Comment author: Joey 08 March 2018 06:52:35PM 13 points [-]

Personally I am not really a fan of job postings being put on this forum. Between all the different EA organizations it would be pretty easy for every second post to be a job ad, and I think that would weaken the forum content for most users. The "Effective Altruism Job Postings" group does a pretty good job at consolidating all jobs that are EA relevant in a central space without cluttering up a space like this.

Comment author: DavidMoss 30 January 2018 06:33:33PM 3 points [-]

I didn't read the post as meaning either "scale is bad if it is the only metric that is used" or "Scale, neglectedness, solvability is only one model for prioritisation. It's useful to have multiple different models...."

When looking at scale in a scale, neglectedness, tractability, framework, it's true that the other factors can offset the influence of scale. e.g. if something is large in scale but intractable, the intractability counts against the cause being considered and at least somewhat offsets the consideration that the cause is large in scale. But this doesn't touch on the point this post makes, which is that looking at scale itself as a consideration, the 'total scale' may be of little or no relevance to the evaluation of the cause, and rather 'scale' is only of value up to a given bottleneck and of no value beyond that. I almost never see people talking of scale in this way in the context of a scale, neglectedness, tractability, framework: dividing up the total scale into tractable bits, less tractable bits and totally intractable bits. Rather, I more typically see people assigning some points for scale, evaluating tractability independently and assigning some points for that and evaluating neglectedness independently and assigning some points for that.

Comment author: Joey 04 February 2018 09:08:38PM 2 points [-]

Thanks, David. Your interpretation is indeed what I was trying to get across.

Comment author: Joey 29 January 2018 08:24:18PM 5 points [-]

Some thoughts on a few of these. I think that EA social safety nets already exist for many people, but it’s not formal in the way you laid out. It’s more based on specific connections and accomplishments. More or less each individual organization and donor has an implicit reputation system that is based on complex and organization/donor specific criteria. Some people will end up fitting multiple positive reputation systems which will give them more safety nets than someone who falls into a few or none. The system is of course dynamic so if you did fall into a category but then your reputation lowered (say by not doing anything that impressive over a long period of time) you could lose a safety net. Additional factors that affect how many safety nets you have in EA also relate to cost. It’s easy to provide a $10k safety net than a $100k safety net. You can imagine why donors/orgs would generally like this system better instead of funding an EA who scores high enough on community agreed on criteria. They could directly fund/support/loan etc someone who directly does well on their criteria.

To put this into a more practical perspective, I would expect that an EA with a strong enough reputation would be able to get support for a while doing entrepreneurship without getting insta-VCed. Likewise, the bar would be lower for a low/no interest loan. I think a case could be made that the system is ineffective or in-groupy and misses people who it should not. However, I think it’s worth acknowledging that informal systems like this definitely exist, so it’s more about the marginal cases who would not get supported by an informal system but would get supported by a formal one. For folks who want to do high risk projects but do not currently have informal connections/safety nets it seems worth considering just building up your reputation. This can be done with pretty low risk things like volunteering part time for an organization.

I agree with the career trajectory points and know that some but definitely not all EAs take this into consideration when determining salary.

Comment author: MichaelPlant 12 January 2018 12:11:13AM *  8 points [-]

I worry you've missed the most important part of the analysis. If we think what it means for a "new cause to be accepted by the effective altruism movement" that would proably be either:

  1. It becomes a cause area touted by EA organisations like Give Well, CEA, or GWWC. In practice, this involves convincing the leadership of those organisations. If you want to get a new cause in via this route, that's end goal you need to achieve; writing good arguments is a means to that end.

  2. you convince individuals EA to change what they do. To a large extent, this also depends on convincing EA-org leadership, because that's who people look to for confirmation a new cause has been vetted. This isn't necessarily stupid on the part of individual EAs to defer to expert judgement: they might think "Oh, well if so and so aren't convinced about X, there's probably a reason for it".

This seems as good as time as any to re-plug the stuff I've done. I think these mostly meet your criteria, but fail in some key ways.

I first posted about mental health and happiness 18 months ago and explained why poverty is less effective than most will think and mental health more effective. I think I was, at the time, lacking a particular charity recommendation though (I now think Basic Needs and Strong Minds look like reasonable picks); I agree it's important new cause suggestions have 'shovel ready' project.

I argued you, whoever you are, probably don't want to donate the Against Malaria Foundation. I explain it's probably a mistake for EAs to focus too much on 'saving lives' at the expense of either 'improving lives' or 'saving humanity'.

Back in August I explain why drug policy reform should be taken seriously as new cause. I agree that lacks a shovel ready project too, but, if anything, I think there was too much depth and rigour there. I'm still waiting for anyone to tell me where my EV calcs have gone wrong and drug policy reform wouldn't be more cost-effective than anything in GiveWell's repertoire.

Comment author: Joey 15 January 2018 01:51:43AM 3 points [-]

So I think we agree on some things and disagree on others. I think that getting large EA organizations to adopt the cause definitely helps but is but is not necessary. Animal rights as a whole, for example, is not mentioned at all on GiveWell or GWWC and it’s listed as a 2nd tier area by 80,000 Hours (, but it is still pretty clearly endorsed by EA as a whole. If by EA orgs you mean EA orgs of any size, I do think that most cause areas that are accepted by the EA movement will get organizations started in it in time. I think that causes like wild animal suffering and positive psychology are decent examples of causes that have gotten some traction without major pre-existing organizations endorsing them. It might also come down to disagreements about definitions of “in EA”.

I almost put your blogs into this post as a positive example of what I wish people would do, but I wanted to keep the post to a lower length. In general, I think your efforts on mental health have updated more than a few EAs in positive directions towards it, including myself. There has been some related external content and research on this topic in part because of your posts and I would put a nontrivial chance on some EAs in the next 1-5 years focusing exclusively on this cause area and starting something in it. In general, I would expect adoption to new causes to be fairly slow and start with small numbers of people and maybe one organization before expanding to be on the standard go-to EA list.

I think if I were to guess what is holding back mental health / positive psych as a cause area it would be having a really strong concrete charity to donate to. By strong charity, I mean strong CEA but also focus on narrow set of interventions, decent evidence base/track record, strong M&E, and decently investigated by an external EA party (would not have to be an org. Could be an individual.) Something like Strong Minds might be a good fit for this.

Comment author: VinceB 04 January 2018 02:55:20AM 0 points [-]

That Code link is broken, check it. Would love to star it and take a look :) Im crazy buzy (arent we all?) but it might be worth a look for sure.

GL on those RCTs! heres to getting 20k samples!

Comment author: Joey 04 January 2018 05:08:18PM 1 point [-]

Fixed now :)

Comment author: VinceB 31 December 2017 08:19:58PM 2 points [-]

Ahoy all, first post here super excited!

Charity Science Health - Do they detail the plans for their RCT? Have the looked at the current research for contexts in which the intervention is more or less effective?

The RCTs are promising but I would think the cash they are asking for would get them something north of 2k participants (correct me if thats naive).

Also, is their code open source/do they need some one to code for em? Have they looked at charging clinics a small fee for the repeat customers or would that burn them most likely?

Comment author: Joey 01 January 2018 06:32:52PM *  2 points [-]

Congrats on first post.

You can see our most detailed current plans for the RCT in this concept note or this spreadsheet. We are still nailing down the partners we are working with and the end line budget we will have, so they are subject to some change. We have considered the existing evidence base fairly carefully and you can see our summary of other studies here.

We have estimates at different sample sizes, but generally we are looking in the 5k-20k range of participants dependent on funding and exact study design.

Indeed our code is open source and we would love help on it. We are about to put up a volunteering/internship opportunity to help us with it. You can see the code here.

Sadly clinics would not provide funding for our program, at least not the low income clinics in our target areas. It might be different with private clinics, but they generally target demographics that are less productive to send reminders to (due to having higher baseline vaccination rates)

Comment author: vollmer 22 December 2017 10:23:48AM 1 point [-]

Do you still have RFMF?

Comment author: Joey 22 December 2017 04:55:12PM 3 points [-]

Yes indeed we do!

Comment author: Maxdalton 07 November 2017 08:54:44AM *  3 points [-]

[My views, not my employer's.] Just a data point, but I interpreted "We have experimented with different levels of salaries between 10k and 50k USD and have not found increasing the salary increases the talent pool in the traits we would like to see more of." to mean that you had advertised salaries between 10k and 50k. I don't know if others would have misinterpreted it in the same way.

Does that statement instead mean "When we asked people who made it through to late interview stages what salary they required, candidates who asked for 50k salaries were not on average better qualified than those who asked for 10k salaries."? If it does, this suggests that of relatively well-qualified candidates who thought that CS would meet their salary requirements, salary didn't seem to affect quality between 10k and 50k. But you might be missing some better-qualified candidates who required a 45k salary, but thought that CS wouldn't be able to meet that requirement, or who felt uncomfortable asking for such a salary given that they knew other people at the organisation took lower salaries. So I worry that there will still be some effect of shrinking the applicant pool that you're not accounting for.

(Maybe you advertised the salary as a range (20k to 50k), then asked candidates where they wanted to be on the range. In that case, I think my worry is slightly weakened, but that people might still feel uncomfortable asking for the higher end, given CS's reputation for people taking low salaries.)

Comment author: Joey 07 November 2017 02:49:53PM 1 point [-]

We generally post job ads without specific salaries. 50k is the highest that someone has asked that we have paid. It is not the highest people in late stage interviews have asked (it would range from 10k-100k if we used that criteria). My sense from most of my interviews is that candidates did not have a strong sense of the salary range of CS. We are more public about this now and more well known now than we were for the majority of the interviews I am speaking of.

Comment author: Gregory_Lewis 07 November 2017 04:40:26AM 5 points [-]

FWIW: Although part of this might be anchoring (it perhaps 'hurts more' to go down in salary rather than start at a low salary level) I don't think I'd have taken my current role as a researcher at FHI for salaries at the 20k sort of level (when adjusted for living expenses etc.) but much more palatable at the upper end of the 20-50k interval.

I regret I am far from a moral saint (like e.g. Xio and yourself, Julia Wise and Jeff Kaufmann, many others), and I expect I am less virtuous in this respect (and many others) than the typical EA who would contemplate direct work. But, insofar as one thinks some counterpart of mine (e.g. EA aligned medical doctor who specialised in public health and who was passionate about global poverty) could be an effective hire at a group like this, I think this offers evidence against a really strong correlation between altruistic ardour and the traits of efficacy you desire.

[I suspect asking for what salary a candidate looks for given public knowledge about the extremely low salary you and other employees claim may implicitly screen out people pre-application who would only work for more generous remuneration.]

Comment author: Joey 07 November 2017 02:49:15PM 2 points [-]

I think the traits we are looking for in a senior hire are pretty complex and fairly rare even in the EA movement, so it's hard to take a strong counterexample without me interviewing someone to see if they would be a good fit.

It would be interesting for my next senior hire to explicitly put a higher range (e.g. 50-100k) and see if the application pool changes dramatically. My expectation is we would get more total applications but the same number from the category we would considering hiring in the end (0-2 candidates).

Comment author: oge 06 November 2017 02:59:27PM 1 point [-]

Hi Joey, how can one apply for Charity Science's tech lead position? The link on your jobs page just goes to a Github repo.

Comment author: Joey 07 November 2017 12:05:03AM 1 point [-]

Great to see you are so keen. The job ad was not yet finished and public. It is now public and attached to that page.

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