Because Social Science Research Can Lead to Unexpected Discoveries

This week, we are sharing a recent opinion piece published in The Hill by Paul Milgrom, a Stanford economist whose groundbreaking research in auction design is used by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to auction electromagnetic spectrum to companies, generating billions in revenue for the federal government.

"When we drive to work, we often see the effects of congested roads. But when we use our mobile phones, we don’t think much about congestion on the highways that carry our voices and data. We just assume the capacity will be there to happily carry our wireless signals. Where does that capacity come from? Last week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) celebrated how seemingly obscure social science funded by the federal government helps us all stay connected.

Recently, the FCC closed its first ever “incentive auction” of spectrum – the electromagnetic radio frequencies used to transmit sound, data, and video across the country..."

Read the rest here.


Paul Milgrom is the Shirley R. and Leonard W. Ely Professor of Humanities and Sciences in the Department of Economics at Stanford University, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and winner of the 2008 Nemmers Prize and the 2013 BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge prize. According to Google Scholar, his research works have more than 75,000 citations, covering multiple fields in economics. A leader in radio spectrum policy and auction theory and applications, Milgrom co-invented auction formats used for selling spectrum licenses in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia.

In 2009 Milgrom co-founded Auctionomics, a high stakes auction consulting and software firm that has helped governments worldwide design and implement complex auctions. It has also prepared companies across the globe to bid in complex auctions. Milgrom and Auctionomics recently led the design of the (currently running) U.S. Incentive Auction, which will buy TV broadcast licenses and sell wireless broadband licenses.