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Julia_Wise comments on Fact checking comparison between trachoma surgeries and guide dogs - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: Julia_Wise 15 May 2017 02:31:36PM 3 points [-]

Thanks for researching and writing this up! We've been discussing the topic a lot at CEA/Giving What We Can over the last few days. I think this points to the importance of flagging publication dates (as GiveWell does, indicating that the research on a certain page was current as of a given date but isn't necessarily accurate anymore). Fact-checking, updating, or just information flagging as older and possibly inaccurate was on our to-do list for materials on the Giving What We Can site, which go back as much as 10 years and sometimes no longer represent our best understanding. I now think it needs to be higher priority than I did.

For individuals rather than organizations, I'm unsure about the best way to handle things like this, which will surely come up again. If someone publishes a paper or blog post, how often are they obliged to update it with corrected figures? I'm thinking of a popular post which used PSI's figure of around $800 to save a child's life. In 2010 when it was written that seemed like a reasonable estimate, but it doesn't now. Is the author responsible for updating the figure everywhere the post was published and re-published? (That's a strong disincentive for ever writing anything that includes a cost-effectiveness estimate, since they're always changing.) Does everyone who quoted it or referred to it need to go back each year and include a new estimate? My guess is it's good practice, particularly when we notice people creating new material that cites old figures, to give them a friendly note with a link to newer sources, with the understanding that this stuff is genuinely confusing and hard to stay on top of.

Comment author: saulius  (EA Profile) 15 May 2017 03:15:16PM 0 points [-]

It's obviously impossible to enforce everyone to update figures all the time. If there is an old publication date, everyone probably understands that it could be outdated. I just think that the date should be always featured prominently. E.g. in this page it could be better. I think that flagging pages the way GiveWell does is a great idea. But featured pages that have no date should probably be checked or updated quite often. I mean pages like "top charities", "what we can achieve" and "myths about aid" in GWWC's case.