Is EA growing? A concrete study idea to find out (and a $100 offer for implementation)


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With a lot of investment in intentionally growing the EA movement this year, I'm curious if some concrete activities have caused EA to grow in noticeable ways.

In particular, I'm interested in looking at the impact of...

  • The publication of “Doing Good Better” by Will Macaskill
  • The publication of “The Most Good You Can Do” by Peter Singer
  • EA Global
  • GiveWell announcing its new top charities + associated mass media
  • Giving What We Can’s pledge drive

...on

  • Google searches for “effective altruism”
  • Visits to the EA Forum
  • Amount of posts on the EA Forum
  • Number of people who have joined the EA Facebook group
  • Number of posts on the EA Facebook group
  • Visits to the GWWC website and sign-ups to their newsletter
  • Number of Giving What We Can pledges
  • Visits to the GiveWell site and sign-ups to their newsletter
  • Visits to 80,000 Hours website and sign-ups to their newsletter
  • Visits to effectivealtruism.org and sign-ups for the EA newsletter
  • Number of mentions in the press by people unaffiliated by EA
  • Number of people who have created an EA Profile or put themselves on the map of EAs
  • Visits to TLYCS website
  • Signups to TLYCS newsletter

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I think doing this analysis could provide some good time-order evidence of causality between certain EA activities and the growth of the EA movement in different areas. It might also allow us to make further judgements about (a) whether certain effects are just “flashes in the pan” or sustainable and repeatable ways to grow the movement or (b) whether certain actions grow some parts of the EA movement but not others.

Of course, doing such an analysis is a bit reductive and the raw numbers might not be good enough to capture all the ways in which the EA movement grows, especially on key metrics we might care about, like growing existing EAs, growing donation totals, coming up with new EA ideas that improve the movement as a whole, and creating significant career changes. Still, I think having this analysis could be helpful for deciding where to invest in the EA movement.

Furthermore, it’s possible that some of the dependent variables (e.g., visits to the EA Forum) might be affected by things outside the event of interest (e.g., during the same time of EA Global but independently of EA Global, there is a campaign to post EA Forum articles on Reddit, which brings in traffic). This is a limitation of any time-order but non-experimental analysis, but the hope is by tracking enough variables that this limitation can be smoothed out.


I unfortunately don’t have much time to think about this or implement it myself, but I think it is important enough to put some money on it. I’m willing to offer...
  • $2 to anyone who suggests an event or variable to look at that I merit is worth considering
  • $10 to anyone who improves this study design itself in a way that causes me to update this document
  • $100 to whomever successfully implements this study and publishes the results publicly (though email me at peter@peterhurford.com if you intend to do so, to avoid duplication of effort).

All the data needed for the study should be readily available -- contact me by email if you need help accessing a particular data source and I can tell you where to look or whom to ask for the data.

The money will come in the form of either me giving the money to you over PayPal or through me donating to a charity of your choice. The money is coming from my personal savings and would counterfactually not have been used for any donations.

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Update: Eric Yu did this, writing "Effects of major events on EA activity". (Here's my $100 donation.)