Research Summary

Fairness and Efficiency in Resource Allocation

by Nikolaos Trichakis


In studying the relationship of fairness and efficiency, Professor Trichakis takes the novel approach of looking at varied industries for unifying factors, and he pays special attention to inequities by incorporating both quantitative work in social welfare and the philosophical literature on fairness. He has applied his model primarily to organ donation allocation and air traffic scheduling, asking whether the “natural” objective of efficiency is the right one.

Organ donation allocation

UNOS, the United Network for Organ Sharing, is revising its allocation policies, which determine how deceased-donor organs are offered to patients on a waiting list. Since a successful transplantation typically increases the life expectancy of the recipient, the natural objective for the UNOS might be to maximize the resulting aggregate life year gains. Yet a policy based on this efficiency rationale would fail to account for inequities to particular subsets of patients, based, for example, on their age or overall health status. Professor Trichakis has developed a points-based mechanism that takes fairness constraints as input and in a systematic way designs an allocation policy to maximize anticipated net life year gains while satisfying the fairness constraints. This mechanism has broad applicability to other dynamic allocation problems in health care and beyond.

Air traffic scheduling

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) needs to reallocate landing and take-off slots among the airlines in a way that minimizes system delay costs but also ensures that all gains from optimization are split among the airlines in an equitable fashion. Professor Trichakis has developed a concrete, quantitative statement of the design problem that might be solved as the FAA seeks the “right” operational objective. He also gauges the consequences of various solutions by using detailed historical air traffic data.