EA Forum Prize: Winners for October 2020

by Aaron Gertler5 min read11th Dec 20204 comments

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CEA is pleased to announce the winners of the October 2020 EA Forum Prize! 

The following users were each awarded a Comment Prize ($75):

See here for a list of all prize announcements and winning posts.

What is the EA Forum Prize?

Certain posts and comments 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 content like this. But more importantly, we see it as an opportunity to showcase excellent work as an example and inspiration to the Forum's users.

About the winning posts and comments

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. In some cases, I may not have voted for the post in question.

What Helped the Voiceless? Historical Case Studies

These case studies motivate the question: How do groups gain or lose relatively durable forms of political power—legal protections and political representation? I introduce and argue for a qualitative, rational-choice model that makes predictions about political inclusion. It makes the simplifying assumptions that political inclusion or exclusion is the outcome of interactions between two groups, and each group acts strategically if it can do so, mostly to advance its own economic self-interest.

To quote Jamie Harris’s comment, “I’m glad to see other people taking an interest in historical evidence to inform questions about global priorities and to inform strategies for moral circle expansion.” This is a well-written, well-structured history post that presents relevant information for work on multiple cause areas.

Specific things I appreciate about Mauricio’s work:

  • It links to a shorter version of the post for readers who didn’t have enough time or interest for the weighty original version. I did this in my own EA-related senior thesis, and I highly recommend it for people who want to share content widely.
  • It includes a diagram to help people visualize the model. Images and infographics are in short supply on the Forum, and I wish we had more of them.
  • It answers a question someone else had asked on the Forum. If you’re ever looking for something to write, people have made many, many suggestions!

Things I Learned at the EA Student Summit

“Almost every EA I spoke to—including the “big names”—seemed authentically and intrinsically motivated to talk to students about their interests and ideas. I honestly think this was my biggest surprise of the conference—there are so many EAs who would genuinely like to talk to you.” 

I’m a bit biased in my review of this post, since it repeats a lot of things that I like to say, but gosh darn it, those things are useful! And I’m glad that people who are newer to EA can hear them from someone else without much experience. This post does a better job than almost anything else I’ve read of portraying the EA community as I have experienced it: curious, welcoming, and working hard to improve on its current weak points.

What really stands out about Akash’s piece is how action-oriented it is: there are many practical takeaways, and the bold text helps them stand out. And he still maintains scout mindset; for example, rather than exhorting readers to write something, he presents information that might help them get started with a writing project if they were interested in doing so. This helps people take action without the need for forceful persuasion.

A new strategy for broadening the appeal of effective giving

“Our research tells us that many people—perhaps most—like the idea of supporting effective charities. They just don’t like the idea of giving up on the charities that they love. But there is no reason why most donors can’t also be effective donors.”

When I saw GivingMultiplier for the first time, I immediately thought of three people I’d spoken to within the last few months about giving — friends from outside the EA community. I could see all of them being interested, and I’m really excited for the project’s potential.

But a good project needn’t equate to a good post. Here’s what I liked about this one:

  • It clearly explains how readers can help, in a well-labeled section that should make it easy for people to take action.
  • It digs into the research literature on charitable giving to explain why the idea seems promising. I’d love to see more posts, especially those about EA fundraising ideas, make use of this literature.
  • It talks about the origin of the project, and how it came to exist in its current form. I really appreciate seeing posts that discuss the generative process, rather than only the final form a project takes. (This is mostly a personal preference, but I do think that such posts strengthen the idea of EA as an entrepreneurial culture where people feel more free to take action on their ideas.)

Five New EA Charities with High Potential for Impact

“Hundreds of ideas researched, thousands of applications considered, and a two-month intensive Incubation Program culminated in five new charities being founded. Each of these charities has the potential to have a large impact on the world and to become one of the most cost-effective in their field.”

I very much hope that Charity Entrepreneurship writes one of these posts every time they incubate a new batch of charities. I spoke in the prior writeup about the value of presenting EA as an entrepreneurial culture; this post does so in spades. 

There’s nothing especially innovative about how the post is written, but it’s a great example of “factposting” — presenting a lot of information in a clear, well-structured way, so that readers can easily skim through the post to find what interests them. I was also glad to see some of the founders responding to comments about their organizations.

Differences in the Intensity of Valenced Experience across Species

“In many circles, it is taken for granted that humans have a larger capacity for welfare than nonhuman animals. This is a plausible claim, but plausibility does not entail truth: we must weigh the evidence as impartially as we can.”

Congratulations to Jason Schukraft on his third Forum Prize!

Anyone who’s read this far probably knows how much I love summaries at the beginning of posts. And this post has two summaries, one of which is just a quick list of bullet points short enough for someone to remember months after reading. Seems useful! (I also think the conclusion sums up the post very well, making it something like a third summary.)

The post also stood out to me for the way it weaves between research-backed claims and speculation, without ever misleading the reader as to which is which. (See the section on decision-making for an example of this.)

Finally, the “open research questions” section gives interested readers a clear path to aid in the research, whether by doing original work or just sharing their knowledge. Every post that includes something like this will help generations of future EA researchers develop ideas for fellowship applications, summer projects, term papers, and so on.

The winning comments

I won’t write up an analysis of each comment. Instead, here are my thoughts on selecting comments for the prize.

The voting process

The winning posts were chosen by four people:

All posts published in the titular month qualified for voting, save for those in the following categories: 

  • Procedural posts from CEA and EA Funds (for example, posts announcing a new application round for one of the Funds)
  • Posts linking to others’ content with little or no additional commentary
  • Posts which accrued zero or negative net karma after being posted
    • Example: a post which had 2 karma upon publication and wound up with 2 karma or less

Voters recused themselves from voting on posts written by themselves or their colleagues. Otherwise, they used their own individual criteria for choosing posts, though they broadly agree with the goals outlined above. (Larks also asked that his October post not be considered for a prize.)

Judges each had ten votes to distribute between the month’s posts. They also had a number of “extra” votes equal to [10 - the number of votes made last month]. For example, a judge who cast 7 votes last month would have 13 this month. No judge could cast more than three votes for any single post.

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The winning comments were chosen by Aaron Gertler, though the other judges had the chance to nominate other comments and to veto comments they didn’t think should win.

Feedback

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 me.

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4 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 2:10 AM
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Is the prize paid out to the recipient or is the prize a donation to a charity at the recipient’s choosing?

Prizes are paid out to recipients. Sometimes, they ask us to instead donate the money to a charity on their behalf, which we are also willing to do.

Sometimes, they ask us to instead donate the money to a charity on their behalf, which we are also willing to do.

Oh, cool. I didn't realize this was a possibility. I've always claimed the money and then donated the same amount to Rethink Priorities (where I work). If I'm lucky enough to have the opportunity in the future, I'll do this instead.

(I basically get paid to write content for the Forum, so I'm not really comfortable accepting the prize money.)

Thanks for the info!