EA Forum Prize: Winners for April 2019

by Aaron Gertler2 min read4th Jun 201912 comments


Forum PrizeCommunity

CEA is pleased to announce the winners of the April 2019 EA Forum Prize!

In first place (for a prize of $999): "Interview with Jon Mallatt about invertebrate consciousness," by MaxCarpendale.

In second place (for a prize of $500): "Farmed Fish Welfare Report," by kierangrieg.

In third place (for a prize of $250): “Literature Review: Distributed Teams,” by Elizabeth.

For the previous round of prizes, see our March post.

What is the EA Forum Prize?

Certain posts exemplify the kind of content we most want to see on the EA Forum. They are well-researched and well-organized; they care about informing readers, not just persuading them.

The Prize is an incentive to create posts like this. But more importantly, we see it as an opportunity to showcase excellent content as an example and inspiration to the Forum's users.

About the winning posts

Note: I write this section in first-person based on my own thoughts, rather than by attempting to summarize the views of the other judges.

On a meta level, I appreciate how each of April’s winners shows a different approach to how the EA movement can collect knowledge:

  • “Farmed Fish Welfare” is a report commissioned by an EA organization.
  • “Distributed Teams” is a literature review commissioned by an individual.
  • The Jon Mallatt interview, also commissioned by an individual, features the knowledge of an expert collected and transcribed by a member of the EA community.

Thanks to professional organizations and curious individuals, our community is always learning more about the world. This information — wherever it comes from — needs a place to live, and I’m happy that the Forum can provide one.

MaxCarpendale’s interview with Jon Mallatt is a satisfying follow-up to the research plan he posted on the Forum last year. The EA movement isn’t the first group of people to think about consciousness, and I’m personally happy whenever I see us learn from other groups with similar concerns. This transcription is smooth and readable, and includes additional citations which provide further context to Mallatt’s statements.

The facet of this post that most excites me is how scalable the method is — I hope to see many more such transcripts from MaxCarpendale and other EA researchers.

While kierangrieg’s report on fish welfare first appeared on the website of Animal Charity Evaluators, the author added a lot of extra value by:

  1. Writing a novel summary of his findings in the Forum post.
  2. Responding at length to a comment on the report.

Eventually, I’d like to see every major research article in EA find its way to the Forum, ideally with summaries and authorial responses. This report is an excellent example of how to bring interesting work to a broad audience.

Elizabeth’s artfully-written literature review covers a topic of practical import to many EA organizations: does remote work… work? And if so, how do we maximize its potential?

I won’t go into detail on her findings (read the review!), but I’ll point out some features of the post that I especially liked:

  • A “highlights and embellishments” section which shows the author’s key takeaways from the dozens of isolated facts presented in the full review
  • A “sources of difficulty” section which points out weaknesses in the available data
  • The occasional use of personal anecdotes to illustrate points (I appreciate the way that anecdotes aid memory, as long as they’re used to support solid research)
  • The author’s inclusion of a PDF link (Cramton 2016) that they obtained directly from another researcher, giving readers access to information they might not have been able to find themselves

The voting process

All posts published in the month of April qualified for voting, save for:

  • Posts written by CEA staff and Prize judges
  • Posts with no votes from users other than the author
  • Link posts pointing to content not written by the user, if they contained little or no content outside of the link

Prizes were chosen by six people. Three of them are the Forum's moderators (Aaron Gertler, Julia Wise, and Denise Melchin). The others were the three highest-karma users at the time the new Forum was launched (Peter Hurford, Joey Savoie, and Rob Wiblin).

Voters recused themselves from voting on posts written by their colleagues. Otherwise, they used their own individual criteria for choosing posts, though they broadly agree with the goals outlined above.

Winners were chosen by an initial round of approval voting, followed by a runoff vote to resolve ties.


If you have thoughts on how the Prize has changed the way you read or write on the Forum, or ideas for ways we should change the current format, please write a comment or contact Aaron Gertler.


12 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 9:10 PM
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Here is an editable archive of all EA Forum and LessWrong cash-prize essay contest links, with some measures of their web impact. Please feel free to expand, edit, and share - I've got it backed up.

Thanks for creating this! It's very likely that I'll get use out of it in the future, and I'm sure others also appreciate it.

Cool! Here are a few that might be worth including. Perhaps searching the Forum for "prize" or "incentivize" would give more interesting results. Also, I think maybe if you look on Paul Christiano's LW account submissions, there are a few more like this.

Added, thank you! I did already search for terms like that in order to assemble the initial list.

I would like to see a prize or incentive for the best comment on an article in the last month. Has that been tried before? Looking at the number of articles now submitted, I think the forum is doing well on articles. However, the comments and engagement with each submission is still often low. The winning 3 articles this month got only 9-2-2 comments respectively. If they are exemplary of the community and platform (which after a quick browse I have no reason to doubt) surely it would be worth encouraging a few more comments and a bit more discussion?

I'd second this. I think great comments/feedback are underrepresented at this point. Do recognize it would be tricky though.

Thanks for the suggestion! We haven't tried this before, but it's something that we've been thinking about for the last month or so. Many Forum comments are more detailed and labor-intensive than the average post, and I'm a fan of rewarding people.

I'll discuss this further with the judge team and see if we can figure out a good reward system, though any changes would be implemented for the June prize at the earliest.

That sounds like a ton of work. There are a LOT of comments.

You could limit to comments on the winning posts? That would incentivize more comments on the high quality posts. Or just let Aaron do an initial screening / pick himself. I think he reads them all.

Reading to read and reading to choose a winner are different tasks, so even if Aaron chose a winner, I would be surprised if it didn't create a significant amount of extra work.

"Eventually, I’d like to see every major research article in EA find its way to the Forum, ideally with summaries and authorial responses. This report is an excellent example of how to bring interesting work to a broad audience."

-> What would you think about putting it on the forum, but without a nice summary and authorial responses? For instance, as a simple link post? There are a bunch of EA/safety papers coming out from time to time, it seems quite nice to have discussion here, even other details. This wouldn't be too hard to do, it would just require someone to keep a tab of the main papers and the like and make link posts for all of them.

I imagine a further version of this would make it easy to go from document url -> EA forum post, to see comments.

I’d like to see every major research article in EA find its way to the Forum, ideally with summaries and authorial responses. This report [on farmed fish welfare] is an excellent example of how to bring interesting work to a broad audience.

That would certainly be great!