One of the most interesting parts of any actuarial meeting or seminar is when experts in the field have the opportunity to have an off-the-cuff discussion, letting ideas fly back and forth. Audience members may even muster the courage to take part in the dialogue themselves. Some of the best exchange of ideas comes from that kind of informal, relaxed atmosphere.
When I started as an actuary, I somehow ended up on the COTOR-VALCON (Committee On the Theory Of Risk – VALuation of CONtingent liabilities) email list. In those early days, the list was less focused on theory of risk and more of a general actuarial think tank. This continued with its spiritual offspring, the Bayesian MCMC list. Watching well-knowns such as Glenn Myers, Gary Venter, Don Mango, and Dave Clark converse back-and-forth about issues was not only educational, but also spoke to how conducive these environments could be to idea sharing and collaboration.
These two self-organizing groups are much more relaxed than formal committees, or even working parties. There are no attendance requirements. There are no deliverables. There are no scheduled meetings. There is no maximum number of members. There is solely an email list, which people can use to ask and answer questions, gain feedback on ideas or even
submit preprints of papers. People have the ability to participate to their level of comfort.
The success of these groups has inspired the CAS to expand this concept to other areas of actuarial research. With these experiences in mind, the research and development section of CAS is introducing Communities of Interest. These are neither committees nor working parties. Like the Bayesian MCMC list, this is a CAS community: in other words, a CAS-sponsored email list that archives all posts for future reference. Consider them as virtual break rooms into which actuaries can drop in and out at will, and be involved to whatever extent they wish on topics that may interest them. There will be a group leader or moderator, whose role is to periodically seed the conversation. If participants in a discussion are energized with the desire to investigate a topic or idea further, the CAS would be thrilled to support them by working with them and the moderator to set up a working group. The point is to create a place where actuaries can go to discuss whatever they want in a particular general area and have the option to take the discussion further.
The two initial topics for which we are launching these communities are predictive analytics and healthcare. The first, predictive analytics, is a very wide topic which is comprised of many areas of interest relevant to actuaries. These include statistical and machine learning, text mining, neural networks, penalized regression, cluster analysis, curve fitting, and so on. There is enough overlap between these topics that it makes a lot of sense to have a general area in which to discuss them. The second area selected is healthcare. The CAS has a Health Care Issues Committee (CHCI). However, its limited activity indicates that the formal committee structure is no longer the best way to support interested CAS members. With a community of interest, the CAS is creating an area where P/C actuaries interested in health care can continue their shared interest without the burden of formal meetings, deliverables, and general committee bureaucracy.
What we have then are the bookends of the committee ideal: a wide ranging and energetic topic which cannot be feasibly shoehorned in its entirety into one committee or working party, and another important but focused area which should not need to support unnecessary tasks. So, if you’ve ever had a question, a strongly held opinion, or an interest in these areas, you’re exactly the actuary we’re hoping joins these communities. Speak up right away; speak up after a year; never speak up at all—it’s up to you. These communities are here for your benefit.
For more information, or if you have interest in serving as a community topic seeder, please read this volunteer announcement contact David Core at firstname.lastname@example.org.