Alexandru Marcoci


Alexandru Marcoci

I am a Teaching Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a core faculty member in the UNC-Duke Philosophy, Politics and Economics Program, working in decision theory and the philosophy of public policy. In decision theory I am interested in how groups of experts make decisions, and I am currently collaborating with the repliCATS project on using structured expert elicitation techniques to accurately predict the reliability of published social and behavioural science research (including research into COVID-19). In the past I collaborated with the SWARM project. My research in the philosophy of public policy focuses on gender-neutral bathrooms, free speech on university campuses, and the allocation of scarce medical resources. Contact me


PHIL 165 Bioethics (UNC: Spring 2020, 2021)

PHIL/POLI/PWAD 272 The Ethics of Peace, War, and Defense (UNC: Spring, Fall 2019; Fall 2020)

PHIL/POLI/ECON 698 Philosophy, Politics and Economics: Capstone Course (UNC: Spring 2020)

PHIL 273 Justice, Rights, and the Common Good: Philosophical Perspectives on Social and Economic Issues (UNC: Fall 2019)

PHIL 273 Philosophical Perspectives on Justice (UNC: Fall 2018)

GV100 Introduction to Political Theory (LSE: 2015-2018)

PH231 Evidence and Policy (LSE: Lent Term 2015)

PH201 Philosophy of Science (LSE: 2013-2014)

PH100 Logic (LSE: 2012-2015)


Alexandru Marcoci and Alexandra Oprea. Free Speech, Liberal Character, and the Educational Mission of the University. Work in progress Abstract

In this paper, we argue that both those in favour of robust protections for campus speech and those promoting stricter regulation of speech implicitly assume that universities educate tolerant, open-minded and inquisitive members of the body politic. Despite this agreement, neither side explains exactly how their specific speech-related recommendations are to educate tolerant students and citizens. Our paper explores the problems with the possible causal mechanisms that underpin the argument of each side, then proceeds to argue for more attention towards “output” measures of political tolerance rather than “input” measures related to speech policy.

Alexandru Marcoci, Mark Burgman and Ans Vercammen. Reassessing the benefits of group discussion in the Wason selection task. Under review Abstract

Do interactive groups outperform individual reasoners on intellective tasks? Studies of the Wason selection task purport to demonstrate substantial benefits of group discussion but have so far been based on student samples. In this paper we investigate the benefits of group interaction for a sample of the general population and show that the effect of discussion we should expect in the real world is much less impressive.

Hannah Fraser, Martin Bush, Bonnie Wintle, Fallon Mody, Eden Smith, Anca Hanea, Elliot Gould, Victoria Hemming, Dan Hamilton, Libby Rumpff, David Peter Wilkinson, Ross Pearson, Felix Singleton Thorn, Aaron Willcox, Charles T Gray, Andrew Head, Melissa Ross, Rebecca Groenewegen, Alexandru Marcoci, Ans Vercammen, Timothy H Parker, Rink Hoekstra, Shinichi Nakagawa, David R Mandel, Don van Ravenzwaaij, Marissa McBride, Richard O Sinnott, Peter Vesk, Mark Burgman, Fiona Fidler. Predicting Reliability Through Structured Expert Elicitation with Replicats (Collaborative Assessments for Trustworthy Science). Preprint available at MetaArXiv (February 22, 2021). Under review Abstract

Replication is a hallmark of scientific research. As replications of individual studies are resource intensive, techniques for predicting the replicability are required. We introduce a new technique to evaluating replicability, the repliCATS (Collaborative Assessments for Trustworthy Science) process, a structured expert elicitation approach based on the IDEA protocol. The repliCATS process is delivered through an underpinning online platform and applied to the evaluation of research claims in social and behavioural sciences. This process can be deployed for both rapid assessment of small numbers of claims, and assessment of high volumes of claims over an extended period. Pilot data suggests that the accuracy of the repliCATS process meets or exceeds that of other techniques used to predict replicability. An important advantage of the repliCATS process is that it collects qualitative data that has the potential to assist with problems like understanding the limits of generalizability of scientific claims. The repliCATS process has potential applications in alternative peer review and in the allocation of effort for replication studies.

Luc Bovens and Alexandru Marcoci. The Gender-Neutral Bathroom: A New Frame and Some Nudges. Forthcoming in Behavioural Public Policy Abstract

Gender-neutral bathrooms are usually framed as an accommodation for trans and other gender non-conforming individuals. In this paper we show that the benefits of gender-neutral bathrooms are much broader. First, our simulations show that gender-neutral bathrooms reduce average waiting times: while waiting times for women go down invariably, waiting times for men either go down or slightly increase depending on usage intensity, occupancy time differentials, and the presence of urinals. Second, our result can be turned on its head: firms have an opportunity to reduce the number of facilities and cut costs by making them all gender-neutral without increasing waiting times. These observations can be used to reframe the gender-neutral bathrooms debate so that they appeal to a larger constituency, cutting across the usual dividing lines in the “bathroom wars”. Finally, there are improved designs and behavioural strategies that can help overcome resistance. We explore what strategies can be invoked to mitigate the objections that gender-neutral bathrooms (1) are unsafe; (2) elicit discomfort; and (3) are unhygienic.

Ans Vercammen, Alexandru Marcoci and Mark Burgman. Pre-screening workers to overcome bias amplification in online labour markets. PLOS ONE 16, no. 3 (2021): e0249051. Abstract

Groups have access to more diverse information and typically outperform individuals on problem solving tasks. Crowdsolving utilises this principle to generate novel and/or superior solutions to intellective tasks by pooling the inputs from a distributed online crowd. However, it is unclear whether this particular instance of “wisdom of the crowd” can overcome the influence of potent cognitive biases that habitually lead individuals to commit reasoning errors. We empirically test the prevalence of cognitive bias on a popular crowdsourcing platform, examining susceptibility to bias of online panels at the individual and aggregate levels. We then investigate the use of the Cognitive Reflection Test, notable for its predictive validity for real-life reasoning, as a screening tool to improve collective performance. We find that systematic biases in crowdsourced answers are not as prevalent as anticipated, but when they occur, biases are amplified with increasing group size, as predicted by the Condorcet Jury Theorem. The results further suggest that pre-screening individuals with the Cognitive Reflection Test can substantially enhance collective judgement and improve crowdsolving performance.

Diana Popescu and Alexandru Marcoci. Coronavirus: allocating ICU beds and ventilators based on age is discriminatory. The Conversation (April 22, 2020) Lead

Being a member of a certain age group shouldn't be a liability.

Alexandru Marcoci and James Nguyen. Judgement aggregation in scientific collaborations: The case for waiving expertise. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 84 (2020): 66-74 Abstract

The fragmentation of academic disciplines forces individuals to specialise. In doing so, they become experts over their narrow area of research. However, ambitious scientific projects, such as the search for gravitational waves, require them to come together and collaborate across disciplinary borders. How should scientists with expertise in different disciplines treat each others' expert claims? An intuitive answer is that the collaboration should defer to the opinions of experts. In this paper we show that under certain seemingly innocuous assumptions, this intuitive answer gives rise to an impossibility result when it comes to aggregating the beliefs of experts to deliver the beliefs of a collaboration as a whole. We then argue that when experts' beliefs come into conflict, they should waive their expert status.

Alexandru Marcoci. Monty Hall saves Dr. Evil: On Elga's restricted principle of indifference. Erkenntnis 85, no. 1 (2020): 65-76 Abstract

In this paper I show that Elga's argument for a restricted principle of indifference for self-locating belief relies on the kind of mistaken reasoning that recommends the 'staying' strategy in the Monty Hall problem.

Gregg Willcox, Louis Rosenberg, Mark Burgman and Alexandru Marcoci. Prioritizing Policy Objectives in Polarized Societies using Artificial Swarm Intelligence. In CogSIMA 2020 (IEEE Conference on Cognitive and Computational Aspects of Situation Management, Victoria, BC, Canada, 2020), 1-9 Abstract

Groups often struggle to reach decisions, especially when populations are strongly divided by conflicting views. Traditional methods for collective decision-making involve polling individuals and aggregating results. In recent years, a new method called Artificial Swarm Intelligence (ASI) has been developed that enables networked human groups to deliberate in real-time systems, moderated by artificial intelligence algorithms. While traditional voting methods aggregate input provided by isolated participants, Swarm-based methods enable participants to influence each other and converge on solutions together. In this study we compare the output of traditional methods such as Majority vote and Borda count to the Swarm method on a set of divisive policy issues. We find that the rankings generated using ASI and the Borda Count methods are often rated as significantly more satisfactory than those generated by the Majority vote system (p<0.05). This result held for both the population that generated the rankings (the “in-group”) and the population that did not (the “out-group”): the in-group ranked the Swarm prioritizations as 9.6% more satisfactory than the Majority prioritizations, while the out-group ranked the Swarm prioritizations as 6.5% more satisfactory than the Majority prioritizations. This effect also held even when the out-group was subject to a demographic sampling bias of 10% (i.e. the out-group was composed of 10% more Labour voters than the in-group). The Swarm method was the only method to be perceived as more satisfactory to the “out-group” than the voting group.

Alexandru Marcoci and James Nguyen. Objectivity, ambiguity and theory choice. Erkenntnis 84, no. 2 (2019): 343–357 Abstract

Kuhn argued that scientific theory choice is, in some sense, a rational matter, but one that is not fully determined by shared objective scientific virtues like accuracy, simplicity, and scope. Okasha imports Arrow's impossibility theorem into the context of theory choice to show that rather than not fully determining theory choice, these virtues cannot determine it at all. If Okasha is right, then there is no function (satisfying certain desirable conditions) from 'preference' rankings supplied by scientific virtues over competing theories (or models, or hypotheses) to a single all-things-considered ranking. This threatens the rationality of science. In this paper we show that if Kuhn's claims about the role that subjective elements play in theory choice are taken seriously, then the threat dissolves.

Alexandru Marcoci, Ans Vercammen and Mark Burgman. ODNI as an analytic ombudsman: Is Intelligence Community Directive 203 up to the task? Intelligence and National Security 34, no. 2 (2019): 205-224 Abstract

In the wake of 9/11 and the war in Iraq, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence adopted Intelligence Community Directive (ICD) 203 – a list of analytic tradecraft standards – and appointed an ombudsman charged with monitoring their implementation. In this paper, we identify three assumptions behind ICD203: (1) tradecraft standards can be employed consistently; (2) tradecraft standards sufficiently capture the key elements of good reasoning; and (3) good reasoning leads to more accurate judgments. We then report on two controlled experiments that uncover operational constraints in the reliable application of the ICD203 criteria for the assessment of intelligence products.

Alexandru Marcoci, Mark Burgman, Ariel Kruger, Elizabeth Silver, Marissa McBride, Felix Singleton Thorn, Hannah Fraser, Bonnie Wintle, Fiona Fidler and Ans Vercammen. Better together: Reliable application of the post-9/11 and post-Iraq US intelligence tradecraft standards requires collective analysis. Frontiers in Psychology 9 (2019): 2634 Abstract

Background. The events of 9/11 and the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq's Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction precipitated fundamental changes within the US Intelligence Community. As part of the reform, analytic tradecraft standards were revised and codified into a policy document – Intelligence Community Directive (ICD) 203 – and an analytic ombudsman was appointed in the newly created Office for the Director of National Intelligence to ensure compliance across the intelligence community. In this paper we investigate the untested assumption that the ICD203 criteria can facilitate reliable evaluations of analytic products.
Method. Fifteen independent raters used a rubric based on the ICD203 criteria to assess the quality of reasoning of 64 analytical reports generated in response to hypothetical intelligence problems. We calculated the intra-class correlation coefficients for single and group-aggregated assessments.
Results. Despite general training and rater calibration, the reliability of individual assessments was poor. However, aggregate ratings showed good to excellent reliability.
Conclusions. Given that real problems will be more difficult and complex than our hypothetical case studies, we advise that groups of at least three raters are required to obtain reliable quality control procedures for intelligence products. Our study sets limits on assessment reliability and provides a basis for further evaluation of the predictive validity of intelligence reports generated in compliance with the tradecraft standards.

Alexandru Marcoci. On a dilemma of redistribution. Dialectica 72, no. 3 (2018): 453-460 Abstract

McKenzie Alexander presents a dilemma for a social planner who wants to correct the unfair distribution of an indivisible good between two equally worthy individuals or groups: either she guarantees a fair outcome, or she follows a fair procedure (but not both). In this paper I show that this dilemma only holds if the social planner can redistribute the good in question at most once. To wit, the bias of the initial distribution always washes out when we allow for sufficiently many redistributions.

Luc Bovens and Alexandru Marcoci. Gender-neutral restrooms require new (choice) architecture. Behavioural Public Policy Blog (April 17, 2018) Lead

"What’s not to love about gender-neutral restrooms?" ask Bovens and Marcoci. Their spread could only come about trough a sensitive mix of good design and nudges; working on social norms and behaviours. Some discomforts may, however, prove to be beyond nudging, and an incremental, learning approach is probably required.

Luc Bovens and Alexandru Marcoci. To those who oppose gender-neutral toilets: they’re better for everybody. The Guardian (December 1, 2017) Lead

Bovens and Marcoci's research into the economics of these facilities shows they cut waiting for women, and address the concerns of trans and disabled people.

Alexandru Marcoci and James Nguyen. Scientific rationality by degrees. In M. Massimi, J.W. Romeijn, and G. Schurz (Eds.), EPSA15 Selected Papers. European Studies in Philosophy of Science, Vol. 5 (Cham: Springer, 2017), 321-333 Abstract

In a recent paper, Samir Okasha imports Arrow's impossibility theorem into the context of theory choice. He shows that there is no function (satisfying certain desirable conditions) from profiles of preference rankings over competing theories, models or hypotheses provided by scientific virtues to a single all-things-considered ranking. This is a prima facie threat to the rationality of theory choice. In this paper we show this threat relies on an all-or-nothing understanding of scientific rationality and articulate instead a notion of rationality by degrees. The move from all-or-nothing rationality to rationality by degrees will allow us to argue that theory choice can be rational enough.

Alexandru Marcoci. Review of Quitting Certainties: A Bayesian Framework Modeling Degrees of Belief, by Michael G. Titelbaum. Economics and Philosophy 31, no. 1 (2015): 194–200

Philosophy Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 215A Caldwell Hall, 240 East Cameron Avenue, Chapel Hill, NC 27599