Everybody agrees a flu pandemic is inevitable. Governments are spending billions to prepare. But nobody knows when it will come and how bad it will be.
That question led University of Iowa researchers to launch a new way to tap into experts' best hunches. It's modeled on the futures markets that farmers use to lock in the price of corn or pork bellies.
These "prediction markets" have already out-performed opinion polls to predict elections and help the industry gauge which products will sell.
The new project will select 100 flu experts around the world and set them up with $100 trading accounts. They can place their bets on questions like "Will there be a human case of bird flu in the Western Hemisphere by next July?" By watching the ups an downs of this "flu prediction market,"
The researchers hope to provide a keener expert consensus on pandemic probabilities to guide pandemic planners.