UW Hosts 2023 Econometrics and Optimal Transport Workshop

Submitted by Madison Girard on

The Department of Economics was proud to host the Econometrics and Optimal Transport Workshop from June 12-14, 2023. Optimal transport (OT) is the problem of transporting one distribution/shape of mass to another as efficiently as possible, relative to a given cost function. Thanks to its solid mathematical theory and recent breakthroughs in the development of efficient computational algorithms, OT-based methodologies for a wide range of problems in diverse disciplines, including economics, have been developed and successfully applied in real world applications.

This interdisciplinary workshop was timely. It brought leading scholars from economics, mathematics, statistics, operations research, computer science, and industry across the globe together for presentations and discussions on the frontier research and applications of optimal transport on the beautiful Seattle campus of the University of Washington. More than sixty participants at different stages of their career, including graduate students and post-doctoral fellows, attended the Workshop. To help bridge potential gaps among researchers across diverse disciplines, especially students and junior researchers, five overview sessions were given by internationally renowned researchers (OT and risk management, OT and Econometrics, OT and statistics, Penalized sieve estimation and OT, Distributionally robust optimization and econometrics) followed by regular research talks. A special Amazon panel session was organized by Charlie Manzanares, a senior manager at Amazon Prime. It featured seven expert panelists specializing on machine learning, empirical industrial organization, time series econometrics, and causal inference. This panel included Economics department chair and Amazon Scholar Professor Eric Zivot and Economics Affiliate Professor and senior Economist at Amazon Greg Duncan.

This event was a huge success and was made possible through the support of the Kantorovich Initiative. Named after Nobel Prize-winning economist and mathematician Leonid Vitaliyevich Kantorovich, The Kantorovich Initiative (KI) is a Research Network of the Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences (PIMS), a consortium of mathematical sciences departments across Western North America. KI is a unique interdisciplinary network of academic thought leaders “dedicated towards research and dissemination of modern mathematics of optimal transport towards a wide audience of researchers, students, industry, policy makers, and the general public.” KI is also supported by the National Science Foundation. The Center for Statistics and the Social Sciences at UW is among other sponsors of the Workshop.

Two UW professors, Professor of Economics Yanqin Fan and Professor of Mathematics Soumik Pal are on the organizing committee of the Workshop. Both are affiliated faculty of the Kantorovich Initiative. The talks at the Workshop were stimulating and thought-provoking. Professor Soumik Pal hopes that this workshop will have a long impact on both subjects (OT and Economics). Professor Fan has collaborated with UW faculty members in several other departments and members of the Kantorovich Initiative in other universities for research activities and events. Two upcoming events that she is involved in organizing are the 2024 BIRS Workshop on Optimal Transport and Distributional Robustness at Banff, Canada and the 2024 Workshop on Women in Optimal Transport, UBC.

The Department of Economics is committed to furthering cross-disciplinary partnerships across UW and growing our impact as a leader in economics research and education.