WeAre 4 Children: digital technologies for sport and youth wellbeing

The Politecnico di Milano E⁴SPORT Laboratory has designed a T-shirt fitted with sensors – “smart garment” – to collect data on the wellbeing of children aged 11 to 12 during sport activities.

 

Physical activity during childhood is of the utmost importance because it builds muscle strength, develops bone structure, improves blood circulation, strengthens the immune system and teaches children how to share and socialise with their peers. However, the recent pandemic has led many children to give up doing physical activity to embrace more sedentary lifestyles.

Amateur sport clubs have always been important actors in helping children grow through sport, supporting them in the creation of a mind-body equilibrium.
Today, this task can also be carried out with the use of new tools: thanks to digital technologies, this objective can be achieved using methods that were inconceivable in the past. In particular, technologies related to the Internet of Things (IoT) – such as smart garments, smart watches, smart bracelets, movement and posture sensors, etc. – once only available to the most prestigious sport clubs, could also be adopted by amateur sport clubs to gather relevant data “from the field” related to the quality of training, sporting performance, and the physical and mental wellbeing of children.

In this context, the Politecnico di Milano Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering and Department of Design, in collaboration with the U.S. Bosto Sport Centre in Varese, have developed an innovative project to understand how digital technologies can contribute to the wellbeing of young footballers, and improve their sporting performance.
The “WeAre 4 Children” research project has been approved by Politecnico di Milano Ethics Committee and will involve 20 young footballers from U.S. Bosto who, during their weekly training sessions in Capolago and friendly matches, will wear a sensor-fitted T-shirt capable of collecting data on their sporting performance and physical wellbeing. The monitoring will take place through biometric sensors installed in the T-shirts themselves, including accelerometers, heart-rate monitors and specific motion capture sensors that can detect real-time information on parameters such as cardiac activity, posture, breathing, energy consumption and mood.

Politecnico di Milano and U.S. Bosto have engaged with partners in the Varese area. In particular, TK Soluzioni (an ICT company from Saronno) will provide support in creating the platform that will be used to integrate the data collected, Alfredo Grassi (a textiles company from Lonate Pozzolo) will offer its expertise for the design and production of the T-shirt, and the Centro Polispecialistico Beccaria health centre’s Sports Medicine Unit in Varese will monitor the physical and postural data.

The project is conceived as a feasibility study, aimed at establishing whether the digital solution developed ad hoc is appreciated by young footballers, their families and their trainers, and whether the data collected are reliable and the system works correctly in different scenarios of usability (training, matches, etc.).

The Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering research group, headed by Professor Emanuele Lettieri and Dr Andrea Di Francesco, Engineer, project manager and researcher at Politecnico di Milano “E4Sport” interdepartmental Laboratory, will assess the impact that the project could have on U.S. Bosto’s extended community, as well as its economic-financial sustainability, with contributions from all of the project’s partners.
The ambition is to be able to extend the tested solution to other amateur sport clubs, including other sports in addition to football.

 

 

For further information: https://www.e4sport.polimi.it/weare4children/

Green SUIte – the sustainability project involving more than 60 teams from 5 organisations – comes to an end

Agos, Enercom Group, Sparkasse, Tea Group and the School of Management of Politecnico di Milano, supported by the Startup Intelligence Observatory, have promoted virtuous sustainable behaviours inside and outside of the business world.

 

Green SUIte, the environmental conservation initiative with which employees from Agos, Enercom Group, Sparkasse, Tea Group and the School of Management of Politecnico di Milano have activated virtuous sustainable behaviours with support from Up2You, the innovative B Corp certified start-up that develops customised solutions to help businesses become carbon neutral, has come to a successful conclusion.

The project, born from an idea conceived by Agos and Up2You during one of the round table sessions at the eighth edition of the Startup Intelligence Observatory organised by the School of Management of Politecnico di Milano, has attracted more than 600 users who, in recent months, have committed to performing daily tasks aimed at raising awareness and effectively protecting the environment. Out of a total of more than 19 thousand missions, 96% were completed successfully, with participants performing an average of 32 actions each. The favourite topics were the reduction of food waste and plastic and energy consumption. Thanks to the wide uptake, around 40,000 kg of carbon dioxide have been saved, 100 new trees have been planted and 50,000 kg of carbon dioxide have been neutralised.

On 3 May, in the presence of representatives from the companies involved in the contest, the award ceremony was held at the Politecnico di Milano, with participation from around 60 employees in person at the event and another 100 connected remotely. In line with the initiative’s green vocation, all of the awards given to the winners were rewarding sustainability; from individual recognitions such as the Carbon Neutral year, capable of neutralising travel emissions and food consumption with certified projects aimed at preserving ecosystems, to team recognitions such as the zero-emissions videocalls with colleagues and customers and promocodes to incentivise forestation in Italy and throughout the world.

Green SUIte has thus further enhanced the already strong partnership between large Italian companies and start-ups, to the advantage of the entire Italian innovative ecosystem, and has fostered Open Innovation within the national economic fabric, demonstrating that collaboration brings concrete and widespread benefits.

 

ERC Consolidator Grant goes to Massimo Tavoni

Massimo Tavoni, Full Professor of climate economics at the School of Management of the Politecnico di Milano, is the winner of the ERC Consolidator Grant with the EUNICE project, which aims to reduce uncertainties in climate stabilisation pathways. 

 

Massimo Tavoni, Professor at the School of Management of Politecnico di Milano and Director of the RFF-CMCC European Institute on Economics and the Environment (EIEE), is one of the winners of the 2022 edition of the ERC Consolidator Grants from the European Research Council (ERC), the first pan-European organisation for frontier research.

Professor Tavoni’s research was selected from over two thousand proposals submitted to ERC, which aims to foster scientific excellence by supporting and encouraging competition for funding among the best and most original researchers.

In detail, EUNICE aims to correct errors and biases in the ensembles of climate-energy-economic models that study climate stabilisation, and to develop ways to validate and confirm scenario insights.

The main objective of the project is therefore to develop an innovative and integrated approach to quantify, translate and communicate in an effective and prompt way the main uncertainties associated with low-carbon pathways and scenarios that explore very distant futures, renewing the methodological and experimental bases of model-based climate assessments. Three key objectives for three main research lines: extending current scenarios to the “deep” future and quantifying their uncertainties; removing errors and biases from scenarios to account for short-term disruptions (e.g. extreme and unexpected events); translating maps of the future provided by models into robust and reliable guidelines; and testing how to communicate these in the most effective and timely way.

EUNICE is a project of great relevance also for other research areas: indeed the approach and innovations developed by EUNICE can also be applied to other high-risk environmental, social and technological assessments. Its unique combination of computational and behavioural science and public engagement will be an important mediation tool in debates on fundamental decisions for our society, increasing confidence in and recognition of the scientific method.

 

 

For more information on ERC Consolidator Grants 2022: https://erc.europa.eu/news/erc-2021-consolidator-grants-results

 

 

Confirmed the EQUIS accreditation of the School of Management of Politecnico di Milano

Created in 1997 as the first global benchmark for international institutional auditing and accreditation, EQUIS is a rigorous tool for assessing and improving quality: our School of Management was first accredited in 2007.  EQUIS joins AMBA and AACSB, the three most prestigious awards that make up the ‘Triple Crown’, achieved by just 100 business schools in the world.

 

The School of Management of Politecnico di Milano has received reconfirmation of its EQUIS accreditation, first awarded in 2007 by the European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD), thus remaining firmly among the approximately 100 Business Schools in the world that can boast the ‘Triple Crown’, or the three most authoritative global certifications: EQUIS-EFMD Quality Improvement System, AMBA -The Association of MBAs and AACSB – Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, the second two obtained in 2012 and 2021 respectively.

Created in 1997 as the first global benchmark for international institutional auditing and accreditation, while still considering the cultural and regulatory differences of the different countries, EQUIS is a rigorous tool for assessing, accrediting and improving quality in ten key areas, comparing them with international objectives: governance, programmes, students, faculty, research and development, internationalisation, ethics, responsibility, sustainability, connections with practice. True quality consists in trying to do better even when you are already excellent and it is precisely this focus on continuous improvement that is at the heart of EQUIS’s mission, with periodical audits and confirmation of the high level of the member institutes.

The very scrupulous assessment for re-accreditation concerned the School’s strategy, its courses, relations with the main stakeholders (businesses, Alumni, students, Faculty), research and consistency with the broader strategic plan. In particular, EQUIS gives importance to creating effective learning environments that foster students’ managerial and entrepreneurial skills together with their personal growth and sense of global responsibility. There are currently 206 EQUIS accredited schools in 46 countries.

Confirmation of the very high standards that allow us to boast EQUIS accreditation, for the past 15 years, testifies the quality of our teaching, our attention to the needs of students, the quality of our courses increasingly oriented towards sustainability and innovation and above all our achieved, full international dimension ,” says Alessandro Perego, Director of the School of Management of Politecnico di Milano -. For our School, international accreditations are a fundamental and irreplaceable tool for strengthening quality, research and social engagement, in a continuous dialogue with the most innovative global environment in pursuit of excellence.  It is therefore not a point of arrival, but a point of departure for repositioning higher education at the centre of economic and social recovery.”

Vittorio Chiesa and Federico Frattini, respectively President and Dean of MIP Politecnico di Milano, the Graduate School of Business which is part of the School of Management of Politecnico di Milano, also declared themselves very pleased with the certification received: “The renewal of EQUIS accreditation is added to confirmation of our presence in the main global rankings and to a series of awards for the quality of the courses offered to managers and top managers from all over the world. We are aware of the great commitment of our School of Management to the continuous improvement of all aspects of education. For this reason, recognition of the quality of our upskilling and reskilling courses by international certification bodies increases and strengthens our reputation in an increasingly competitive world scenario.”

“The challenge of pursuing impact in research”: now online the new issue of SOMeMagazine

SOMe Issue #8 has been released.

In this issue we discuss the impact of research and the challenge of defining and measuring it.
Stefano Magistretti and Federico Caniato explain how our School is engaged in building an “impact culture” to be encouraged and sustained over time, also using an assessment framework to evaluate the impact of the our research.

To report some impact cases, Enrico Cagno, Giulia Felice and Lucia Tajoli tell the fundamental role of academic research in supporting the green transition in emerging countries, while Diletta Di Marco shows how citizens can contribute in evaluating the social impact of scientific research, choosing whether or not to support a project. Finally Angelo Cavallo talks about the new space-based technologies that bring opportunities for innovation and sustainability and imply new business models.

In our “Stories” we feature the impact of Covid-19 on the life of working women and some projects promoting sustainability in fashion and corporate behaviors.

 

 

To read SOMe’s #8 click here.

To receive it directly in your inbox, please sign up here.

Previous issues of SOMe:

  • # 1 “Sustainability – Beyond good deeds, a good deal?”
  • Special Issue Covid-19 – “Global transformation, ubiquitous responses
  • #2 “Being entrepreneurial in a high-tech world”
  • #3 “New connections in the post-covid era”
  • #4 “Multidisciplinarity: a new discipline”
  • #5 “Inclusion: shaping a better society for all”
  • #6 “Innovation with a human touch”
  • #7 “From data science to data culture: the emergence of analytics-powered managers”

The challenge of pursuing impact in research

Conversation with:
Federico Caniato, Full Professor of Supply Chain & Procurement Management at School of Management, Politecnico di Milano
Stefano Magistretti, Assistant Professor of Agile Innovation at School of Management, Politecnico di Milano

 

Universities are increasingly engaged in demonstrating the impact of their research. What is the impact of research? 

The impact of research is crucial not only for the Politecnico di Milano, but for the entire Italian university system, and more in general for universities worldwide. It is not easy to define what research impact is. We can say that the impact of research encompasses all the results, implications, and consequences resulting from scientific research activities aimed at generating knowledge, but they are also expected to provide concrete benefits. In our school, we have defined research impact in three progressive levels of maturity: dissemination, adoption, and benefits. Dissemination is the spread of the results and findings among the relevant stakeholders, adoption is the use of the research results by the stakeholders, and benefits are the consequences of this adoption.

Why is impact so important for research?

Research is often accused of being self-referential, i.e. ‘speaking’ only to members of the academic community without providing a significant contribution to society at large. Instead, research can have a much broader and more significant impact than expected. Therefore, it is crucial to illustrate such impacts to a broader audience, requiring researchers to learn to assess and share the value of their work with multiple stakeholders.

What is the approach to impact assessment in the School of Management?

In 2017, we started a journey in the School of Management to develop a culture of research impact assessment. This journey saw a reflection on the assessment framework, the development of a method, and the collection and analysis of the research impact assessments. We started by combing the literature for impact assessments, interviewing experts, and interacting with our international advisory board to define our framework. The framework comprises the three levels of maturity (i.e. dissemination, adoption, and benefits) and five stakeholder domains (i.e. institutions, enterprises, students and faculty, citizens, and the academic community). The second step was the adoption of the framework. This initially began in 2019 with a set of 16 pilot projects, which then extended to a more extensive set of projects (42 in 2020; 43 in 2021).

The conventional idea of ‘impact’ makes sense in a linear model: changes or discoveries in science and research are expected to cause changes in society, but impact assessment frameworks are usually far more complex, can you tell us why?

The research impact assessment is more complex because the impact is not linear. Some elements impact one stakeholder, causing indirect effects on other stakeholders. For example, research results adopted by public institutions may benefit citizens, or the results disseminated to students may be adopted later, when the students are professionals within companies. Thus, the impact network is intertwined. Seeing the link among the domains and level of maturity, and how an initiative might influence other areas of impact requires a framework that tries to bring everything together. Let’s take an example. If you publish an academic paper, there is diffusion within the academic community, but if you share it in class, there is also an impact on students; if you use it in corporate education, that novel piece of research can become the seed for a potential company project. So from a single action — dissemination of research among the academic community — you might have an impact over multiple stakeholders on different levels.

How much of this impact analysis must be made ex ante, while planning the activity, and how much ex post?

The impact assessment is a helpful tool in every moment of a research project. We saw colleagues adopting it when writing proposals for an EU project or internal research initiative. This is because the impact is both ex-ante and ex-post. The most important thing is to envision potential impact ex-ante, which helps to set the expectations and objective of the project. Ex-post assessment instead aims to measure the results obtained in terms of impact, monitor the results of the planned activities, and demonstrate the actual achievements. Thus, there is not just a single moment for impact analysis; it is always a good to measure it before, during, and after the research initiative.

Is the impact ‘native’ or built over time? Do we need our PhD candidates to be ‘natural-born impacters’ or is it an orientation that can be encouraged and sustained over time?

The impact culture is not native. It is something that PhD candidates and researchers in general should be trained in. Indeed, some impacts are easy to design and achieve, but impacts of a higher level are more challenging and require careful consideration, so it is important to build impact over time. Indeed, it is difficult to gain everything with a single new research programme. As for PhD candidates, it is probably something that we should share with them and encourage them to reflect on. This is something we started at the last AiIG (Associazione Italiana Ingegneria Gestionali) Summer School held by the Politecnico di Bari in September 2021, where we shared the framework with more than 50 Italian PhD candidates and asked them to apply it to their PhD research. The PhD candidates were positively surprised about the unexpected outcomes of this assessment exercise. Disseminating the culture of research impact assessment is something we need to do at every level.

 

 

Transition to green technologies in emerging countries: how research can help in directing resources

Selecting the geographical areas and green technologies for successful funding of sustainable economic growth is a difficult task particularly in emerging countries. Academic research is fundamental in providing tools to support public and private institutions in this task.

 

Enrico Cagno, Full Professor in Industrial Systems Engineering at School of Management, Politecnico di Milano
Giulia Felice, Associate Professor in Economics at School of Management, Politecnico di Milano
Lucia Tajoli, Full Professor in Economics at School of Management, Politecnico di Milano

Recently, the COVID crisis brought to the public eye the extent to which research is in many ways fundamental for the survival of the community. This was extremely evident for disciplines with a direct and recognized impact on human lives and development. Still, the direct and indirect impact of academic research in many other areas and disciplines might be considerable for the well-being of people and the evolution of societies along many dimensions.

An important case, particularly relevant in the current economic phase, is the role of academic research in providing analyses and methodologies that can support private and public institutions in appropriately conveying and using resources in countries, regions, sectors to foster an equitable and sustainable economic growth.

A pertinent example regards the resources to support the transition of countries to green technologies. Climate finance has a fundamental role in tackling climate change and in promoting environmentally sustainable growth in transition and developing economies. A precondition to succeed is the ability to select those countries where the support to green investment does not crowd out private investment, but instead opens room for its expansion, in line with the existing market potential. Several banks and institutions operate with this aim and, as is well known, a large part of the funding in the Next Generation EU is devoted to the European Green deal. The Glasgow Cop26 Summit has once again simultaneously highlighted the unavoidable global dimension of the green transition and the asymmetric position of developing and mature economies due to their different stage of development.

An important issue in maintaining the different approaches of developing and mature economies towards green technologies is that in many cases it is not easy to support green transition in developing countries because of a lack of adequate information on the access and opportunities provided by the technologies. Funding could be misallocated, that is to say, it could be conveyed where it crows out private investment, or where there is no potential for the investment in the new technology to diffuse after initial support. This is where research becomes useful. Methodologies and tools can be developed supporting institutions in the selection of areas and technologies for successful funding.

In this context and to this aim, research at SOM can contribute to developing a conceptual framework and providing methodologies to obtain an overall evaluation of the readiness of countries, regions or sectors to adopt green technologies, ranking countries or areas in terms of their exposure to these technologies. In a recent project developed for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the ultimate aim was to capture the extent to which targeted countries could benefit from funding green technologies, in particular those developing and emerging countries for which data on the diffusion of green technologies are scarce or not available. The creation and use of a technology by a country or a firm is the pre-requisite for its diffusion and eventually adoption. Therefore, in order to benefit from the promotion of green investment, the target country should already have an adequate level and mix of use and production of the green technology. This mix depends on the overall economic situation and level of development of the country, as indicated, for instance, by income per capita, installed production capacity, and the level of technology in closed products. There is no specific universally accepted definition or measurement of the diffusion of a technology. International trade of products embodying a specific technology reveals the presence of that technology in the trading countries. Therefore, trade is often used in the economic literature to track technology diffusion. The advantages of using trade data and advanced methodologies to elaborate them are that they are reliable and available for the majority of countries at a very refined product category level and for a long time span.

Following this approach, researchers at SOM used official and public trade data of “green goods” (as defined by the World Trade Organization and the OECD) covering all countries to assess potential diffusion and adoption of “green” technologies, by building a set of indicators to gauge market maturity and production capacity of a country for a given product. Based on these indicators, a sequence of steps was developed to identify the opportunity for successful actions. The methodology was then discussed and improved throughout the implementation of the project with the EBRD experts that were going to use it, and then validated with the country’s experts on the actual diffusion of the products analysed in terms of demand and production capacity.

The EBRD will use the methodology described above as a tool to select the potential targets of the funding, that is to say, the couple country-technology. The methodology is easily replicable on publicly available data and therefore suitable for orienting the institution in its choices. The EBRD is owned by about seventy countries from five continents, as well as the European Union and the European Investment Bank. This implies that its activities impact a large population, of firms, which will be financially supported by EBRD to adopt/produce green technologies, and of citizens who will benefit through sustainable growth and higher quality of life thanks to the firms’ adoption of green technologies.

The project could potentially affect several Sustainable and Development Goals (Health and Well Being, Clean Water and Sanitation, Affordable and Clean Energy, Sustainable Cities and Communities, Responsible Consumption and Production, Climate Action) to the extent that should support the diffusion of green technologies and goods in developing and emerging countries.

 

Space Economy: towards a new frontier for innovation and sustainability

Space and digital technologies combined represent a powerful force enabling cross-sector innovation towards making our world more sustainable. However, technological opportunities are mere fertile ground, which to yield fruit needs managerial and enterprising strategies for the strategic renewal of established organisations and for the creation and growth of innovative startups

 

Angelo Cavallo, Assistant Professor in Strategy & Entrepreneurship at School of Management, Politecnico di Milano

Space Economy is a phenomenon at the frontier of innovation and sustainability which materialises in the combination of spatial and digital technologies for developing business opportunities that give many businesses, in different sectors, the possibility to increase their competitiveness on a global scale through innovation on all levels – from product/service, to processes, right down the overall business model.

The economic value generated by the combined use of space and digital technologies was estimated at about 371 billion dollars in 2021 (Satellite Industry Association). However, the value of the Space Economy goes beyond market estimates and stands out for the opportunity to innovate in many fields and at the same time help make our planet more sustainable through the integration of terrestrial and satellite data, at the foundation of new space-based services. Using high resolution global maps of land coverage, climatologists can develop climate models and understand how the climate is evolving on the earth’s surface. Multispectral images and radar, combined with machine learning and deep learning techniques, means it is possible today to create predictive deforestation models. Timely and constant monitoring of forests is essential to the implementation of conservation policies. Another field of application for satellite data is the monitoring of pollution.  A now well-known case regards the monitoring of pollution levels during the lockdown period resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic. To date, a large number of these analyses are conducted using data from terrestrial sensors, spread right throughout Europe. Satellite technologies are complementary and useful in areas where there are no terrestrial sensors.

An increasing number of academics include the combination of digital–space technologies among the drivers that can help to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a tool adopted globally to steer economic and social activities towards the attainment of sustainability goals.
For example, space-based services contribute to the SDG 7 “Affordable and Clean Energy” which sets out to guarantee access to energy for a much vaster pool of users and can be promoted through the remote monitoring systems of plants in places where weather conditions and other natural phenomena can cause major damage to infrastructure and where maintenance can be difficult.

The development of a space economy market and of space-based solutions depends however on the structuring and exploration of new business models, retracing the entire value chain, from which services can be developed for those who create new infrastructures right down to the end-users of those services, making their operations more efficient and/or create new products. Innovating traditional business models and moving towards a platformization, servitization and open innovation model is fundamental to make sure new space-based services have a large-scale economic, environmental and social impact.

Politecnico di Milano won the Italian final of the CFA Research Challenge 2022

Five engineers of the School of Management beat University Federico II Naples and University of Pavia with the financial analysis of Reply and prepare for the EMEA regional final. The world final will be held on 16 May.

 

The team from the School of Management of Politecnico di Milano won the Italian final of the CFA Research Challenge 2022, the global finance competition organised by the CFA Institute and promoted in Italy by CFA Society Italy with the valuable support of FactSet Italia and Kaplan Schweser.

The final round took place in Reply’s Milan headquarters on Tuesday 1 March, involving ten universities, 50 students and over 30 professionals. The Italian phase, coordinated by CFA Society Italy, saw the participation of teams representing the following universities: Università Cattolica, Politecnico di Milano, Ca’ Foscari di Venezia, Università di Roma Tor Vergata, University of Florence, University of Bologna, Libera Università di Bolzano, University of Pavia, Università Politecnica delle Marche and Università di Napoli Federico II.

Students Gianluca Dente, Alberto Gegra, Andrea Rampoldi, Alessandro Criniti and Francesco Saverio Pirolo, under the guidance of professors Laura Grassi and Marco Giorgino and CFA mentor Alberto Mari, presented their financial analysis of Reply’s stock to a panel of six experts from the financial sector: Mauro Baragiola, Luca Forlani, CFA, Marco Greco, Paolo Perrella, CFA, Patrizia Saviolo, CFA, and Carla Scarano. Second and third place went respectively to Università di Napoli Federico II and the University of Pavia.

Politecnico di Milano will go straight on to the EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) regional final, which will be held on 28 April. As testament to the high quality of our students and the professionals who guide them, Italy already won the EMEA regional final in 2011, 2014 and 2016.
The World Final, on the other hand, will be held on 16 May 2022, pitting the winners from EMEA, the Americas and Asia Pacific against each other, and the winners will be officially announced on 17 May 2022.

“CFA Society Italy, in its many years of activity, has built a close relationship with the Italian universities to promote the principles of integrity and professional excellence to the younger generation”. CFA project coordinator Giuseppe Quarto di Palo said. “We are delighted to be able to offer universities and their talents the opportunity to measure themselves in a realistic competition, aimed at reproducing the experience of a research office of management companies or investment houses. We also offer the best students scholarships to the CFA Programme, in order to obtain a globally recognised certification in the financial sector”.

The Research Challenge is an initiative that channels important objectives into the world of education and academia. It is becoming increasingly important to bring students closer to the job market, combining academic knowledge with the techniques and tools used by professionals in the financial sector. In addition, we want to highlight the excellent standards of Italian universities at European and global level”. Giuliano Palumbo, president of CFA Society Italy commented. “This project could not exist without the valuable contribution of the association’s volunteers and the partners who supported the initiative FactSet, Kaplan Schweser and Reply, companies that were researched by the students”.

As Michael Jordan once said, talent wins games, but intelligence and teamwork win championships. I’d like to congratulate the students of the Politecnico di Milano who demonstrated not only above-average technical skills, but also and above all teamwork and spirit of cooperation aimed at achieving the final victory” stressed Stefano Di Rosa, CIIA, Senior Sales Rapresentative of FactSet Italia, sponsor of the Italian edition of the CFA Research Challenge since 2016.

Year after year, the competition allows the best talents from Italian universities to pit their wits against professionals  of the highest calibre, increase their knowledge of the fundamentals of equity research, develop soft skills and compare notes with each other”. commented Politecnico di Milano professors Laura Grassi, Assistant Professor of Investment Banking, and Marco Giorgino, Full Professor of Financial markets and institutions. “We are very proud of our team’s victory, which rewards our five members for their great sacrifices, and in turn makes them a reference for future colleagues next year. For them, this is the best way of entering the professional world and for our university it is a further acknowledgment of our quality. We are now looking to EMEA, with the will, commitment and desire to replicate the same result”.

“The CFA Research Challenge was definitely the toughest challenge of our lives, and at the same time the most stimulating experience on both a professional and personal level. It was an incredible opportunity that allowed us to work closely with our CFA mentor Alberto Mari, and with our professors Laura Grassi and Marco Giorgino, whom we’d like to thank very much. We would also like to thank the CFA Society Italy for making this possible and we look forward to carrying our country’s flag high in EMEA,” were the first words expressed by the Politecnico di Milano team after the win.

 

Citizens know better?

A team of scientists asked citizens to evaluate social impact and select which research to support. Here’s what they found.

 

Diletta Di Marco, PhD Student in Management Engineering – Innovation and Public Policy 

Science strives to improve the conditions of humanity and nature. But it is not always clear how to identify the research that serves the most pressing needs. For a long time, the direction of science has been chosen by professional scientists alone, through peer reviews, but new initiatives of participated democracy are trying to second the desire of citizens to take an active role in important decisions about science. For example, a Danish local government has asked citizens to choose which medical research projects should be funded by voting online.[1] Also, the Canadian Fathom Fund has chosen to top up funding to scientists that display their project on crowdfunding platforms and collect at least 25% of their budgeted costs online.[2] 

In a world facing unprecedented social, environmental, and economic challenges, the main idea of these initiatives is to involve those most affected by the problems and their consequences – the citizens themselves.

While scientists, research organizations, and research funders are experimenting new ways of actively collaborating with citizens, one concern is that what constitutes a high social impact is problematic and subjective. Moreover, the mechanisms used to actively engage citizens in the agenda-setting process can create biases or grant undue influence to wealthy or powerful groups.

For all these reasons, assessing the impact of research is an exciting area for professional scientists, funding agencies and policymakers, who are keen to identify new criteria for judging the sustainability and value of research, in addition to traditional ones which are more centred around prerequisites like age, gender, previous experiences in research, and previous project experience in the same area of research.

In an attempt to investigate this important but under-explored area, a research team of our School of Management has studied how the public evaluates social impact and choses to grant or deny support to scientific research. The team consists of Chiara Franzoni and Diletta Di Marco from Politecnico di Milano, in collaboration with Henry Sauermann from ESMT Berlin.

The team selected four real research proposals that were actively raising funds on the platform Experiment.com. The projects were in very different domains, ranging from environmental studies on the diffusion of otters in Florida, to social studies on sexual orientation and pay-gaps, to curing Alzheimer’s disease, and Covid-19. They recruited more than 2,300 citizens on Amazon Mechanical Turk and asked for their assessment of one of the four projects in terms of the three criteria normally used in research evaluations: i) social impact, ii) scientific merit, and iii) team qualifications.
They then asked the citizens whether or not they had a direct interest or experience in the problem that the research was trying to solve (e.g. a family member affected by Alzheimer’s disease when evaluating a project studying a cure for Alzheimer’s), and finally elicited the citizens’ opinions on whether or not the project should be funded. They did so under two different voting mechanisms: i) as a simple free-of-charge recommendation to fund or not to fund the project (costless vote) and ii) as a small direct donation to the project (costly vote), which the evaluators could do by choosing not to cash in a $1 bonus given by the team. At the end of the day, the team then devoted the donated bonuses to real research projects.
They later analysed the responses with statistical and econometric modelling and with qualitative coding of the textual responses.

Their analyses showed three key results:

  1. Firstly, citizens placed a strong emphasis on social impact. They were more likely to support a project if they assessed social impact to be high, even if they assessed scientific merit or team qualifications to be low. A complementary analysis of opinions provided in the form of open-ended responses corroborated this view. Citizens tended to focus on the perceived importance of the problem (e.g. size of the affected population, problem severity) and paid less attention to the project’s ability to solve the problem.
  2. Secondly, the voting system adopted substantially affected the composition of those who voted. Costly voting shifted the crowd’s composition towards people with higher levels of education and income. This suggests that mechanisms that impose even a small personal cost trade off the intended benefits of inclusion and representativeness when involving citizens.
  3. Thirdly, citizens who had a personal interest in the problem addressed by the project were more likely to vote in favour of the project, irrespective of using a costless or costly voting mechanism. However, they did not seem to overestimate the project’s social impact expectations. This suggests that crowdsourcing may give more power to interest groups and members of the public with personal interests in the research. At the same time, even citizens with a personal interest in the project seemed to be able to provide unbiased assessments of social impact if asked to do so independently from expressing their support for the project itself.

The findings of this broad research project contribute to advancing the academic debate in different areas, like the management of online communities (by shedding light on the link between voting mechanisms and self-selection and the literature that compares crowd and expert contributions with science funding).
More importantly, they have an immediate practical use for policy makers, funding agencies and interest groups that strive to promote participated democracy.

Considering that traditional research grant mechanisms and review mechanisms focus on things that could go wrong and pay too little attention to potential gains, these results suggest that citizens’ evaluations of social impact are not necessarily “better“, but they may provide a different and potentially complementary perspective.

 

[1] https://www.sdu.dk/da/forskning/forskningsformidling/citizenscience/afviklede+cs-projekter/et+sundere+syddanmark Accessed November 15, 2021.

[2] https://fathom.fund/ Accessed November 15, 2021.