would probably help. It would give the bidder a better
idea of how much flexibility they will need. Similarly, descriptions
of the auction software that you have available and the kinds of
auctions and trading that you will need will help a lot. If you want
to get new, reusable auction/trading components out of this, you will
want a more thorough survey of what other groups in HSS may want, too.

Robert Kern

"I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless
enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as
though it had an underlying truth."
  -- Umberto Eco

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