Scope of the Workshop:
Consensus methods developed in the context of voting, decision making, and other areas of the social and behavioral sciences have begun to have a variety of applications in the biological sciences, originally in taxonomy and evolutionary biology, and more recently in molecular biology. Typically, several alternatives (such as possible taxonomies, alternative phylogenetic trees, alternative molecular sequences, or alternative alignments) are produced using different methods or under different models and then one needs to find a consensus solution. There are, already, several hundred papers in this developing field of "Bioconsensus." In this workshop, we will explore ways to make use of the consensus methods of social choice theory in solving problems of biology, with emphasis on molecular biology.
Here are several of the major themes of the workshop. How have consensus methods of social choice theory already found use in biology? In turn, how have some of the specific problems of the biological sciences given rise to new concepts of consensus? Algorithms for some of the well-known consensus methods of social choice theory have the potential for application to biology, with appropriate modification, but many of these consensus problems are NP-complete in their most general setting and call for approximate algorithms or heuristic methods. What would be involved in applying traditional consensus methods to molecular biology problems? To what extent are consensus methods in molecular biology chosen because they seem mathematically interesting rather than on the basis of some reasonable biological model. What then is a reasonable basis for choosing a consensus method? Are there reasonable axioms having biological meaning that characterize different consensus methods?
The workshop will bring together mathematicians, computer scientists, and biological scientists to discuss these and other issues. The meeting should be viewed as forming a basis for a continuing dialog that will lead to future collaborations. Though the basic format is that of a workshop, ample time will be left for questions, discussions, and informal interactions among the participants.
The tutorial will include a discussion of how an axiomatic approach can help either characterize or establish the nonexistence of families of consensus methods. Included will be median proceedures, majority and plurality rules, and rules based on comcepts of center and mean. The objects on which the consensus rules operated will include weak orderings of preferences, hierarchies, undirected phylogenetic trees, and molecular sequences.