Comment author: Michelle_Hutchinson 04 June 2018 03:39:39PM *  5 points [-]

Thanks for writing a summary of your progress and learnings so far, it's so useful for the EA community to share its findings.

A few comments:

You might consider making the website more targeted. It seems best suited to undergraduate theses, so it would be useful to focus in on that. For example, it might be valuable to increase the focus on learning. During your degree, building career capital is likely to be the most impactful thing you can do. Although things like building connections can be valuable for career capital, learning useful skills and researching deeply into a topic are the expected goals a thesis and so what most university courses give you the best opportunity to do. Choosing a topic which gives you the best opportunity for learning could mean, for example, thinking about which people in your department you can learn the most from (whether because the best researchers, or because they are likely to be the most conscientious supervisors), and what topic is of interest to them so that they'll be enthusiastic to work with you on it.

People in academia tend to be sticklers wrt writing style, so it could be worth getting someone to copy edit your main pages for typos.

Coming up with a topic to research is often a very personal process that happens when reading around an area. So it could be useful to have a page linking to recommended EA research / reading lists, to give people an idea of where they could start if they want to read around in areas where ideas are likely to be particularly useful. For example you might link to this list of syllabi and reading lists Pablo compiled.

Comment author: DavidJanku 05 June 2018 11:43:51PM 2 points [-]

Thanks for your comment!

Choosing a topic which gives you the best opportunity for learning could mean, for example, thinking about which people in your department you can learn the most from (whether because the best researchers, or because they are likely to be the most conscientious supervisors), and what topic is of interest to them so that they'll be enthusiastic to work with you on it.

I agree. This is one of the inefficiencies of the "list of predefined topics" concept we would like to improve by shifting to Thesis Topic Coaching. The plan is to count in the individual supervisor availability when offering topics. However, I guess that most students' supervisors won't be mainly focused on some EA topic so we will have to find a balance between advising to choose a topic which the supervisor is mainly focused on and a degree to which the topic relates to EA causes for each student individually.

Coming up with a topic to research is often a very personal process that happens when reading around an area

You mean reading generally about EA? The value we wanted to add by this project is not to compile general reading lists in which students would have to search themselves, but helping them in the process of choosing a topic individually by directing them toward specific EA sub-topics relevant to their degree, experience and circumstances.

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 02 June 2018 07:56:16AM *  3 points [-]

This is awesome!

One thing which might be worth emphasizing is comparative advantage. For example, suppose I'm an econ student in a department that's known for X, Y, and Z. My pool of potential advisors includes some of the world's leading experts on X, Y, and Z, and I'm well-positioned to apply those ways of thinking to problems of EA interest. So a good strategy might be something like: Identify topics in your field of study (that you find personally interesting, that are currently hot research areas, that your advisor is interested in, etc.), and identify EA topics that you think are important/interesting, then create a 2d grid where you examine intersections of topics in your field/EA topics and see which are fertile.

To take this even further, thesis writers could ask questions like: What is the most beneficial/harmful research that has been done in my field so far from an EA perspective, and how can I do research that is likely to be beneficial and not harmful? If someone was to write a history of my field from an EA perspective, what might it look like? I would be interested to know what the "outside view" says about which research is likely to be beneficial in various fields.

You've probably already seen this thread, but if not you should take a look; many of the projects are research projects.

Some of the top EA research organizations are heavily time-constrained, and unable to spend much effort on proposing thesis topics

To make maximally good use of researcher time, it might be good to thoroughly familiarize yourself with publicly available info before having conversations. I added a comment to the other thread linking to some more obscure AI safety problem lists that could be useful (in addition to those in the main post).

This thread talks about the value of having a central clearinghouse for EA research, which is something you might aim to do in the long run.

Comment author: DavidJanku 05 June 2018 11:38:00PM 2 points [-]

Thanks for the comment!

So a good strategy might be something like: Identify topics in your field of study (that you find personally interesting, that are currently hot research areas, that your advisor is interested in, etc.), and identify EA topics that you think are important/interesting, then create a 2d grid where you examine intersections of topics in your field/EA topics and see which are fertile.

That's what we plan to do, with the fact that the grid work will be done by our coaches, who we believe have a comparative advantage in doing this since they have a better overview of EA research landscape and can assess better what students' opportunities are.

Comment author: DavidJanku 05 December 2017 12:24:09AM 0 points [-]

That´s exactly what we would appreciate in our Czech EA Chapter! I´ve tried to message you at the provided email address, but it came back undelivered saying "the group you tried to contact (effective-altruism) may not exist, or you may not have permission to post messages to the group". Would you please reply me at david.janku@efektivni-altruismus.cz?