2019 Actuarial Practice Expansion & Socially Relevant Research

Background and Purpose

The strategic plan of the Society of Actuaries (SOA) includes several important research goals.  One goal is to cultivate innovative and practical ideas that expand the boundaries of the actuarial profession into new practice areas.  This “Practice Expansion” goal looks to fund high quality research projects that directly educate members on new concepts or deepen knowledge in emerging topics.   Additionally, the SOA desires to develop additional intellectual capital that serves the interest of the public and the profession’s stakeholders.  This “Social Relevance” goal aims to further the profession’s focus on objective research that can be used by stakeholders as input for recommendations and decisions on key societal issues. 

The Research Executive Committee (REC) of the SOA oversees the Research Expanding Boundaries Pool (REX Pool).  This key source of SOA research funding is used to sponsor projects that are beneficial to the entire profession, across practice area boundaries that are normally addressed by the SOA’s Practice Research Committees and may require funding levels beyond the normal annual funding budgets of research committees and sections.  The REC is issuing this Call for Proposals to fulfill the strategic goals of the SOA through use of the REX Pool for funding new projects.

Research Objective

To broaden knowledge in Practice Expansion and Socially Relevant Research topics, the REC is seeking researchers to submit one or more proposals.  Sample topics below have been identified as focus areas by the REC. The description of each of the topics has deliberately been written to be brief and open-ended in order to give researchers sufficient latitude in the development of their proposals. Researchers should not feel constrained by these topics, as many other relevant topics continuously emerge in actuarial practice and of societal impact.

Key considerations in the proposal review process by the REC are the demonstration that the expected work will not be duplicative of existing material, will represent a significant expansion in the current knowledge on the topic, and will be of considerably strong impact and benefit to the SOA and its members and stakeholders. In keeping with the strategic goals of this RFP, proposals should approach a topic with actuarial competencies in mind. This includes competencies such as management and measurement of risk among others.  Furthermore, proposals should include an overarching focus on the core principles of SOA research including objectivity, quality, relevance and quantification.

Projects can range in size, breadth and duration.  Output should include a project report and materials that can be used for member and stakeholder education; other project outputs that can enhance understanding of results (such as spreadsheets, pivot tables, infographics, and models) are encouraged. Given the desire to advance knowledge on current subjects and provide timely results, preference will be given to projects that can be completed for publishing and for continuing education in under 12 - 18 months.  Initial phases of multi-phase projects are preferred to be completed within 12 months.

Suggested Topic Areas:

  1. The drivers and impact of anxiety, mental and behavioral disorders on healthcare cost and utilization, morbidity rates, and mortality rates. Anxiety, mental and behavioral disorders may include a wide variety of categories such as panic, stress, trauma and other social disorders.  Cost drivers may include categories such as prescriptions and patient treatment, among others.  Preferred projects would consider the impacts from an actuarial pricing and future cost projection perspective.

  2. Cost and utilization, efficacy of treatments, and future cost projection for natural, alternative or holistic health care therapies and treatments.

  3. The impact and evolution of risk management due to changes in frequency, severity and variety of weather-related catastrophe. Catastrophes may include categories such as wind, flood, thunderstorms, wildfire, drought, tsunami, earthquake, and sea-level rise, among others.  Risk management may include institutions and organizations such as insurance companies, corporations, governments, schools/universities and non-profit organizations, among others. 

  4. The use of predictive analytics models, mathematical statistics and significance tests for determining insurance rating methods and rate validation boundaries and thresholds. Methods may include various correlation tests, goodness of fit tests, error and residual analysis, confidence intervals, and risk selection criteria, among others.  Preferred projects would consider how such models and statistics can prevent discriminatory rating practices.

  5. The impact on behavior, actions and financial decisions resulting from evolving modern payment and financing methods. Behavior may include categories such as insurance policyholder decisions, retirement plan decisions and elections, and financial budgeting, spending and saving, among others.  Modern methods may include categories such as mobile/smartphone/app payment services, digital wallet services, peer-to-peer lending, and use of cryptocurrencies, among others.

  6. The future evolution and improved prediction and modeling of causes of death. Causes of death and trends may include those originating from socioeconomic factors such as income, education, geography, among others; as well as new causes or categories expected to grow substantially in coming years.  Preferred projects would involve the use of technology trends and/or predictive mortality models.

The SOA and REC additionally encourage partnerships between academia and industry where the resulting work can be of mutual interest and enhance the breadth of the research work.

Proposal and REX Pool Application

Proposals may be made for any desired research. All proposals must be accompanied by a formal REX Pool Application. To facilitate the evaluation of proposals and applications, the following information should be submitted:

  1. Resumes of the researcher(s), including any additional research colleagues or graduate student(s) expected to participate, indicating how their background, education and experience bear on their qualifications to undertake the research. If more than one researcher is involved, a single individual should be designated as the lead researcher and primary contact. The person submitting the proposal must be authorized to speak on behalf of all the researchers as well as for the firm or institution on whose behalf the proposal is submitted.

  2. An outline of the approach to be used (e.g. literature search, model, survey, data analysis, etc.), emphasizing issues that require special consideration. Details should be given regarding the techniques to be used, collateral material to be consulted, and possible limitations of the analysis.

  3. A description of the expected deliverables and any supporting data, tools or other resources needed to accomplish the project.

  4. Cost estimates for the research, considering items such as compensation for investigation, report preparation, and material costs. Such estimates can be in the form of hourly rates, but in such cases, time estimates should also be included in order to determine the likely total cost of the project. Any guarantees as to total cost should be given and will be considered in the evaluation of the proposal. While cost will be a factor in the evaluation of the proposal, it will not necessarily be the decisive factor.

  5. A schedule for completion of the research, identifying key dates or time frames for research completion and report submissions. The REC is interested in completing these projects in a timely manner for maximum current impact.  Suggestions in the proposal for ensuring timely deliver, such as fee adjustments, are encouraged.

  6. Other related factors that give evidence of a proposer's capabilities to perform in a superior fashion should be detailed.

  7. Along with the proposal, a formal application for funding to the REX Pool must be prepared and submitted by the proposer. The application and guidelines for submission can be found by clicking on the following hyperlink: https://www.soa.org/research/opportunities/rex-pool-researcher-guidelines/.  

Selection Process

The REC will oversee the selection of projects.  Researchers are encouraged to review the evaluation criteria for REX Pool projects in order to ensure project proposals are consistent with the goals of the REX Pool.  The REC will review each proposal and is responsible for recommending proposals to be funded.  Input from other knowledgeable individuals also may be sought, but the REC will make all final decisions, subject to SOA leadership approval. SOA staff will provide staff actuarial support to develop and publish the projects.

Questions

Any questions regarding this RFP should be directed to R. Dale Hall, SOA Managing Director of Research (phone: 847-273-8835; email: dhall@soa.org)

Submission of Proposal

Final proposals for the project should be sent via e-mail to Barb Scott at bscott@soa.org

Proposals must be received no later than June 30, 2019. It is anticipated that proposers will be informed of the status of their proposal within 45 days of submission.

Note: Proposals will be considered confidential, and in order to preserve the research intentions of the proposer will not be shared beyond SOA review teams.

Conditions

The selection of a proposal is conditioned upon and not considered final until a Letter of Agreement is executed by both the SOA and the researcher.

The SOA reserves the right to not award contracts for this call for proposals. Reasons for not awarding a contract could include, but are not limited to, a lack of acceptable proposals or a finding that insufficient funds are available. The SOA also reserves the right to redirect the project to other committees or sections within the SOA as is deemed advisable.

The SOA plans to hold the copyright to the research and to publish the results with appropriate credit given to the researcher(s).

The SOA may choose to seek public exposure or media attention for the research.  By submitting a proposal, you agree to cooperate in publicizing or promoting the research and responding to media requests.

The SOA may also choose to market and promote the research to members, candidates and other interested parties.  You agree to perform promotional communication as reasonably requested, which may include, but is not limited to, leading a webcast on the research, presenting the research at continuing education meetings, and/or writing an article on the research for an organizational publication.