Once the questions are in hand, a panel of judges will choose the ones to be answered by big data scientists and other entrants, Merkin says, and the answers will be addressed by the growing community of scientists brought together initially by interest in the Heritage Health Prize.
The data needed to answer these questions has already been collected and is just waiting for the right questions to be asked, Merkin says.
Merkin also addressed recent indications that, as laid out in the original competition rules, the Heritage Health Prize grand prize of $3 million may not be awarded in full this June. There is no guarantee that the competition for the grand prize will be extended beyond June.
Merkin likened the Heritage Prize, a data-mining, predictive-modeling competition to reduce avoidable hospital visits, to the Orteig Prize, a $25,000 award offered in 1919 to the first aviator to fly nonstop from New York to Paris, or vice-versa.
"Originally, no one flew transatlantically," Merkin says. "At the time they thought it was too hard, too dangerous, and actually people died trying." The contest was then extended, he notes.
The eventual 1927 winner, U.S. Air Mail pilot Charles Lindbergh, had minimal financial backing and experience, but gambled on a different approach to the challenge than other challengers, Merkin notes.
"He was successful, and started an entire new industry flying transatlantically," Merkin says.