EA Forum Prize: Winners for February 2019

by aarongertler 6mo29th Mar 201920 comments

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

In first place (for a prize of $999): "Evidence on good forecasting practices from the Good Judgment Project", by kokotajlod.

In second place (for a prize of $500): "Small animals have enormous brains for their size”, by eukaryote.

In third place (for a prize of $250): "Will companies meet their animal welfare commitments?", by saulius.

We also awarded prizes in November, December, and January.

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

"Evidence on good forecasting practices from the Good Judgment Project" is a thorough, well-organized summary of forecasting — a topic often discussed on the Forum, but rarely with this amount of data.

We may know that prediction markets are “useful”, but the author goes far beyond that, explaining how well different types of markets (and non-market mechanisms) have performed in prediction tournaments, and which characteristics the best forecasters tend to have. This research could be useful to any number of future forecasting projects in the community.

Additionally, the author:

  • Uses numbered headers to separate sections.
  • Includes hyperlinked footnotes for all citations.
  • Notes cases where information from original sources is missing or uncertain, giving readers ideas for ways to contribute to his research. (For example, I’d love to learn more about Tetlock’s “perpetual beta” concept, if anyone cares to go and find it.)

Overall, this is a remarkable post, and I hope that other Forum users create similarly excellent summaries of important concepts.

"Small animals have enormous brains for their size” makes a single, simple point (you can see it in the title), but does so with unusual elegance.

I still remember the core simile — "you have as many neurons as a half-full bucket of ants" — many weeks after I first read the article, and expect to remember it for years to come, thanks to the original art which enlivens the piece. Illustrations aren’t essential to Forum posts, but making good ideas memorable, however you choose to do it, amplifies their impact.

Additionally, the author:

  • Recommends further reading for anyone who found the article interesting (this is surprisingly rare for EA Forum posts, despite the vast literature that informs many of our ideas).
  • Doesn’t overstate her point; instead, we get facts about neurons, plus a list of ways in which these facts could interact with certain beliefs to produce other beliefs, without advocacy for any of those beliefs.
    • There’s nothing wrong with advocating beliefs, of course, but there can be major benefits to separating "fact posts" from "belief posts". For example, a fact post is more likely to be cited by authors with a range of beliefs, making everyone’s belief posts more evidence-based in the process.

"Will companies meet their animal welfare commitments?"offers crucial context on one of the most popular causes in EA: animal-advocacy campaigns targeting corporations.

If companies don’t actually live up to their promises, we haven’t made an impact. The author pulls together dozens of different sources from inside and outside of the EA community to show that… well, these promises may not be as impactful as they first seemed. But he doesn’t just explain the issue; he also notes the high level of uncertainty around particular facts and figures (providing better information even at the risk of undercutting his “point”) and suggests ways to improve the situation.

Additionally, the author:

  • Uses our built-in header system to separate sections (I'm repeating myself here, because this is a really useful feature and I strongly encourage authors to use it for anything longer than a page or so).
  • Proposes improvements that animal charities could make without harshly criticizing those charities (distinguishing between “things could be better” and “things are actively bad” is a good habit).
  • Points out the ways in which his findings might affect our cost-effectiveness estimates around animal advocacy. Explaining a crucial consideration is good; estimating its impact makes the explanation even better.

The voting process

All posts published in the month of February qualified for voting, save for those written by CEA staff and Prize judges.

Prizes were chosen by six people:

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.

The future of the Prize

After reviewing feedback we’ve received about the Prize, we’ve decided to continue giving it out for another six months (February through July) before running a second round of review. We don’t have any current plans to change the format, but we won’t rule out potential changes in future months.

If you have thoughts on how the Prize has changed the way you read or write on the Forum, or about ways we should consider changing the current format, please let us know in the comments or contact Aaron Gertler.

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