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AviN comments on Concerns with ACE research - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: AviN 10 September 2018 12:49:02AM 2 points [-]

On human poverty, GiveWell is one among several very serious actors. It engages very thoroughly in discussions and explanations when diverging views emerge.

The diverging views in the case of the GiveWell example you gave are from respected research organizations Campbell and Cochrane, with all parties arguing in good faith. This was very different from the case of Nathan's criticisms of ACE.

So again I see a small dissenting voice in the otherwise rather monopolistic position of ACE which is being dismissed without due consideration.

But ACE did reply to Nathan Harrison's criticisms:

https://animalcharityevaluators.org/blog/responses-to-common-critiques/ https://animalcharityevaluators.org/blog/response-to-a-recent-critique-of-our-research/

But again, I want to pause and think about the bigger picture for a while. The fact is that at the time of writing this argument, the organisation Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) had put up a rather comprehensive report explaining that they had come up with the opposite conclusion! (That cage-free reform is actually detrimental to animal wellfare.) I will refrain from discussing it at length here because this comment is already long, but this report of DxE was, in my opinion, dismissed with precious little good argument.

My understanding is that ACE did in fact take DxE's arguments into consideration, and that their relatively pessimistic estimate that cage-free represents a ~5% improvement is informed by many different views, including DxE's arguments that cage-free is harmful. (This is from conversations I've had and I'm not sure if ACE has published this. I agree it would be helpful if ACE published their reasons for this estimate.)

But we have to realize that when it comes to animal suffering, as far as I know ACE is the only game in town.

I'm not sure how you define "the only game in town." There are currently a number of other organizations who do research on effective animal advocacy, including Open Philanthropy, Sentience Institute, Rethink Charity, Faunalytics, Humane Society of the United States, Humane League Labs, Animal Welfare Action Lab, Wild Animal Suffering Research, etc.

Comment author: Jc_Mourrat 10 September 2018 12:24:13PM 0 points [-]

The fact of the matter is that ACE exists since 2013, that corporate outreach is central to its strategy, and that Nathan, DxE, and now Halstead have serious reservations about how the impact of this intervention is assessed. Moreover, it seems to be agreed upon that past mistakes have been substantial and yet have stayed online way too long. So I'm not sure if I found the best way to express it, and I surely wasted a lot of time on material that is regarded as outdated, but I think the point remains that ACE's research has not been sufficiently "tested". I am very happy to see all the progress that has been made and is to be coming at ACE. But I also hope with Halstead that these observations "will encourage external scrutiny of ACE research going forward".

Comment author: KevinWatkinson  (EA Profile) 10 September 2018 11:52:05AM -1 points [-]

Wouldn't referring to other groups likely confirm that it is the only game in town? If they were working on similar issues then there would be cross referencing and a greater degree of accountability. But it seems that hasn't happened at least in some cases and it may or may not be the case there are further issues to be examined elsewhere. In my view there are around moral theory (particularly managing more polarising issues), whilst i would disagree with Jc that meta evaluation isn't useful. Likely it would provide some useful information to consider in one sweep if other organisations aren't doing that work or people too time constrained or just willing to trust in the process. I think it would at least be worthwhile seeing whether it has value in this context and it could also give people more confidence in the process.