EA Animal Welfare Fund: Request for Proposals Regarding Scoping Research/Project(s) on Neglected yet Large-Scale Animal Populations

by kierangreig8 min read3rd Sep 20211 comment

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Effective Altruism FundsRequest for proposalAnimal Welfare FundAnimal welfare
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As part of our AWF grantmaking, we’d like to receive more applications for “scoping research/projects” (full-time or part-time) related to “neglected yet large-scale animal populations.” This RFP aims to help solicit applications along those lines, by listing examples of some such animal populations, as well as more concretely outlining what we mean by scoping research/projects, and then concluding with some further information about both our rationale and application process. 

Note, this post expands on just one general area that we would like to see additional proposals from and that may require active funding from us. Our previous RFP lists other areas that are also like this. Furthermore, areas that we would like to see more proposals from aren't entirely reflective of the fund’s overall priorities.1 Instead, in some other important areas we are more satisfied with the proposals that we receive, and the grantees we have identified. So to be absolutely clear, the type(s) of work broadly outlined in this RFP aren’t the fund’s only area of priority, we’re still quite interested in other areas, and will allocate funding accordingly.  

Neglected Yet Large-Scale Animal Populations 

With all that said, here are neglected yet large-scale animal populations that we would like to see more proposals focused on:

  1. Farmed baitfish2
  2. Fish used for stocking purposes3
  3. Wild-caught fish4
  4. Farmed or wild-caught shrimps or prawns
  5. Some farmed rodents, amphibians, or reptiles
  6. Most invertebrates that are used/killed on industrial scales5
  7. Urban wild animals6
  8. Most species of wild animals with a population size of greater than ~1 billion

A simple rule defining neglected yet large-scale animal populations are that both the following apply: 

  1. Annually less than ~$1 per 10,000 animals relatively directly goes towards helping that population of animals
  2. The total size of that population of animals is more than ~1 billion

Possible Scoping Research/Projects

Here are some elements that “scoping research/project” proposals could include (for one or some combination of animal populations):

  • Further estimating the likely size of the population(s) across different locations 
    • For instance, to what extent do some eastern Asian nations farm fish for stocking purposes?7
  • Creating an initial catalogue of the possible ways that this animal population may be helped
    • For instance, what might be some of the most promising ways to help farmed baitfish in the US?
  • Conducting a deeper dive into one (or more) seemingly promising way(s) of helping this animal population
    • For instance, to what extent might purchasing a portion of some countries' individual fishing quota benefit a large number of wild fish?8
    • For example, in terms of benefitting wild animal welfare, how promising may vaccinating some specific wild mammal species against rabies be?
  • Outlining specific unfilled organizational niches that could focus on one of these animal populations
    • For instance, take invertebrates that are used/killed on industrial scales. Unfilled organizational niches might include one(s) focused on:
      • Creating alternatives to their or use/killing
      • Ensuring the key-consumers are aware of alternatives
      • Trialing some campaigns against corporations on these issues
        • In general, for this type of scoping research/project please provide some information and rationale about which organizations seem most valuable within this nascent non-profit area.
  • Providing a somewhat detailed outline of what some promising next steps for an organization that may want to focus on this population are
    • For instance, say a group specialized in consulting with the governing bodies of cities in order to advocate for, and implement policies that would help urban wild animal populations.9
  • Actually trialing some promising idea to help one or some of these animal populations
    • For instance, (tentatively) trial one or some promising idea related to wild animal welfare movement building that no other organization currently works on.10
    • For instance, trial campaigns against companies to stop or reduce the use of silk in fashion garments.11

Examples of Funded Projects

Here are three recent examples of funded projects that seem to be “scoping research/projects on neglected yet large-scale animal populations” (from our previous payout reports): 

Daniel Grimwade & Mark Borthwick: $12,000

Researching how to reduce the number of fish and insects killed for fish feed

On the order of a trillion fish are annually processed into fish meal and fish oil (FMFO) to feed to farmed aquatic animals. Assuming on average that feed insects are ~2,000 times lighter than feed fish, even ~0.01% of the FMFO market being replaced by insects could double the number of animals in that food chain. And already, some report that insect feed will be more profitable than alternatives.

We believe that Daniel Grimwade and Mark Borthwick have a relatively good track record of producing high-quality research; given the importance of their selected research topics, we are excited to fund this project. Some specific research questions of interest to us on this topic include:

  • What proportion of fish feed is currently made from insects?
  • To what extent should we expect FMFO used in farmed fish feed to be replaced by insects? Is there industry interest in this? How feasible is this? On what timeline would it happen?
  • Roughly how much money does the industry put into R&D for alternatives to FMFO? Is there a general consensus that seems to be in favor of the use of plants and/or insects as an alternative?
  • To what degree will fish spared from FMFO use still be caught and used?
  • What could limit the number of fish and/or insects used as feed for farmed fish?

Anonymous: $20,000 

Policy research regarding how to benefit wild animal welfare in Asia

Non-state actors in some Asian nations are increasingly influential in steering environmental policies, which directly impact the welfare of wild animals. It is therefore important to understand these non-state actors, including their comparative strengths in influencing policy. This individual’s scoping research could potentially help organizations in the region to promote certain environmental policies for the benefit of wild animals.

Andrew Fisher: $10,000

Urban wild animal welfare intervention research in southern Africa
This grant is to support Andrew’s exploration of possible interventions to improve the lives of urban wild animal populations (with a regional focus on southern Africa). This area is highly neglected, and we think it might be a promising avenue for finding tractable means to improve wild animals’ lives. 

Some Further Information About our Rationale and Applying

We see scoping research on large-scale yet neglected animal populations as being an important part of a sizable impact iceberg that our movement could realize over the next several years to few decades. Preliminary work on these topics seems like an important part of overall EAA field/movement-building, in that over the coming years it will probably help pave the way for further work in these new areas. Some key mechanisms for it doing so are 1) being helpful in identifying interventions that could improve the welfare of these large-scale animal populations, 2) being helpful in establishing new organizations in emerging areas that could then be scaled up in the coming years, and 3) helping legitimize new important areas for the movement. 

Depending on the nature of the work, we would expect requested funding amounts to generally range from between a few thousand to a few tens of thousands. Quite similar to what Buck notes here, we think that people who put serious time into research deserve adequate compensation for the time they put in, so please don’t let thoughts like “I only work on this for 10 hours a week” or “I’m happy to do this in a volunteer capacity” discourage you from applying. Depending on your cost of living, we’d suggest asking for a rate of $20-50 per hour (this should correspond to ~$15-40/h gross salary).

These past two rounds, large-scale and neglected animal populations have been an area of interest and priority for our Fund. We expect that they may remain so for some time, and correspondingly, we’ll probably like to see more requests for funding on related scoping research/projects for some time!  

If you’re reading this, you may be pretty well-positioned to conduct this work, or know of someone who is. Please feel free to reach out with any questions you have, kieran@effectivealtruismfunds.org-- and we can probably further talk over potential ideas on a call if you would like.  

To submit a proposal, please do so via our application form

If in doubt as to whether to apply or to contact us, please err on the side of doing it! 

Our next deadline for submissions is October 3rd. 

Endnotes

1.  Our payout reports complement our RFPs and in tandem give a fuller picture of our thinking. 

2.  See: Fish used as live bait by recreational fishermen - EA Forum 

3.  See: 35-150 billion fish are raised in captivity to be released into the wild every year - EA Forum 

4.  See: Numbers of fish caught from the wild each year - fishcount.org.uk 

5.  See: The scale of direct human impact on invertebrates - EA Forum 

6.  For instance, think of species of birds or rodents that are really numerous in cities.  

7.  For instance, possibly further exploring this

8.  H/t to Benjamin Freeling for this idea

9.  The US could be an ideal home for such a group because it has numerous large liberal cities. But which cities, in particular, seem best to initially work in? And what is the ideal organization type (e.g., for-profit or non-profit)? What specific policy might be pushed in a city of interest? And how much initial funding might be needed to do so? 

10.  Perhaps a group could focus on building value-aligned coalitions in order to capitalize on future legislative opportunities, or as a precursor to doing some non-controversial lobbying work on wild animal welfare. Might a number of organizations easily sign onto some quite non-controversial statement that is submitted via the normal channels, pertaining to asking a department of a state’s government to consider incorporating the welfare of wild animals into their land management practices? 

11.  Can meetings with these companies be relatively easily secured? To what extent does there seem to be adequate consumer awareness of these issues? Do any companies seem close to pledging to reduce their use of silk products?


 

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This is fantastic! It seems like these are really important potential research areas. 

Also, if you’re a researcher who wants to help animals, I want to point out something that is not flagged and seems extraordinary:

Your research can be directly implemented by creating a new EA org, and this could happen in as little as 12-24 months. 

This is through the Charity Entrepreneurship org (and others too).

To be specific, talented EAs and other entrepreneurs are specifically recruited and incubated to create orgs to execute these ideas. In the past, these people included those with postgraduate degrees, significant work and startup experience (and also willing to work over 50 hours a week under significant uncertainty). They are given seed funding at 6 figures, and larger amounts are possible after a promising pilot suggests impact. 

This implementation of research ideas described above is not merely an idea, wish or dream—in the last 60 days, there have been teams created to implement animal welfare interventions for underserved animal populations.

Again, just to emphasize and be concrete, it’s possible that starting from now, from zero, you can research an underserved animal population, find a promising way to help them, and this can be implemented in as little as 12-24 months—an actual organization with founders, staff and working to improve the lives of the underserved animals.

 

It's hard not to be in awe. This “pipeline” for research to create an org is incredible. It’s hard to think of any other place where anything like this pipeline exists in academic research, non-profits or other communities.