Comment author: ClaireZabel 03 October 2017 05:49:37AM 1 point [-]

An Open Phil staff member made a rough guess that it takes them 13-75 hours per grant distributed. Their average grant size is quite a bit larger, so it seems reasonable to assume it would take them about 25 hours to distribute a pot the size of EA Grants.

My experience making grants at Open Phil suggests it would take us substantially more than 25 hours to evaluate the number of grant applications you received, decide which ones to fund, and disburse the money (counting grant investigator, logistics, and communications staff time). I haven't found that time spent scales completely linearly with grant size, though it generally scales up somewhat. So while it seems about right that most grants take 13-75 hours, I don't think it's true that grants that are only a small fraction of the size of most OP grants would take an equally small fraction of that amount of time.

Comment author: Roxanne_Heston  (EA Profile) 03 October 2017 11:34:54AM *  0 points [-]

Right, neither do I. My 25-hour estimate was how long it would take you to make one grant of ~£500,000, not a bunch of grants adding up to that amount. I assumed that if Open Phil had been distributing these funds it would have done so by giving greater amounts to far fewer recipients.

Comment author: ThomasSittler 30 September 2017 09:00:14PM *  3 points [-]

Internally we value the average CEA staff hour at ~$75

This is $75 roughly in "EA money" (i.e. OpenPhil's last dollar), yes? It's significantly lower than I thought. However, I suspect that this intuition was biased (upward), because I more often think in terms of "non-EA money". In non-EA money, CEA time would have a much higher nominal value. But if you think EA money can be used to buy good outcomes very cost-effectively (even at the margin) then $75 could make sense.

Comment author: Roxanne_Heston  (EA Profile) 02 October 2017 11:34:15AM 1 point [-]

For what it's worth, Owen thinks I should use at least double $75/hour, given the experience of the staff working on the project and the nature of the work.

Comment author: MichaelPlant 01 October 2017 12:50:13AM 1 point [-]

All this was hard to follow.

Comment author: Roxanne_Heston  (EA Profile) 02 October 2017 10:15:34AM 0 points [-]

Something we can do to clarify?

Comment author: RomeoStevens 02 October 2017 02:46:20AM 2 points [-]

Is cea considering awarding prizes to papers that advance core areas after the fact?

Comment author: Roxanne_Heston  (EA Profile) 02 October 2017 10:14:51AM 0 points [-]

Hm, we haven't considered this in particular, although we are considering alternative funding models. If you think we should prioritize setting something like this up, can you make the case for this over our current scheme or more general certificates of impact?

Comment author: vipulnaik 01 October 2017 12:51:16AM 1 point [-]

Thanks for the detailed post, Roxanne! I am a little confused by the status of the recipients and the way these grants are treated by recipients from an accounting/tax perspective.

First off, are all the grants made to individuals only, or are some of them made to corporations (such as nonprofits)? Your spreadsheet lists all the recipients as individuals, but the descriptions of the grants suggest that in at least some cases, the money is actually going to an organization that is (probably) incorporated. Three examples: Oliver Habryka for LessWrong 2.0 (which he has reported at http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/pes/lw_20_strategic_overview/ is a project under CFAR), Katja Grace for AI Impacts (which is a separate organization, that used to be classified as a project of MIRI), and Kelly Witwicki (whose work is under the Sentience Institute). If the grant money for some grants is going to corporations rather than individuals, is there a way to see in which cases the grant is going to a corporation, and what the corporation is?

Secondly, I was wondering about the tax and reporting implications of the grants that are made to individuals. Do the receiving individuals have to treat the grants as personal income? What if somebody is coordinating a project involving multiple people and splitting the money across different people? Do you directly pay each of the individuals involved, or does the person doing the coordination receive the totality of the money as personal income and then distribute parts to the other people and expense those?

Comment author: Roxanne_Heston  (EA Profile) 02 October 2017 10:08:15AM 1 point [-]

are all the grants made to individuals only, or are some of them made to corporations (such as nonprofits)?

Some of them are going to nonprofits and other institutions, yes.

is there a way to see in which cases the grant is going to a corporation, and what the corporation is?

This wasn't something we'd considered publishing, and I'm not sure what if any privacy concerns this could raise. If there's a good case for doing so I'm happy to consider adding that information.

Do the receiving individuals have to treat the grants as personal income?

Unfortunately, in cases where we paid individuals directly they do have to treat them as personal income. We might have been able to avoid this in some cases by giving the money as scholarships, although as far as I'm aware this would have been a big hassle to set up. It's on the table for future rounds if it seems worth the setup cost.

What if somebody is coordinating a project involving multiple people and splitting the money across different people? Do you directly pay each of the individuals involved, or does the person doing the coordination receive the totality of the money as personal income and then distribute parts to the other people and expense those?

In four of five cases the money went to an institution with whom the recipient will coordinate multi-person distribution. In the fifth case the money went directly to an individual who had yet to designate the other recipient, so we gave them the totality to distribute themselves.

Comment author: vipulnaik 30 September 2017 11:13:34PM 2 points [-]

It now went from 20,000 to 200,000. Is that what you intended? My crude calculation yields a number closer to 20,000 than 200,000.

Comment author: Roxanne_Heston  (EA Profile) 02 October 2017 09:57:12AM 0 points [-]

Sloppy editing; thanks for the catch. It should actually be fixed now.

Comment author: Michael_PJ 30 September 2017 11:15:47AM 3 points [-]

Interesting! Is there a plan to evaluate the grant projects after they reach some kind of "completion" point?

Comment author: Roxanne_Heston  (EA Profile) 30 September 2017 03:40:31PM 5 points [-]

Yes, although what exactly that will entail is still being worked out.

There's the weak form of evaluation -- whether or not they completed the objectives they set out when applying -- which we're doing for both "is this an obviously bad project?" and legal compliance reasons. We're also hoping to do Fermi estimates on the value produced as a result of projects, both changes in value in the world and of the recipient.

Since I'm not going to be in charge of this, though, this is more my recommendation for what to do than a plan.

Comment author: ThomasSittler 30 September 2017 09:34:52AM *  3 points [-]

Thanks for this post, Roxanne! I found the grants spreadsheet especially interesting.

My guess would be that the main cost of EA grants was CEA staff time, not the £500,000. Would you agree? And what do you think the ratio is, very roughly?

When it comes to the CEA staff time counterfactual, you write:

Had CEA staff not worked on this program, we would have accelerated progress on writing collated EA content, built out the EA events infrastructure, and worked on plans for EA academic engagement.

This is a description of the counterfactual; not an evaluation. Would you like to venture a guess as to whether spending time on EA grants was better than this counterfactual? :)

Comment author: Roxanne_Heston  (EA Profile) 30 September 2017 03:33:07PM *  2 points [-]

My guess would be that the main cost of EA grants was CEA staff time, not the £500,000. Would you agree? And what do you think the ratio is, very roughly?

It depends on the value you place on CEA staff time. Internally we value the average CEA staff hour at ~$75 ($50-$150, depending on the nature of the work), so 840 * £56 = £47,040 in opportunity cost, plus real staff costs. This suggests that staff time wasn't the main cost, unless you think the counterfactual uses of time would have been far more impactful than our average.

This is a description of the counterfactual; not an evaluation. Would you like to venture a guess as to whether spending time on EA grants was better than this counterfactual? :)

Really tricky for me to say, especially because I have incentive to think this was the right choice. That being said, it does seem right to me, primarily because of the haste consideration: https://80000hours.org/2012/04/the-haste-consideration/.

As I noted elsewhere in the piece, "about one quarter of the projects wouldn’t have happened at all, and the rest would have received less time." This makes the immediate multipliers pretty high. We spent about 0.42 years of CEA staff time and gained (really rough guess) 10 years of counterfactual EA time. Since a lot of people we sponsored are doing movement-building work in some form, I expect their activities to have multipliers, too.

The counterfactual activities are higher risk but vie for long-run value similar to that we expect the recipients to produce. (e.g. Theron Pummer is writing introductory EA content and trying to engage academics.)

Comment author: rohinmshah  (EA Profile) 30 September 2017 05:56:31AM 2 points [-]

CEA distributed £20,000 per hour worked by the grants team, whereas we estimate Open Phil distributes ~£600 per hour.

Those numbers are switched around, right?

Comment author: Roxanne_Heston  (EA Profile) 30 September 2017 03:05:36PM 0 points [-]

Oops, yes they were. Fixed. Thanks!

In response to EAGx Relaunch
Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 04 August 2017 07:17:55AM 1 point [-]

What's the timeframe in which CEA will be accepting applications to host/organize EAGx events?

Comment author: Roxanne_Heston  (EA Profile) 17 August 2017 01:29:53AM 0 points [-]

The next upcoming deadline is August 30th, with new application deadlines every quarter. You can find more details about this here: https://www.eaglobal.org/eagx-when/

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