Rethink Priorities is a research organization aimed at uncovering insights to inform policymakers and major foundations about how to best help people and nonhuman animals in both the present and the long-term future.
You may know Rethink Priorities as the group that runs and analyzes the EA Survey, the annual survey of effective altruists. However, over the past two years, we have also run over 20 survey projects on varied topics including animal attitudes, longtermist policies, and population ethics. We have worked with organisations including the Centre for Effective Altruism, Forethought Foundation, Open Philanthropy, The Humane League, Mercy for Animals, Animal Equality, and The Humane Society of the United States. Our polls have received media attention from Bloomberg and Vox. We have done research to ensure we can deliver polls both accurately and quickly, using demographic reweighting and other techniques, and developing automation to run survey analysis from initial idea to completed report in under a week.
Over the next year, we will be working on projects including examining public attitudes and behaviors towards effective altruism, the psychology of effective giving, message testing around longtermism, and a scale construction project for attitudes towards wild animal welfare. We use a mix of surveys, experimental manipulations, message tests, focus groups, and field experiments.
However, we won’t be able to do all these projects and keep delivering for the organizations we work with unless we can expand our team.
If you’re interested in this, we're currently seeking researchers to join our survey team - apply here by 11 July.
Our survey team is interdisciplinary, with backgrounds in psychology, behavioural economics, political science, data science, and mathematical modelling, and we invite applicants from a variety of disciplines to apply for our role.
What do we do for animals?
We have worked with The Humane League, Mercy for Animals, Animal Equality, The Humane Society of the United States, and Open Philanthropy's Farmed Animal Welfare Team to run polls, surveys, focus groups, message tests, and experimental manipulations to understand a variety of consumer trends when it comes to animal welfare and how to talk about animal welfare in a way that is more likely to resonate with the public.
So far, we’ve covered topics such as live-shackle slaughter, attitudes towards insect farming, what motivates consumers to eat less meat, what likely voters think about various hypothetical animal welfare initiatives, laypeople’s opinions of the relative moral weight of various animals, the effects of the pandemic on animal welfare arguments, and the pros and cons of different ways of discussing animal welfare.
Future work in this area will likely involve writing up more of our not yet published work, poll testing more farmed and wild animal welfare interventions for public support, a scale construction project for analyzing attitudes towards wild animal welfare, and more.
What do we do for longtermism?
The same capabilities we have built doing message testing, surveying, and polling for nonhuman animal welfare policy can also be applied to longtermism. We worked with an EA-aligned lobbying group to understand laypeople’s opinions about the long-term future, understand public support for various concrete longtermist policies, and made concrete recommendations about how to talk about longtermism that have already resulted in them shifting communication strategy.
We recently received money from the Long-Term Future Fund to expand our work in this area. We’d like to go into more detail about longtermist messaging and further explore support for various concrete longtermist policies, with the goal of identifying policies that could be adopted in the near-term by the US and UK governments.
What do we do for effective altruism movement building and outreach?
We run the annual EA Survey and we also conduct an annual survey on local groups and we consult with various EA-aligned groups like the Centre for Effective Altruism on some of their messaging and survey work.
However, we’ve recently received money from the Infrastructure Fund to expand our work in this area. We’d like to run some general population studies (like we’ve done for nonhuman animals and longtermism) to help understand how the lay public thinks of EA, how many of them are aware of EA, how many have latent EA-like traits, how responsive they are to EA messaging, and how we could potentially make the EA movement more diverse by exploring different messaging.
Who is a good fit for this role?
This role is open to people from anywhere in the world who can work at least 20 hours a week and who can start no later than 1 September 2021. We are looking for a strong background in the use of surveys, broadly construed (this might include experience in psychology, political science, economics, polling or data science) AND/OR strong background in statistical analysis.
We think some additional helpful skills would be (1) a background in the principles, methods, debates, and issues within effective altruism, longtermism, and/or animal advocacy communities; (2) the ability to write analysis clearly for a non-specialist audience; and (3) proficiency with statistical analysis in R, though still apply if you don’t have these.
We are considering hires at all levels of seniority, with commensurate experience ranging from an undergraduate degree in a relevant field to established academic researchers.
What do we offer as a place to work?
We offer a strong salary ($59,000 to $84,000 annually, depending on experience), comprehensive benefits including comprehensive health coverage, generous family leave (six months paid at full salary, regardless of gender), and unlimited time off. Comprehensive health, vision, and dental insurance is covered 100% by Rethink Priorities for partners and families.
We also have a strong path to impact for the work in this role -- our research is taken seriously by key decision makers who influence hundreds of millions of dollars.
More poetically, we also have a strong culture with high staff morale and retention, where we support each other and balance a focus on rigorous intellectual work to high standards with a focus on fun and work-life balance. We offer a lot of flexibility in when and where work gets done, as long as work gets done.
We are also very committed to building a diverse, inclusive, and supportive community for you to be happy and do your best work. We strongly encourage candidates of all different backgrounds and identities to apply to this role.
Rethink Priorities as the polling and data analysis arm for effective altruism?
If we can successfully hire talented candidates for this role and grow our team, we think Rethink Priorities could be well positioned to be a go-to consultancy for other EA groups who need insight on behavior, attitudes, or inclinations.
On demand, we can poll test various policy interventions to measure their public support, conduct message testing to test various messages, perform experimental manipulations, and do other analysis work. We’d be full service, going from a research question all the way to a full research report based on a survey that we design and implement.
While even with an expanded team our ability to take on projects will likely not match the demand and thus our capacity for new requests may be limited, we’d invite people interested in us conducting a polling or data project with or for them to contact email@example.com.
Also, if working on any of these topics sounds interesting to you and you’d like to help us grow our team to meet our demand for these projects, apply here to our role by 11 July.
As someone very keen on messaging considerations, this is so exciting, especially the potential for Rethink to fill out that consultancy gap!
Alas, if I were graduating sooner ... In the mean time, will be following closely.
edit: Oh, and to support the suggested model of a consultancy, one need only look at Data for Progress for an example of a polling arm that has become quite influential (within progressive/leftist circles) for issue messaging
We'll definitely have more roles open for after you graduate - don't worry!
Yes - I think we aspire to be somewhat like Data for Progress, but for effective altruism, though I think we are more wary of blurring between the lines of advocacy and truth-seeking.
We'll likely have at least one more internship round before you graduate, so stay tuned!