Crowd Forecasters Make Early Calls on Zika-related GJ Open Questions

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Olympians are taking extra, sometimes creative, precautions against mosquito bites and Zika in Rio, but so far, concern over the illness has not overwhelmingly influenced the Games.

However, a few months ago, fearCDC Levelss of the epidemic and how they would influence travel for the Games, created a tense, worrisome environment. It was at that time when we asked, in February 2016, whether “the Centers for Disease Control would elevate their travel guidance for Brazil to Warning Level 3 due to the Zika virus before the Olympics begin.” The following day after posting the question, the Washington Post published an article entitled: “What’s really scary about the Zika virus are the things that we don’t know.”

Despite the edgy environment, from nearly the beginning of Good Judgment Open forecasters’ registered predictions on the website, the 454 forecasters estimated with significant probability that the travel guidance would not be elevated to Warning Level 3.

As early as March 8, 2016, the consensus trend hit 10% for a “Yes” answer, then stayed at or below 10% for the next several months until the Olympics Opening Ceremony:


Did we mention?

Forecasters on the Good Judgment Open also had a high probability on the question, “When will clinical human trials for a Zika vaccine begin?,” which did in fact happen before the end of 2016.

The blue line below represents “Before 1 January 2017.”


Featured Comment

Users on the Good Judgment Open often make comments with their predictions, usually explaining the rationale of their forecast, or updated forecast. This was the comment of user RickRock when updating his forecast on March 27, 2016 to the “clinical human trials” question, which we found interesting:

March 27, 2016
75%                Before 1 January 2017

20%                Between 1 January 2017 and 30 June 2017
5%                   Not before 1 July 2017

I’ve taken another look at my Daily Racing Form so I’m re-handicapping this race from scratch.

I now expect Innovio to finish second (sometime in the first half of 2017). ….

Protein Sciences, another contender, appears to be trailing Innovio by some additional months. I expect Protein Sciences to finish third.

Where did i go wrong with my initial forecast? Mainly, I just didn’t pay enough attention to the biggest horse in the race — the NIH. I expected the NIH to follow a traditional role and be a promoter of Zika vaccine, but not a competitor in its development. If this big horse steps into the starting gate, it becomes the automatic favorite. It has huge competitive advantages compared to any private outfit. It doesn’t have to negotiate financing deals with investors or corporate partners. It can shift money around and apply it quickly with confidence that future appropriations will fill any budget gaps. Once a public health matter like Zika becomes a political issue, the NIH need have no concern about matters like market size or product profitability, Additionally, the NIH has unique advantages in the regulatory arena. It isn’t going to be held up my any nitpicking reviews. The NIH is the big horse. It has pole position so it seems likely to win going away.

User RickRock predicted with high probability that trials would begin before the end of the year. The NIH indeed announced on August 3, 2016 the beginning of its clinical trials.

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