As Ontario plots its economic recovery from COVID-19 it will need all the innovation in data modelling that it can get — and Western’s Roy Allen has just earned major recognition as a leader in that field.
Allen was awarded the 2020 Polanyi Prize in Economic Science for his work in econometrics, specifically for work modelling a population’s future economic behaviour based on information from the past.
The Polanyi Prizes, named for Canadian Nobel laureate John C. Polanyi, award $20,000 to five Ontario researchers who are either continuing postdoctoral work or have recently gained a faculty appointment in Ontario for exceptional work in the fields of chemistry, literature, physics, economic science and physiology/medicine.
Allen, who completed his PhD in econometrics at the University of California, San Diego, and joined Western as an assistant professor of economics in 2017, is researching what historical data are needed to answer targeted questions related to the economy and how to assess theories using aggregate data in order to develop more accurate predictions.
For example, a classic economic model assumes that people buy less of a good when the price goes up, but this might turn out to be inconsistent with data. Allen’s research focuses on how to answer standard research and policy questions like this with aggregate data, where previous work has focused on individual data.
His work also investigates how to use models that are explicitly imperfect, in settings that previously did not allow any imperfection. Allen addresses this gap using a method of measuring how bad the assumptions of a model are so this can be taken into account in forecasting economic behaviour. The central idea is to “build in” that the model is an approximation and thus increase the credibility of economic predictions.
Congratulating Allen and the other Polanyi prize winners, Ontario Minister of Colleges and Universities Ross Romano said, “Their work helps advance Ontario’s innovation economy, strengthening our province’s reputation in research, while changing the way we approach and understand issues that directly impact Ontarians.”
Steve Orsini, president and CEO of the Council of Ontario Universities, said, “Their innovative work is an excellent reminder of why it is so important to support our researchers, the bright minds that are helping solve some of our most pressing issues, producing breakthroughs and creating a better future for students, our communities and the province.”
Polanyi won his Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1986 for his research in chemical kinetics.
The other four Polanyi Prizes this year recognize achievements ranging from discoveries in green energy, new ways to understand market forces, better mental health outcomes for depression and new insights into the nature of the universe.
To learn more about the 2020 Polanyi Prize winners, their research and these awards, please visit https://ontariosuniversities.ca/impact/award-winners/john-charles-polanyi-prizes-2020.