Approaches for Conducting Research
There are several approaches to conducting research that can be utilized by CAS Research and Development Committees:
- Call paper programs, with or without prizes;
- Working Parties
- Specific requests for proposals (RFPs);
- Commissioned papers;
- Follow-up papers from selected panelists of seminars;
- Research Grants
- Call Paper Programs
Call Paper Programs are used extensively by most of the research committees. In this approach, a broad research topic is identified by a committee. The committee then releases an announcement soliciting original research papers on the particular topic. Proposals to write papers are submitted to the committee, with the committee deciding which proposals will be accepted, and subsequently, which papers will be written. Any number of authors may submit papers to the program, as long as the paper addresses an aspect of the broad research topic. The call for papers may support a seminar, with authors presenting their papers during the seminar. A prize may be offered for the best paper submitted to the call, as judged by an anonymous prize committee. The research papers are published online in an issue of the CAS Forum.
While a call for papers will generate numerous research papers on a particular topic, it can have quite a wide range of responses of varying degrees of conformance to the intentions of the committee. Additional information about conducting call paper programs includes a document with key deadlines called “Milestones for Call Paper Programs,” a “Call Paper Template,” and “Guidelines for Awarding Prizes.”
- Working Parties
Research Working Parties:
- Are collective research paper task forces, under the leadership of members of CAS Research Committees, with the specific charge to produce a research product (written research paper, possible demonstration software) over a year's timeframe.
- Should produce more cohesive, accessible material in a consistent format, through the collective, managed nature of the process.
- Should help the CAS effectively address long-standing research problems, and harness the research energy of individual researchers.
- Are open to all interested researchers, and both CAS members and non-members are invited to participate.
- Are not conducive to pure research topics, since they are a group effort; however, a survey of existing research might well result in a very good working party paper.
- Largely work virtually, making extensive use of e-mail, conference calls, and other tools.
- Have proven to be effective research mechanisms for GIRO, the general insurance research organization of The Actuarial Profession (UK).
- Requests for Proposals (RFPs)
A Request for Proposals (RFP) is more appropriate than a call for papers if there is a specific issue that needs to be addressed and the current literature does not present appropriate solutions. In this approach, a specific research question is identified by a committee. The committee then releases an announcement soliciting proposals to address the research question. Submitted proposals are reviewed by the committee, and one researcher is chosen to perform the research. The relationship between committee and researcher is formalized by the CAS Research Agreement. There is usually a greater chance of achieving the desired product in the context of a carefully crafted RFP followed by the appropriate choice of researcher than in a call for papers.
Templates are available for both creating a Request for Proposals (RFP) and developing a Research Agreement Form.
- Commissioned Papers
Often RFPs focus on new research, exploring questions not yet answered in the existing literature. However, there may be situations where a research committee identifies a lack of discussion in the existing literature on a particular technique or approach. Such a lack could be due to the unavailability of papers at the appropriate level or there may not be a good synthesis paper or article available. The CAS has often filled this need when it came to material covered on the examination syllabus by commissioning study notes on particular topics. Elsewhere the CAS has commissioned papers dealing with specific issues, such as the treatment of discounting in accounting for loss reserves.
Research and Development committees should not think of this tool as exclusively being in the domain of the Continuing Education or Examination committees. Rather, if a Research and Development committee identifies areas not adequately covered in the literature, commissioning of a paper to address this area could expand access to a particular tool or set of techniques to a broader segment of the CAS membership.
- Follow-up Papers from Selected Panelists of Seminars
This approach has not been used extensively by CAS research committees, but when utilized, has provided a valuable source of research material. The various seminars (CLRS, RPM, Reinsurance, Special Interest) often produce excellent sessions, with panelists presenting original ideas and research findings. If a presentation is deemed especially noteworthy, a paper may be solicited by a committee from the panelist as an expansion of the presentation and session handouts.
A Wiki is a website that allows users to modify content as they see necessary, without having knowledge of HTML. Some Wikis are public, meaning anyone can make changes to the website, whereas others are private and require users to log-in in order to make changes.
Using Wikis makes it easy for groups of people conducting research to collaborate on their ideas and update their work. For example, a working party can create a Wiki and only give access to its members to modify content, but allow anyone to view it. Committees and Working Parties already have private web pages to post meeting minutes and other documents, but, documents must be submitted to the CAS Staff who then must post them onto the CAS web site. Wikis, on the other hand, allow Committee and Working Party members to post directly onto their private pages, bypassing CAS staff and ensuring better version control.
The preferred wiki platform currently is wikidot.com.
- Research Grants
The CAS participates in the Actuarial Foundation and the VP-Research & Development is an ex-officio member of the Research Committee within the Actuarial Foundation. In addition, the CAS is a joint sponsor of the Individual Grants Competition and directly funds research proposals as appropriate. In contrast to the prior tools, this is a passive tool, where the researchers propose topics as opposed to answering requests for papers or work.
CAS Executive Council Approvals
The CAS Executive Council must review and approve topics and money for funded research programs. Specifically, the Executive Council must approve:
- Research topics and prizes for Call Paper Programs. Only after the Executive Council has approved the research topic and prize amount may the program announcement be released to the membership.
- Research topics and monetary compensation for RFPs. Only after the Executive Council has approved the research topic and monetary compensation may the RFP be released to the membership.
- Selection of researcher for an RFP. Following the committee’s review of proposals submitted in response to the RFP, the selected researcher must be approved by the Executive Council.
- Research topic, monetary compensation, and researcher for grants to academics.
Commissioned papers have the same approval requirements as do RFPs.
Committees should communicate their proposed research topics and fund amounts to the Vice President-Research & Development at least 2-3 weeks prior to a scheduled Executive Council meeting. The schedule of Executive Council meetings is available through the CAS Web Site’s Calendar of Events.
For more information on approaches to conducting research within the CAS, contact the Vice President-Research & Development.