Lingxiu Dong and Duai Sundaramoorthi | Improving Global Food Production with Big Data


We are intrigued by the opportunity to help farmers around the world, who often have limited access to, and the knowledge of, processing the big data. This way, we can make the best use of what agricultural science offers.

Lingxiu Dong

Two researchers at Olin Business School, Lingxiu Dong and Durai Sundaramoorthi, were intrigued by the opportunities to leverage big data and predictive models to help farmers around the world increase food production. Using big data from Syngenta, a biotechnology company that produces seeds and agrochemicals, they were able to analyze how 182 varieties of soybean performed under different weather and soil conditions to determine the optimal soybean varieties to grow in a particular farm. In the end, the researchers devised a computational method that tailors recommendations to help farmers remove the guesswork during the planting season and improve crop yields based on variable planting conditions. The optimization comes to agriculture through a web tool called SimSoy, or SimSeed. Watch this video about their novel tool or this HEC-TV feature, and read more about it in the Source.

2018 Olin Award: Big Data to Boost Crop Yield
Computer-Simulated Soybeans & Machine Learning for Seed Performance of All Crops

Philip Dybvig | Understanding Financial Crises


Philip Dybvig is one of the world’s top financial economists and author of a canonical theoretical model of bank runs. His famous 1983 paper, which presents the Diamond-Dybvig model, is one of the most widely cited papers in Finance and Economics. Many prominent economists regard it as the go-to paper for understanding financial crises, and it has had great influence on policy, practice, and many areas of economic research. In this video, Dybvig sits down with Dean Mark Taylor to discuss his seminal paper 35 years after it was written.

Dybvig’s latest research includes work on the anti-corruption campaign in China, preservation of capital for educational endowments and predictability of stock returns. In recent years, he has spent significant time in China, where he runs a research program each summer in Chengdu, Sichuan, and serves as director of the Institute of Financial Studies at the Southwestern University of Finance and Economics.

35 Years Later: Diamond-Dybvig Model of Bank Runs

Jake Feldman and Dennis Zhang | New Product Selection Model Boosts Revenues


Jake Feldman and Dennis Zhang are the recipients of the 2019 Olin Award for their paper, “Taking Assortment Optimization from Theory to Practice: Evidence from Large Field Experiments on Alibaba.” Their research addresses one of the most fundamental operational problems faced by any retailer —deciding which set of products to make available for purchase to each arriving customer. How does Chinese online retail giant Alibaba, for example, determine among thousands of available products which ones the platform should suggest, both to maximize revenue and give customers the most useful choices? Feldman and Zhang combined their experience with customer-choice modeling and machine learning to create a mathematical model for presenting product choices to customers. The researchers tested their new algorithm against the traditional machine-learning model Alibaba had been using. The new model showed 28% higher revenues in a week’s time. The results were so conclusive, Alibaba adopted the new product selection model. Read the full story in the Source and watch this video about their research.

Olin Award 2019 | Jake Feldman & Dennis Zhang

Tarek Ghani | Using Mobile Money in Afghanistan

An agent for MPaisa, the mobile banking system that researchers used as the forerunner for a savings system administered via cellphones, interviews customers in Mazar-e Sharif, Afghanistan. (Image: Jan Chipchase/Creative Commons)

Tarek Ghani explores the potential for mobile money to positively impact the lives of people living in resource-constrained and conflict-afflicted environments, who may not have easy access to traditional bank branches but often have access to a mobile phone. Even in the world’s most challenging settings, in places that are underserved by financial institutions, the number of mobile subscribers has proliferated, presenting opportunities to provide mechanisms for payments and savings to the world’s poor. Ghani’s field experiments take place in Afghanistan, one of the world’s least financially developed countries.

Ghani, in collaboration with Joshua Blumenstock and Michael Callen, partnered with Afghanistan’s largest mobile network provider, Roshan, to test whether mobile banking could facilitate default savings programs. They designed a mobile money-based automatic savings wallet to help “nudge” employees into saving. Their study suggests that combining automatic enrollment into savings plans with mobile money can have broad applications to help increase savings globally. Writing in the June 2018 Harvard Business Review, Ghani and his co-authors hint that “any transaction that happens regularly, like an anti-poverty cash transfer or even a store owner accepting a mobile payment, could incorporate a feature where a portion is saved by default. The combination of behavioral insights and digital finance can create highly scalable products with positive social impact.” Read the full story in the Source

Lingxiu Dong and Panos Kouvelis | The Complexity of Tariffs as a Trade Tool in a Global Economy


In March 2018, ten months after the Trump administration levied the first tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from all nations, including China, Olin Business School professors Lingxiu Dong and Panos Kouvelis began working on a timely paper examining the complexity of the tariffs’ impact. “The logic that levying tariffs will help protect and strengthen the corresponding domestic industries is not that straightforward in today’s global economy,” wrote Lingxiu Dong and Panos Kouvelis in their paper on the impact of tariffs on the global supply chain.For example, in retaliation for earlier US tariffs, in April 2018 the Chinese government imposed a 25% tariff on 106 US goods, including soybeans. To avoid higher prices, Chinese buyers of US soybeans have started finding suppliers in Brazil and Argentina, and agribusiness firms in South America are seizing the Chinese market opportunity. Read more about their research in the Olin blog.

We can tell you in stories after the fact some of the impact, but we need a model that predicts the direction of change and explains the stories. What are the factors you have to think about so you can predict the move before it happens—rather than being a Monday-morning quarterback?

Panos Kouvelis

Xiumin Martin & Guofu Zhou | Manager Sentiment and Stock Returns


Why should investors be wary of an upbeat company leader? Olin Business School professors Xiumin Martin and Guofu Zhou developed an index of “manager sentiment” from 30,000 corporate documents. Their highly predictive measure forecasts stock performance based on positive or negative messaging from company leaders. They discovered that when managers sounded particularly upbeat about their company or the economy, a decline in stock performance was likely just around the corner. Learn more about their research in this video.

Xiumin Martin joined Olin Business School in 2007. Before pursuing her doctorate degree, Professor Martin worked as an auditor at Deloitte and Touche Tohmatsu in Shanghai. She is an editor at The Accounting Review. 

Guofu Zhou is the Frederick Bierman and James E. Spears Professor of Finance at Olin Business School. He has been teaching and conducting research at Olin since 1990. He has written on trends in the Chinese stock market and has served as director of the Asian Finance Association.

Olin researchers answer: Why should investors be wary of an upbeat company leader?

Lamar Pierce | Ethics and Productivity in Organizations


Lamar Pierce’s research focuses on the economic and psychological factors that drive both productivity and misconduct in organizations, and organizational solutions to address these effects.  In a recent study, Pierce collaborated with researchers at Aarhus University in Denmark to review Danish governmental records covering more than 300,700 full-time employees in 1,309 companies over a 10-year period. They discovered that performance-based-pay is linked to mental health issues and negatively impacts the workforce. Read the full story in The Sourceand meet Pierce in this short video

What this study shows is that pay policies have broader health and wellness implications.

Lamar Pierce
Meet the Professor: Lamar Pierce, organization and strategy

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