Comment author: cassidynelson 15 March 2018 01:53:08AM 2 points [-]

For the malaria vaccine, what was the additional 2$ cost for? In the citation, it just says it is an assumed constant. Why is it per child and not per dose?

I'm wondering what factor of vaccine production across the spectrum would be most associated with lower cost. I'd imagine R&D timeframe would be a large component, but are there specific cost-related factors that you predict matter more or less? Does making a vaccine that does not require refrigeration lower the cost substantially in rollout?

Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 15 March 2018 06:50:07PM 1 point [-]

For the malaria vaccine, what was the additional 2$ cost for? In the citation, it just says it is an assumed constant. Why is it per child and not per dose?

The additional $2 cost appears to be an amortization of various administration, implementation, and monitoring costs.

but are there specific cost-related factors that you predict matter more or less? Does making a vaccine that does not require refrigeration lower the cost substantially in rollout?

We haven't looked into this in detail so it's hard to say. Making a vaccine that does not require refrigeration would cut down on costs related to maintaining and creating a "cold chain" (continuous refrigerated storage and transportation), but I don't anticipate these costs being that high and I'd expect them to be offset by significantly increased manufacturing costs per dose for making such a vaccine.

We'll have more conclusions on cost and cost effectiveness in future posts.

Comment author: Arepo 09 March 2018 12:34:36AM 0 points [-]

I'm agnostic on the issue. FB groups have their own drawbacks, but I appreciate the clutter concern. In the interest of balance, perhaps anyone who agrees with you can upvote your comment, anyone who disagrees can upvote this comment (and hopefully people won't upvote them for any other reason) and if there's a decent discrepancy we can consider the question answered?

Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 09 March 2018 01:34:24AM *  1 point [-]

I have upvoted Joey's comment to indicate agreement with Joey. I have downvoted the original post too for that same reason.

Right now there's a collective action problem and we're very lucky that so few organizations post job ads here, despite there being a clear incentive for more organizations to try to hire via the EA Forum. Low-effort job ads clutter the EA Forum and bury great posts that some of us have spent dozens of hours writing.

Comment author: zdgroff 06 March 2018 12:20:26AM 2 points [-]

I'm excited to see what happens here! Will you be comparing different areas and the lessons learned to apply to the others? I think lessons from poverty may in some cases translate to animal advocacy and vice versa (and there may be some potential for cross-pollination with growing EA or other causes).

Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 06 March 2018 07:51:32PM 2 points [-]

Thanks! We agree and definitely hope we can bring more empiricism to animal advocacy work.

Comment author: ThomasSittler 06 March 2018 01:42:19PM *  1 point [-]

I'm curious if you've considered applying to work at these organisations and doing the research with them instead?

We might ask: what is the shape of the returns to scale curve on this type of research? If there are economies of scale, people like Peter and Marcus would be more productive working inside bigger organisations. If there are diseconomies of scale, we would want lots of very small research teams.

My guess is that there are massive economies of scale in translating research into action (e.g. research done inside GiveWell has a clear path to influencing millions of $ per year, research of similar quality done by me is unlikely to influence many donations beyond my own). Less clear about quality of research itself, though I'd still guess teams of 10+ inside a single office, with a management structure, is better than very small teams of 1-3.

Of course this is a very simple model. There are, for instance, transition costs.

Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 06 March 2018 07:49:05PM *  6 points [-]

We did consider applying to join these organizations. I (Peter) am personally constrained more in what I can do as long as I want to keep my full-time data science job, as I doubt existing orgs would want to hire me for just 10hrs/week. Marcus is working full-time and has more flexibility to join an organization, but has decided not to.

Broadly, we think working at an organization (we've considered OpenPhil and ACE) has a lot of benefits and resources, but it also has a lot of costs. If we do research on our own, we are free to explore whatever we wish without restriction. Avoiding constraints early makes a lot of sense while we still figure things out and while we're not yet sure which organizations' research agenda we agree with and want to constrain ourselves to.

We're also worried about the slow publication cycle of existing organizations and the lack of public discussion that occurs around EA cause prioritization content. Broadly, we're in an early period where we want to experiment and fail fast, and if we fail, joining an existing organization may be an attractive way to keep going. We're not sure yet if this project is the best path forward, and we're committed to following up and shutting down if it doesn't work out.

Lastly, we think doing this project could be a good way of building up our track record and CV for if and when we do apply to other organizations.

Comment author: Dunja 02 March 2018 10:14:05PM 6 points [-]

This all sounds really great, glad to hear you actually have a whole project on this! :)

Do you plan to use the empirical info you've gathered as guidelines for funding, or what is your idea of how your results could be employed for charity issues?

I'm also curious which factors you plan to investigate when it comes to the EA movement building?

Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 03 March 2018 05:34:50PM 2 points [-]

We do plan to potentially use the research to inform grantmaking and the formation of charities. We hope that charity grantmakers (e.g., OpenPhil) and rankers (e.g., GiveWell, ACE) may find our research useful for their own decision making.

Comment author: inconvenient 03 March 2018 12:24:46PM *  3 points [-]

Have you asked GPI and FHI's macrostrategy team whether they have suggestions for kinds of prioritization research (if any) that you could usefully do? This is a difficult kind of research to do, and LEAN/SHIC/Peter don't have a track record of generating important prioritization considerations in the same way as these other organizations.

Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 03 March 2018 05:33:43PM 6 points [-]

Give us a moment to establish a track record first. We're just starting. ;)

We have not talked with GPI and FHI but are moderately familiar with their work. I think we're suggesting a modestly different approach and research agenda. We'll see over the next few months if it pans out to anything useful.


How much does it cost to roll-out a vaccine?

This essay was jointly written by Peter Hurford and Marcus A. Davis. We previously estimated the cost of developing a vaccine  from scratch to be $460M to $1.9B with a mean of $960M. However, this still does not tell us the full cost of a vaccine, because developing a vaccine... Read More
Comment author: Dunja 25 February 2018 11:02:44AM *  1 point [-]

I don't think you necessarily need academic credentials: submissions to most relevant journals are fully blind, so nobody would actually know whether you have the credentials or not (and if the article is accepted, you can simply be independent scholars with no affiliation, that's really unimportant (as it should be)).

As for the costs: I think you wouldn't need too much time for this. Best would be to combine both essays into one article, make an intro into the topic, check again your sources and other relevant literature and send to a journal somewhere in the field of sociology of science/philosophy of science/science policy. Now, I am not a sociologist of science, so I am not familiar with other relevant literature on this topic (e.g. whether there already are similar estimations, which apply more rigorous standards, which suggest that you'd have to do the same - you could do some research and check this out, unless you've already done so). Just checking randomly online, I see there are studies such as this one, which employ a more rigorous methodology, but I'm not sure if there is something similar concerning time estimates.

Concerning your current sources, while Wikipedia is usually not an academic standard, if you have good reasons why it is for this kind of research (or at least in some of the cases), you could just explicitly state so in the text. Alternatively, if Wiki articles have their own (academic) sources, just cite those.

As for the benefits: I think there'd be a lot of benefits!

First, your results would be peer-reviewed, and even if the article is rejected you'd have a feedback from experts in the field, which would help you to revise your results and make them more accurate. In case someone in academia has already done a similar work, which you haven't been aware of, at least you'll learn this and integrate it with your results.

Second, your results could become a more reliable basis for discussions on science policy: a peer-reviewed source for other scholars and policy makers. (I'd also have a personal interest here: as a philosopher of science, I'd be extremely interested in using your results in my research, and they would be more reliable if they passed a peer-review procedure).

Third, your personal gain would be having a publication in an academic journal :)

Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 26 February 2018 12:01:11AM 0 points [-]

Thanks, that's helpful, and I'm glad you find the research useful. I'll think about it and talk with Marcus (co-author).

Comment author: Dunja 24 February 2018 11:07:47AM *  0 points [-]

This is extremely interesting, only now saw this article (I'm relatively new to the forum). Have you guys thought of publishing this (perhaps in combination with your other essay on the costliness of vaccine development) as a journal article? Beside being useful for science policy estimations, another domain of application for these results could be simulations of scientific inquiry (usually done in terms of agent-based models), where this data could serve as the basis of their empirical calibration. While this method has been increasingly popular in the domain of social epistemology, these models tend to be highly abstract, lacking the input of empirical data that would indicate which parameter choices and which results are relevant for the real world.

Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 25 February 2018 01:41:48AM 0 points [-]

Thanks. We have not considered publishing as a journal article. I'm unsure of how that could be done, especially without formal academic credentials, and what the relevant costs and benefits would be. My initial guess is that it would be pretty time consuming without much benefit.

There are going to be a few more posts in this series on the path to creating some cost-effectiveness estimates, so stay tuned! :D


How much does it cost to research and develop a vaccine?

This essay was jointly written by Peter Hurford and Marcus A. Davis. Previously, we estimated how long it takes to research and develop a vaccine  and came up with a conclusion that it would take “an average of 29 years [to develop a] typical vaccine, though with high uncertainty based... Read More

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