Volume 20 - Article 22 | Pages 541–558

Keeping a learned society young

By Herbert Dawid, Gustav Feichtinger, Joshua R. Goldstein, Vladimir Veliov

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Date received:16 Nov 2007
Date published:20 May 2009
Word count:6300
Keywords:age-specific recruitment policy, fixed-size population, optimal control


Aging organizations - regardless of whether they are firms, faculties, societies, political bodies, teams, or national academies - seek ways to rejuvenate. This paper demonstrates that the best way to keep an organization young is through a mixed strategy of recruiting both young and old, and that, contrary to intuition, recruiting those of middle age is the least effective strategy for maintaining a younger age structure.
The aging of learned societies is a problem in many national academies. Faced with rising life expectancy, particularly for older persons, the average age of academy members is increasing. Another reason for "overaging" is an increase in the age at election.
In an organization with a fixed size, the annual intake is strictly determined by the number of deaths and the statutory retirement age. This can, among many learned societies, lead to a fundamental dilemma: the desire to maintain a young age structure, while still guaranteeing a high recruitment rate. We derive an optimal recruitment policy which is bimodal, i.e., it entails shifting recruitment partly to younger ages and partly to older ages, while decreasing the recruitment of middle-aged candidates. Although the optimization problem explicitly involves only the average age and the recruitment rate as objectives, the methodology implicitly allows us to take into consideration all other objectives (formal or informal) used in the actual election practice.

Author's Affiliation

Herbert Dawid - Universität Bielefeld, Germany [Email]
Gustav Feichtinger - Technische Universität Wien, Austria [Email]
Joshua R. Goldstein - University of California, Berkeley, United States of America [Email]
Vladimir Veliov - Technische Universität Wien, Austria [Email]

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