Introducing Effective Altruism Policy Analytics: Request for help and expert consultation

by Gentzel 4y12th Jun 201510 comments

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In fall 2014 the Effective Altruism Society of DC and Effective Altruism at UMD started an experimental policy project attempting to bring effective altruism ideas to public policy. We produced comments for regulations on the federal register proposed by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency. By offering independent cost-benefit analysis, we hoped to provide ammunition to any regulator trying to make policy more effective. While direct feedback from agencies is pending, the expected benefits were large enough to bring the project to Effective Altruism Ventures for assistance in conducting a full-time experiment.  


On June 1, 2015, Effective Altruism Policy Analytics (EAPA) began operations, attempting to bring non-partisan, cause-neutral improvements to regulatory action in the United States. It works to determine the best practices for creating influential analysis and to turn that knowledge over to effective altruists. EAPA will offer its findings to the community and create guides and information for effective altruists interested in influencing policy. EAPA is staffed full-time by Matthew Gentzel and Emma Atlas, as well as part time by interns and a host of volunteer consultants. EAPA is still growing an even greater network of experts and volunteers interested in beneficially influencing policy. As the experiment proceeds, EAPA will gather feedback and create a foundation for the Effective Altruism movement to exert more political influence in the future.


Who we are:


Matthew Gentzel spent the first semester of his college education at the United States Air Force Academy, and then transferred to the University of Maryland to major in engineering. Matt first became interested in utilitarianism early on in college and worked on projects with Engineers Without Borders and small start-ups. Matt was introduced to Less Wrong in his junior year of college and helped found Effective Altruism at UMD in the summer before his senior year.

Emma Atlas graduated May 2015 with a Bachelor’s in Government & Politics from the University of Maryland. She worked as an intern in the Maryland General Assembly in Spring 2015 and grew an interest in creating non-partisan effective outcomes. She accepted an offer from Gentzel to help on the project, and began working on the project full-time in June.


Lawrence Roth is currently an undergraduate student majoring in Criminology/Criminal Justice with a minor in Geographic Information Systems at the University of Maryland. He has experience in programming, web design, and statistics. Roth was introduced to effective altruism by Gentzel and has attended events with the Effective Altruism Society of DC. He accepted an intern position at EAPA assisting with any research needs that Atlas and Gentzel require.


Matthew Dahlhausen is a graduate research assistant in the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Maryland and Cluster of Sustainability in the Built Environment (CITY). Matt completed an M.S. (2014) in architectural engineering from the Pennsylvania State University, and graduated cum laude from Dartmouth college with a B.S. (2011) in engineering sciences and B.E. (2011) in environmental engineering. Prior to starting his graduate studies, he served with AmeriCorps as a quality assurance manager for a residential energy retrofit program in Philadelphia. He is a member of the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).


Richard Bruns is an economist at the Food and Drug Administration. His job is to produce economic impact analyses of regulations. Richard has worked on the gluten-free labeling rule, the trans fat ban, and the rule on intentional adulteration of food supplies. Richard has extensive knowledge of the public comment process on regulations and how the FDA responds to these public comments.


Why EAPA?


Writing policy comments could be one of the most efficient ways you can create effective political influence. Federal agencies are often required to post new or proposed regulations online for the public to review and consider, and agencies must return a response to every comment posted by the public. By reviewing policies available for comment and offering analysis when positive influence can be made, you can have a greater impact than you would just by general voting.


As a group focused on facilitating the voice of effective altruists in the federal register, EAPA organizes efforts around targeting the places where we can make the biggest impact. By working and communicating with us, you could become part of the growing voice of effective altruists in government.


How you can help:

If you are an expert and interested in consulting with us, please send your contact information and area(s) of expertise to effectivealtruismatumd@gmail.com with the subject line “EAPA Expert Contact.” If you know someone who may be interested, contact them for permission first, then add their contact information on this form.


We are currently seeking experts in:


  • Global Health

  • Foreign Aid

  • Urban Poverty

  • Housing

  • Criminal Justice

  • Policing

  • Juvenile Justice

  • Education

  • Immigration

  • Free Trade and Tariffs

  • Taxes

  • Economics

  • Impact of Biodiversity changes

  • Climate Change

  • Chemistry and Toxicity


We likely will be requesting more areas of expertise as we find more proposed regulations, so if you are interested but have a specialty outside those areas, feel free to send us your contact information anyway. Policy change is opportunistic, and likewise not all opportunities for cost effective change and feedback are in areas that have typically been investigated by EAs for high potential impact.

In the future, we are looking to offer more in-depth training in writing policy comments and building political influence for effectiveness. We would like to build a network of students and volunteers to examine the federal register and increase the probability that regulations are always efficient, cost-effective, and thoroughly researched.


Questions?
Go to or request to join the EA Policy Reform Facebook group and send us your questions or ideas. If you want to cooperate more closely and avoid duplication of effort, send an introduction to effectivealtruismatumd@gmail.com and we will provide you access to our cooperative documents.