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We are pleased to introduce Cause Innovation Bootcamp (CIB), a project that aims to train researchers interested in EA, while vetting new potential cause areas in Global Health and Development. We achieve this by taking research fellows through a training bootcamp that upskills them on the basics of evidence-based research and then getting them to produce a shallow report (using a standardised template) of a cause area, all whilst being supported by a senior mentor. These reports will then be posted on the EA Forum, and be sent to relevant organisations who the research might be of particular interest to, and for whom it might inform their decision-making. Cause areas are selected through a rough prioritisation which helps us identify which ones we think are most likely to be promising. We are currently running a pilot program for 5-6 fellows (7th Nov. 2022- 20th Dec. 2022).  Applications are open until 30th Oct. 2022 (Sunday)- please apply on the following application form if you are interested.


Why this project?

We identified a few primary bottlenecks in the research infrastructure within EA:

  1. A relative lack of novel research exploring new problem areas and interventions that might beat the current bar and/or be as impactful as current EA focus areas within global health and development- We think that this is important because our ability to most effectively do the most good depends on our ability to either fund or found new interventions within cause areas. We try to solve this by having created a comprehensive database of cause areas within global health and global development, and roughly prioritising them based on burden of disease/number of people affected and tractability. By producing shallow reports on topics that might be promising and are currently under-investigated, we hope that this can reveal potential ‘blindspots’ and ‘low-hanging fruit’. Our database and all shallow reports written will be an open-access resource available to the entire EA research community.
  2. A relative lack of quality researchers (both current and emerging) approaching prioritisation from an EA lens- We think, given that quality research is essential to fund or found promising interventions, researchers are pretty central to the long-term health and strength of the EA movement. We aim to mobilise two groups of talent: (1) motivated EAs who want to be involved in research, but don't currently have the requisite skills and experience, (2) existing researchers in the broader GHD (Global Health and Development) community who might be interested in approaching research from an EA perspective.

Although there are lots of fantastic researchers in EA and the broader GHD community, we know that there is a talent bottleneck. We also know that there are lots of motivated people out there who want to be involved in research!


 What do we do?

Our theory of change is below

Our current assumption is that roughly 50% of the impact is achieved by introducing more good researchers to the EA research ecosystem[1]. We would estimate that the other 50% of the impact to come from research produced through the training program[2]. We aren’t confident about these estimates, and will evaluate these at the end of our pilot program; depending on their results, we might emphasise parts of this Theory of Change that generate the most impact. 

 

What does being a fellow involve?

We are currently running a pilot of our program, and have received funding from the EA Infrastructure Fund to fund 5- 6 research fellows through our program. The program is a 6-week commitment from November 7 2022  -20 December 2022 that involves:

  • Self-study of training modules on research skills- We have 6-8 lessons covering various key research topics (background research, theory of change, evaluating interventions, cost-effectiveness analyses, decision-making tools and how to write up your research, and other research skills), with each lesson linked to specific aspects of the shallow report that you write.
  • Production of a shallow report on one of the topics below (or another one of your choice that we vet and approve).
  • Several check-in calls with a mentor whilst you go through the program to check on your progress and help you troubleshoot any issues along the way.
  • Opportunity to be connected with established researchers and potentially to relevant job opportunities.
  • Assistance with editing your cause area report, so that it can be posted on the EA forum and sent to any relevant organisations. 

We estimate that this will require a time commitment of 10-15 hours per week, for a total of approximately 80 hours. For this, you will be compensated GBP £1000[3].

 

Who should apply?

We imagine that two bootcamp might be most useful for two groups of people:

  1. Motivated EAs who want to be involved in research, but who don't currently have the requisite skills and experience
  2. Existing researchers in the broader GHD community who might be interested in approaching research from an EA perspective

However, we think that there are likely other people who might be a great fit for this program, and we suggest that if you are unsure whether you are a good fit for the program, you err on the side of applying!

 

What cause areas we are interested in for our pilot

For our pilot, we have identified 6 cause areas that we are most excited to see fellows work on. It is important to note that ultimately we care about how promising the interventions within these cause areas are and not the cause area itself. This means that at this stage we have erred on the side of including more cause areas and are also happy to consider ideas that you might have for areas that you think are worth investigating[4]

Income-related problem areas

  • Access to electricity13% of the world’s population does not have access to electricity. This research project involves asking if electricity access improves a household's income/national GDP, which interventions are most cost-effective in delivering access to electricity and who is working on and funding this issue. 
  • People living in slumsAround 1 billion people worldwide live in slums according to UN Habitat’s definition. This research project involves asking how living in a slum impacts someone’s health, happiness and income, which interventions are most cost-effective at alleviating some of the negative consequences and who is working on and funding the issue. 
  • Bridges: A bridge is a structure carrying a pathway or roadway over a depression or obstacle (such as a river) and is a common piece of hard infrastructure put in place by governments. This research project involves asking how bridges can improve a community's health and income prospects and which interventions are most cost-effective to put in place. The project is also supposed to collect information on who is working on building/maintaining and funding bridges. 

Health-related problem areas

  • Age-related and other hearing loss accounts for 40.2 million DALYS per year. This research project involves asking which interventions are most cost-effective in addressing the disease burden of hearing loss, who is working on implementing these interventions and who funds the space. 
  • Falls account for 39.4 million DALYS each year. This research project involves asking which interventions are most effective in alleviating the disease burden of falls, who is working on implementing these interventions and who funds the space. 
  • Meningitis accounts for 16.3 million DALYs each year. This research project involves asking which interventions are most effective in alleviating the disease burden of meningitis, who is working on implementing these interventions, and who is providing funding for this issue. 

Application form

If you have read this post and are interested in applying (or know someone who might be interested), you can apply here! The form should take approximately 30 minutes and closes on 30th Oct. 2022 (Sunday). There will be no interview and we will contact candidates by 4th Nov 2022 (Friday). The program will run from 7th Nov. 2022 - 20th Dec. 2022. 

 

Follow up

After our pilot program, we will evaluate how it went, and where its impact came from. If successful, we would plan to run this program again with more fellows. Ambitiously, we estimate that there are roughly 400-500 distinct cause areas within global health and development, and we could see this bootcamp producing reports on a significant proportion of these.


Acknowledgements 

We would like to acknowledge the EA Infrastructure Fund for the financial support they have provided to the program and the helpful questions they asked. We would also like to acknowledge the people who have provided feedback on the initial idea and development of the project: Jack Rafferty, Joey Savoie. Furthermore, we would like to thank the following people, who gave feedback on this post:  Melanie Basnak, Erik Hausen, David Nash, Chris Smith, and Abe Tolley.




 

  1. ^

     We think that our training program will improve the capacity of existing researchers, and also increase the motivation and number of talented EA researchers. Our key uncertainty about this is whether our program can feasibly achieve this. To address this, we will review the usefulness of our training program after the pilot to assess this, and we plan to potentially run some longer-term follow up with our fellows to understand the impact of the bootcamp (if any).

  2. ^

     We think that these research reports produce impact by informing the decision making of organisations which either fund or found interventions. Our key uncertainties about the ability of this project to realise this impact are: (1) Will this research reach these organisations? (2) Will this research be high quality and decision relevant enough? (3) Do the organisations have the capacity/ability to act on this information? Largely, we think that (1) can be addressed by making all our research publicly available and sending it to specific organisations, (2) can be produced by a strong research and training program, and (3) can be assessed by having conversations with key organisations to understand their needs and capacity.

  3. ^

     Fellows can be based anywhere in the world that we are able to make a payment to; this should mean that practically anyone can apply, but please get in touch if you are unsure and we can talk about your specific case.  Also, if the level of compensation might prohibit you from applying, please get in touch with us.

  4. ^

     The rough criteria we used to prioritise the cause areas at this point are, in rough order: (1) that nobody within the EA ecosystem has comprehensively looked into this before, (2) an area that is large enough (above 1 million DALYs/affecting more than 1 million people) (3) areas which, after a rough prioritisation, we think are likely to have promising interventions, (4) areas that were sufficiently straightforward so less experienced researchers would have a good chance of finding relevant information. 

Comments19
Sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 7:27 AM

Is there a link to the research these fellows produced?

Leonie and Akhil, are there any results from this would could be shared?

Electricity access has not been looked at much by EAs, but the state of the art is this paper which finds that extending electricity access to remote areas does not pass cost-benefit, at least in terms of the economic outcomes.

Not central to this post but just wanted to mention!

FWIW, I found much higher ROI from improving quality of electricity access (e.g. reducing the number of blackouts; based pretty heavily on this paper from Fried and Lagakos) than from improving the quantity of electricity supplied.

Makes sense! The cost of electrification, especially in remote areas, is probably far higher than the cost of improving electricity infrastructure. The description in the post also focuses (in my reading) on household electrification, while Fried and Lagakos focuses on the effects on firms, which likely have higher returns. Most people I've spoken to agree that the frontier is looking at benefits to the production side.

Yes, we also came to the conclusion that firm electrification > household electrification.  My comment was meant as a gentle suggestion that perhaps electricity access is not the highest ROI margin.  ;)

Thanks for sharing! We will make sure the fellow who is working on this will have a look at that paper.

Please could you make the self study modules freely available for other people to do in their own time?

Thanks for that question! We will finish running the pilot program at the end of the year and update the program on the basis of feedback received from the fellows. At that point we will be in a position to make the material more widely available. 

To  ask what should be the obvious question, How do you plan to compare the different causes to each other? What metrics will you us? My obligatory plug is for the Wellbeing Life-Years, aka WELLBY, approach

Thanks for the question! We are asking fellows to consider the effects of the problem they are researching on income, physical well-being and subjective well-being. We do however expect that the data availability on subjective well-being for most of the interventions will be thin, so there will likely be some limitations to that line of analysis. 

From the application form:

> Do a quick back of the envelope calculation of the cost-effectiveness...

Did you want us to show our working? I want to resolve the ambiguity because writing up the working such that it's understandable by another person would make the task take, like, 3 times as long as it otherwise would.

Yes, we would appreciate you sharing your working. We will also clarify that on the application form, thanks for asking :) 

I heard from a colleague that you are looking for mentors to provide feedback on final drafts, and I am interested in participating. How can I apply?

Great! We just sent you a private message.

This sounds like a great project and I would really like to participate, but cannot make the commitment for that date span.  Is there a good way to stay in the loop for future cohorts?  Thanks!

These options might go some way towards doing what you want:

Is this going to be run again?

when will the next fellowship take place? I am interested