We're Rethink Priorities. AMA.

by Peter_Hurford2 min read12th Dec 2019126 comments

91

Ask Me AnythingCause Prioritization
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Hi there,

We're the staff at Rethink Priorities and we would like you to Ask Us Anything! We'll be answering all questions tomorrow on Friday, 13 December.

About the Org

Rethink Priorities is an EA research organization focused on influencing funders and key decision-makers to improve decisions within EA and EA-aligned organizations. You might know of our work on the impact of cage-free corporate campaigns, invertebrate welfare as a cause area, the risk of nuclear winter, or running the EA Survey, among other projects. We spend 80% of our time working on research relevant to farmed and wild animal welfare. You can see all our work to date here.

Over the next two years we plan to try to find new actionable interventions to improve animal welfare, further analyze nuclear risks, use polling to find winning policy changes, study EA movement growth, and much more.

About the Team

Marcus A. Davis - Lead Researcher

Marcus A. Davis works on Rethink Priorities strategy and oversees research. He previously co-founded Charity Science Health, where he systematically analyzed global poverty interventions, led cost-effectiveness analyses, and oversaw all technical aspects of the project. Before joining the Charity Science Health team, he ran Effective Altruism Chicago and worked with Rethink Charity coordinating outreach to local EA groups around the globe.

Peter Hurford - Lead Researcher

Peter Hurford works on Rethink Priorities strategy and oversees research. He also is a Data Scientist at DataRobot. He co-founded Rethink Charity, and is on the board of Charity Science Health and Animal Charity Evaluators. He has reviewed and produced research on cause prioritization and effective altruism since 2013.

David Moss - Senior Research Analyst

David Moss is a Senior Research Analyst at Rethink Priorities. He previously worked for Charity Science and has worked on the EA Survey for several years. David studied Philosophy at Cambridge and is an academic researcher of moral psychology.

Kim Cuddington - Research Analyst

Kim Cuddington is a Research Analyst at Rethink Priorities and is an Associate Professor at the University of Waterloo. She has a PhD in Zoology, a Masters in Biology, and a Masters in Philosophy. She also has a background in ecology and mathematical modeling.

Derek Foster - Research Analyst

Derek Foster is a Research Analyst at Rethink Priorities. He studied philosophy and politics as an undergraduate, followed by public health and health economics at master's level. Before joining RP, Derek worked on the Global Happiness Policy Report and various other projects related to global health, education, and subjective well-being.

Luisa Rodriguez - Research Analyst

Luisa Rodriguez is a Research Analyst at Rethink Priorities and a Visiting Researcher at the Future of Humanity Institute. Previously, she conducted cost-effectiveness evaluations of nonprofit and government programs at ImpactMatters, Innovations for Poverty Action, and GiveWell.

Saulius Šimčikas - Research Analyst

Saulius Šimčikas is a Research Analyst at Rethink Priorities. Previously, he was a research intern at Animal Charity Evaluators, organized Effective Altruism events in the UK and Lithuania, and worked as a programmer.

Neil Dullaghan - Junior Research Analyst

Neil Dullaghan is a Junior Research Analyst at Rethink Priorities. He is also a Ph.D. candidate in Political and Social Science at the European University Institute. He has volunteered for Charity Entrepreneurship and Animal Charity Evaluators. Before joining RP, Neil worked as a data manager for an online voter platform.

Jason Schukraft - Junior Research Analyst

Jason Schukraft is a Junior Research Analyst at Rethink Priorities. Before joining the RP team, Jason earned his doctorate in philosophy from the University of Texas at Austin. Jason specializes in questions at the intersection of epistemology and applied ethics.

Daniela R. Waldhorn - Junior Research Analyst

Daniela R. Waldhorn is a Junior Research Analyst at Rethink Priorities. She is a PhD candidate in Social Psychology, and has a background in management and operations. Before joining RP, Daniela worked for Animal Ethics and for Animal Equality.

Ask Us Anything

Please ask us anything - about the org and how we operate, about the staff, about our research… anything!

You can read more about us in our latest EA Forum post update or visit our website rethinkpriorities.org

If you're interested in hearing more, please consider subscribing to our newsletter.

Also, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention that we're currently fundraising! We are funding constrained and have the management capacity and hiring talent pool to quickly grow if given more money. We accept and track restricted funds by cause area if that is of interest.

If you'd like to support our work, you can find donation instructions at https://www.rethinkpriorities.org/donate or you can email Marcus at marcus@rtcharity.org.

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What do you see as the pros and cons of having an umbrella organization like RP which employees multiple researchers versus something like the EA Funds granting to independent researchers? (E.g. in what circumstances should a grant maker prefer to grant to RP who would then employ a researcher, versus granting directly to the researcher themselves?)

To me, the main disadvantage of being funded through a fund is that I would be tied to a research topic and a timeframe in which I would have to complete the project (or at least that’s how I imagine it). Working at an organization allows me much more flexibility. I can begin researching a topic, see that it’s not as tractable as I thought, and then drop it. Alternatively, I can increase the scope of the project, or change it into something different, depending on what I feel will be more impactful. All of these scenarios happen often because the more I work on the project, the more informed I am about the most promising directions of that project.

Good point! This does sound limiting. I guess I'd flag it, for one, as a message to funders when determining how to structure things. I'd hope that the EA Fund managers and others can be convinced to eventually donate in more and more optimal ways, if those ways really are optimal (and that can be made very clear). For instance, when donating to specific projects, paying attention to make clauses to ensure that the researchers have flexibility to make significant modifications if necessary.

My research would not be at the same level of quality if I were operating independently. The ability to easily draw on the knowledge, experience, skills, and general expertise of my colleagues at RP greatly improves my work. I can always count on getting high-quality feedback from at least half a dozen people, and if I get stuck in the middle of the project, I can normally count on someone to help me out. There is some loss of independence working at RP versus being funded directly, but I think the research guidance I receive more than makes up for the loss of independence. And RP's research agenda is mostly set collectively, anyway. So, in short, I expect that in most cases researchers at organizations like RP are going to be much more productive than independent researchers. ("Synergy" is the buzzword that comes to mind.)

I agree with much of what the team has written.

Also, perhaps there is a stronger accountability mechanism from having a team and things like a Slack channel in comparison to a funded independent researcher-depending on how involved an EA Fund type organization are in checking in and if funds are recalled if a researcher "fails". I don't have a good sense of the independent researcher funding landscape though.

Maybe to the extent one couples their work as a researcher with their identity, a clearer community might exist under an umbrella organization. Though I could imagine independent researchers all funded by the same organization could establish some sort of cohort mentality if communicative structures are available.

To add to the operations support benefit, I have in mind the evidence from the "disruptive research teams" literature review that suggested "researchers should be freed from trivial or bureaucratic tasks as much as possible", which seems to be less likely to be the case for an independent researcher. https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/dCjz5mgQdiv57wWGz/ingredients-for-creating-disruptive-research-teams

I agree with Jason. Additionally, I probably wouldn't be a researcher if I didn't work for an organization like RP because of operational costs, security/risk, and well-being reasons. But more importantly, since I'm at an early stage of my career as a researcher, if I worked independently, I wouldn't count on the support of my team and researchers with more experience. That would make it very difficult for me to improve and develop professionally as a researcher.

What's your funding gap to hire Peter full-time?

Let's make this happen!

We have raised half his salary for 2020 and 2021 on a grant explicitly for this purpose. If you’d like to talk more about this, I’d be happy for you to shoot me an email: marcus [at] rtcharity.org

My impression is that RP is unusually funding constrained relative to other EA research organizations. If that's accurate, do you have a sense for why that is?

We’re not going to comment on the funding situations of other EA organizations. However, to the extent this is true of us, it’s probably because of the expansion we had last year. I think other organizations have grown more slowly, for a variety of reasons.

We were also lucky to start the organization with several senior people (David, Peter, and Marcus) who were able to immediately manage others. We then deliberately hired and designed our team structure with paths toward future management and team growth in mind, to enable us to expand more.

I'd be interested in what organizations you're comparing against? I wonder if it is more that animal advocacy research is funding constrained compared to global poverty or x-risks, and that ends up negatively impacting groups that do research on animal advocacy and other topics.

Given that some of your staff have academic backgrounds, do you all have plans to refine and pursue peer-reviewed publication for your invertebrate welfare related work (though I don't know if it would be well received)? It seems like there could be a lot of value in the pieces being seen by academic audiences, at least from a wild animal welfare academic field building perspective. If not, why not?

I think their invertebrate sentience research could become a publication, similar to

Sneddon, L. U., Elwood, R. W., Adamo, S. A., & Leach, M. C. (2014). Defining and assessing animal pain. Animal behaviour, 97, 201-212. https://animalstudiesrepository.org/acwp_arte/69/

4Peter_Hurford1yAcademic publication is a long process with unclear value for our organization. We don’t currently see the primary target audience for this being the broader academic audience. This might be something we consider in the future.
7MichaelStJules1yI think formal academic peer-review by experts in the relevant fields could potentially improve the accuracy and overall quality of your work (not that I think it's of low quality; I've been pretty impressed overall, but I'm also no expert myself). You might also just be able to reach out to academics for review, if you're not already doing that. There are several academics and researchers at other organizations (e.g. in animal behaviour/cognition, economics, philosophy) who I'd imagine are sympathetic, and could be open to reviewing work.

Biorxiv has a new initiative where they will review preprints, with the idea of the review comments then being published next the pre-print and then used by directly editors of the journal(s) the paper is later submitted to. I don't know too much about this, but it could be a useful way to get reviewer comments for some of invertebrate sentience posts, even if you don't later intend to submit them to a journal. Some further information is at:

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/10/bid-boost-transparency-biorxiv-begins-posting-peer-reviews-next-preprints

https://www.cshl.edu/transparent-review-in-preprints/

8gavintaylor1yAlso, it may be worth considering that in many cases preprints are considered much more 'citeable' in academic articles than general webpages/blog posts would be. I think having the DOI is seen as a mark of permanence, which is considered superior to just having a permalink to the accessed version.
9Derek1yI’ve asked several academics with domain expertise to review draft posts, or sections of posts, or advise on specific issues. Some have been very useful, but they understandably do not have time to engage fully (if at all). As a consequence, I often worry that I’m making dumb mistakes, or just reinventing the wheel, and there are often substantial delays while waiting for expert input. I think the lack of access to academic networks and infrastructure is perhaps the biggest weakness of RP as a research organisation, and it is related to the youth and inexperience of EA as a whole. I'm not sure it can be fully solved – some fields only have half a dozen people in the world working on them, so it may be impossible to find someone with enough free time to help out. But I suspect a lot of progress could be made, e.g. I bet there are a lot of statisticians and economists who would be willing and able to help if only they knew we needed it. At the mid- and late career professionals’ meetup at EAG San Fransisco last June, it was suggested that retired academics, professional groups, and LinkedIn might be good sources of mentors/advisors. Someone mentioned https://taprootfoundation.org/ [https://taprootfoundation.org/] as well – perhaps not for academic advice, but for support in other areas where EA orgs tend to be lacking, such as management. I'd be interested to see an effort to systematically connect experts with EA projects, perhaps through the EA Hub [https://eahub.org/] or 80,000 Hours [https://80000hours.org/].
5David_Moss1yIt sounds like you're thinking mostly about the animal sentience research, where I know there has been a lot of engagement with outside academic experts, but fwiw the empirical studies I work on also received a lot of external review from academics. They are very overlapping in method and content with my academic work (indeed, one of these projects is an academic collaboration and the other was an academic project I had been working on previously, that I decided made more sense to do under Rethink Priorities) and also a lot of the researchers in the EAA have backgrounds as academic researchers, so it's quite easy to find relevant expertise.
5abrahamrowe1yThanks for the response! I guess I personally am interested in it, because I think it would lend credibility to WAW outreach projects to be able to cite it.

What would you be working on if you didn't work for Rethink Priorities?

Yea, I find this really difficult to think about. I think if I’d never joined Rethink, I’d have ended up continuing to work in the global poverty space (>70%). If I left Rethink now, I’d probably look for (longtermist-oriented) research and research-adjacent jobs at EA orgs and EA-aligned think tanks.

I think it's unlikely I'd be able to continue doing cross-cause area work, but unsure which specific cause area I would primarily be focusing on. 35% likely: EA aligned research in a non-EA organization. 15% likely: EA aligned work in a different EA organization. 15% likely: non-EA aligned work. 10% likely: Charity Entrepreneurship's incubation program. 25% likely: Unsure

If I hadn't been hired by RP, I probably would have ended up working for a random tech company in Austin, where I live, or maybe I would have ended up doing admissions counseling remotely (which is lucrative but soul-sucking work). If I left RP now I would try to work for a different EA research org.

I applied to RP when I decided to make an important change in my career. If RP hadn't hired me, I'd have kept trying it at different EA organizations, maybe as an intern. Yet, I would likely have ended up working in a management position at a local NGO.

It's really hard to know. At first I'd take a career break. Maybe eventually I'd start applying to some similar researcher jobs. Or some other kinds of jobs in animal welfare. Or I would get a programming job and save enough money for another career break. I'd also consider finding some job that doesn't require much logical thinking like circling instructor.

9Derek1yMost likely academic research related to the use of subjective wellbeing in prioritisation systems (healthcare, central government, maybe EA orgs, etc). Might have applied for researcher positions in other EA orgs.
8Marcus_A_Davis1yI honestly don’t know. I’d probably be doing research at another EA charity, or potentially leading (or trying to lead) a slightly different EA charity that doesn’t currently exist. Generally, I have previously seriously considered working at other EA organizations but it's been some time since I've seriously considered this topic.
6David_Moss1yI would be doing more of my academic research, at present Rethink Priorities definitely accounts for most of my time. I would probably also be doing more work for Rethink Charity and Charity Entrepreneurship, who I had been working for, but reduced/stopped my hours to work more for Priorities.
4Peter_Hurford1yMy guess is that I would still continue to keep up my hybrid EA research + earning-to-give in data science, except instead of running an EA research organization I would just do independent EA research on my own. Also, if Rethink Priorities didn't exist, I think the chances of me going full-time into EA research (as I am now working on doing) would be much lower, though there is a decent chance I would've applied to work as a researcher at OpenPhil (though, of course, I don't know if I would've been hired).
5gavintaylor1yPeter, do you have any tips for being productive while doing independent research and other work in parallel? I'm also trying to do both scientific research and scientific consulting at the same time. I've found my two major difficulties are slowed productivity while context switching (which I usually need to do several times a week, between projects in very different fields) and feeling obliged to prioritize time/energy on my clients research projects in front of my own (regardless of what I consider their relative importance/interest to be). I'd be interested to know how you deal with these or similar challenges.

Sure. If it's possible, try making a large block of time (at least 2 continuous uninterrupted hours, preferably 4-6) for your main job and avoid context switching. Then take a break. Then make another large block of time (doesn't have to be the same size, but also at least 2 hours) for your independent research.

I have a lot of flexibility in both my day job and my EA job to structure my days as I see fit. I know other people aren't lucky. I try to wake up early, eat, read a bit, and then plow ~4hrs into my day job. Then I take a break for ~2-3hrs to exercise, eat, nap, and read a bit more. Then I plow ~4 more hours into EA stuff.

The last trick that makes the above possible is taking things like email, meetings, administrative stuff, etc., and try to push them as much as possible to just Tuesdays and Fridays (and I think doing it just on Fridays is doable for most non-managers) to avoid using up my continuous uninterrupted hours on "shallow work".

It sounds like your context switching might be unusually costly, in which case you might prefer to alternate days or weeks in so far as is possible. This has worked well for me but I recognize I am probably unusual in how I can work and als

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What's your theory of change / plan for getting eyes on your work in general? I've been really enjoying reading your pieces, but it seems like most get voted on a lot, but don't generate much discussion unfortunately (at least on the animal ones). I’d be really interested in seeing discussion about your work / hearing and reading feedback on it so I have more context on it.

9Marcus_A_Davis1yThanks for the question! We do research informed by input from funders, organizations, and researchers that we think will help funders make better grants and help direct work organizations do to higher impact work. So our plans for distribution vary by the audience in question. For funders and particular researchers we make direct efforts to share our work with them. Additionally, we try to regularly have discussions about our work and priorities with the relevant existing research EA communities (researchers themselves and org leaders). However, as we've said recently in our impact and strategy update [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/yq8M5aorCLSq8JjvC/rethink-priorities-2019-impact-and-strategy] , we think we can do a better job of this type of communication going forward. For the wider EA community, we haven't undertaken significant efforts to drive more discussion on posts but this is something potentially worth considering. I'd say one driver of whether we'd actually decide to do this would be if we came to believe more work here would potentially increase the chances we hit the goals I mentioned above.
1abrahamrowe1yI don't actually know if engagement, is important (maybe it is an indicator of either your thoroughness, as there are few followups, or just that you all are the experts, so most people on the forum aren't going to weigh in). Sharing with funders makes a lot of sense. Thanks!

Luisa's work on nuclear risk seems like it might attract a very different audience from RP's animal work (especially since it was featured in Marginal Revolution). Have any organizations/government officials who work on nuclear policy gotten in touch with Luisa or RP as a result of those posts?

Hey Aaron, good question!

I’m currently in touch with folks at the Nuclear Threat Initiative and a few other similar think tanks, but I don’t think my work has meaningfully influenced their views/activities. My hope is that this will change as I continue building my relationships with them.

To date, I think the audience that has engaged most with (and gotten the most value out of) the nuclear risks series is funders in the EA space. For example, I understand that multiple EA funders/grantmakers have drawn on (and augmented) some of my nuclear risks models as part of some cause prioritization work they've done.

I think it's also worth noting that we don't really have any suggestions for governments yet, which would limit our usefulness... but we're getting there.

5Aaron Gertler1yThanks for responding! Do you think that the EA focus on your work is more because Rethink is a known/trusted org in the community and relatively unknown outside, or because the way you use language and models syncs up with how EA funders prefer to think about risk, but is more atypical outside EA? (There may be some other most important factor, of course.)
7Peter_Hurford1yI would think it is mostly because Rethink is a known/trusted org in the community and relatively unknown outside, though I could easily it being the other part too. I don't think I have a good feel yet for how typical national and nuclear security organizations talk yet.

How did you decide on "blog posts, cross-posted to EA Forum" as the main output format for your organization? How deliberate was this choice, and what were the reasons going into it? There are many other output formats that could have been chosen instead (e.g. papers, wiki pages, interactive/tool website, blog+standalone web pages, online book, timelines).

This was a very deliberate decision on our part. Our primary goal is to get EA decision-makers to make better decisions as a result of our work. We thought the most likely place these decision-makers would see our work is on the EA Forum. We also thought people would be more likely to read the work if we wrote it in an article that didn’t require clicking through to a further page or PDF, on the idea that the clickthrough rate to reports is pretty low. It’s also nice to be able to track our impact via some loose proxies like upvotes and the EA Forum prize.

That being said, I think now that external PDFs might be better to have on hand to use for non-EAs, especially those that think of the EA Forum as looking lower prestige relative to a nice, glossy PDF. So that might be something we consider more in the future as we aim to grow our audience and influence.

Lastly, we thought there might be some additional small spillover impact on the EA community by creating a stronger culture of research around the EA Forum. I think having Rethink Priorities host our research here invites other people to be more interested in the EA Forum and more likely to post their own research here, which seems like a good thing.

Follow-up question: Have you been happy with this choice so far? Are there ways the Forum could change such that you'd expect to get a lot more value out of posting research here?

We still feel pretty good about this decision. I think for me the most useful things the EA Forum could do is adding native support for tables, followed by adding some sort of tagging system. Other people on the team might have different opinions though.

How did you first get involved in effective altruism? What are the main factors and events that drove you to it, and what keeps you working on it now?

The following is a tidy, oversimplified version of what happened.

I learned about Bentham and Mill in A-level history class (aged 17) and I think read a Peter Singer book. I was very left-wing at the time but I remember being really frustrated that all the other altruistically-minded kids in my class supported standard leftist policies for ideological reasons even when they harmed disadvantaged people. This influenced me to study philosophy at undergrad level, where I defended utilitarianism.

Unfortunately EA hadn’t been invented at the time so I spent the first year after graduation working in warehouses and call centers, followed by about nine years of direct development work in low-income countries. I got frustrated by the inefficiency of most development orgs and decided to switch fields into either law (‘earning to give’ before I'd heard of the concept) or public health (to do direct work with more quantifiable impacts).

Around the same time I was searching online for information about charity evaluation and came across GiveWell, then the Singer TED Talk and the wider EA community. This may have influenced me to choose public health, though there were ... (read more)

Like Saulius, I am pretty sceptical about the narrative I have in my mind on this issue now. One day I would like to take time and re-read some old messages and emails to tease out what I was thinking, or at least what story I was telling myself, then.

For the moment, this is how I recall events and my thinking. I first heard of EA when a friend at Oxford gave me Doing Good Better as a gift. I recall reading it cover to cover during a trip the following week and being enthused by it to the extent of making detailed notes and re-gifting it back to my friend with my annotations. I considered it one of many interesting frameworks to guide one's life and took onboard some ideas I surmised from it like donating based on cost-effectiveness and thinking more deeply about the suffering of others. My engagement with EA remained quite flat for few years after that and I am not sure how “involved” I could consider myself. Later, I was accepted for intern positions with Animal Charity Evaluators and Charity Entrepreneurship. I’m unsure exactly how at the front of my mind EA was in this time. On the one hand I was applying for many positions that I thought were simply interesting, but not necess

... (read more)

This is the story that I tell myself about myself but I’m really unsure about the accuracy of it.

I was utilitarian since I was a teen (way before I knew the term). I decided to earn-to-give and found out about GiveWell and ACE when researching where to give. I got really interested when I discovered Brian Tomasik’s website after googling something about utilitarianism. Shortly after that I began participating in EA facebook group, I don’t remember how. I saw some people discussing donations and salaries there and they were much higher than mine because I was living in Lithuania. In 2015 I decided to emigrate to London so that I could earn and donate more money. In London, I went to an EA meetup. It was a shock because up until that point I haven’t met anyone who is altruistic and most of the people in my life were alienated by my altruism and tried to talk me out of donating my money. Making friends with other EAs at meetups in London has greatly increased my motivation to do EA stuff. Soon I was spending most of my free time on EA-related activities. Combined with other factors, this has led me to burn out in 2017. I’m not sure I’ve ever fully recovered from it.

I think I keep work

... (read more)

Some more reasons why I think I keep working on EA stuff:

  • EA forum's karma system and comments make it motivating to participate here, I'm slightly addicted to it.
  • I'm embarrassed to admit it but I have a desire to impress other people and I try to do that by writing EA forum posts. I enjoy social status it gives me in some social situations, etc.

I'm afraid that in some cases these motivations lead me to work on things that are not the most impactful and I try to watch out for that.

Upvoted for being honest about status-related desires. Good to keep an eye on them but I think they can be useful motivators when they're pointing in the right direction!

Like a lot of EAs, I first became convinced of these ideas through Peter Singer.

I first read him, and Famine, Affluence and Morality in particular, when I was doing A Level religious studies in 2004 and from then on was convinced that we are obliged to give all excess wealth to the most effective charities (or do something else if that was more effective of course).

I then went to study Philosophy, directly inspired by this, and spent a lot of time telling anyone who would listen about these ideas with no effect whatsoever. I was particularly shocked and appalled that not only did none of the philosophers I encountered take these or any other actually-oriented-at-helping-the-world ideas seriously, but none seemed to take utilitarianism seriously. I was therefore pretty delighted to see Toby Ord announce his intention to give everything he earned over a certain amount to charity, since I thought all philosophers should be doing this, and I've been following EA ever since.

As to what now keeps me working on EA: it would be the awareness of the manifold terrible horrors (horrors so great that any individual experiencing them would pay almost any price to avoid them) constantly occurring in the world.

My background is in philosophy, so I've been familiar with (and convinced by) Peter Singer's work since roughly 2007. I first heard about EA in early 2015 when Will MacAskill gave a talk at UT Austin, where I was working on my PhD. He and I chatted a bit about Bostrom's Superintelligence, which I happened to be reading at the time for totally unrelated reasons. Talking about AI safety and global poverty (the subject of Will's talk) in the same conversation was kind of a revelatory moment, and all of EA's conceptual pieces just sort of fell into place.

The thing that keeps me motivated is how intrinsically interesting I find my research. Of course I hope to make a difference, but my work is so far removed from immediate measurable impact that I don't really think about that on a day-to-day basis.

9Peter_Hurford1yI wrote about my EA origin story here. [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/pmWfCBv7duaCAmkJt/ea-is-the-best-choice-i-ve-ever-made]

How do you engage with the animal welfare advocacy groups who might act on your research? Or alternatively, how do you counteract any negatives from not being an advocacy organization, and not getting feedback directly (e.g. advocacy that responds to research because they are done in conjunction)?

When I worked in animal advocacy, my sense was that the research that EA research groups like ACE were doing was either irrelevant or badly ill-informed / inaccurate, primarily because the researchers didn't actually have much experience in the space. Or, it came only after the advocacy groups had already basically realized the same things, and shifted priorities. I don't think this has really been relevant for the work you've done so far, since it hasn't been particularly proscriptve on particular strategies, but it seems like a greater risk as you do more farmed animal research. I've always been disappointed that the in-house research teams at animal groups are small, since they seem better positioned to do some of this work (though there are probably downsides to that too).

Edit for clarification: As an example, a lot of studies were done on pro-vegan leaflets. M... (read more)

But organizations did leafleting for a while, realized there were more effective uses of resources, and then stopped leafleting [...] It was only after that that evidence that leafleting was not very effective emerged in the research literature.

Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that it’s accidental that things happened in this order. If the same research about leafleting was done earlier, it could’ve had an impact by making organizations deprioritize leafleting earlier. I don’t think that we can trust organizations always to realize what is a more effective use of their resources without any research. There are too many biases in human nature, and it’s often just not obvious enough.

I also feel that so far, animal welfare research didn’t have that much impact. And I do feel more skeptical about it because of it. However, I’m not sure there was enough animal advocacy research to conclude that we should deprioritize it. Research is a hit-based endeavor. Just because we (EAA researchers) haven’t had many hits in our very short history, doesn’t mean that they will never happen. Note that it’s also possible that some of the research we already did will become a hit and make an impact in the future (e.g., our work on invertebrate sentience or fish stocking).

The situation in animal advocacy seems to be that we have very many options about what to do, and we don’t know which options are the best. That does sound like a situation that could be improved by research.

8saulius1yWe talk to them, try to understand what they do and why, ask what research they would find useful, and ask whether our research has influenced their decisions (we did it via a survey [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/qmtLQfrZjbrYWXafi/rethink-priorities-impact-survey] and informally). What do you think are the main relevant differences between the team being in-house versus a separate organization? The way I see it, all of us in the EAA movement are a part of the same team, working towards the same goals. A president of an animal charity can go to us and ask us to research a particular topic in a similar way they could go to their in-house research team. I guess one difference is that if they go to us, it’s up to us to decide whether to pursue the suggested topic but I don’t see why that would necessarily be worse. [1] [#fn-S6mdncHLA6XdbQL4w-1] Of course, I’m unsure about this as I’ve never worked for an in-house team. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1. So far, I haven’t pursued any of the research topics that were suggested by people from animal charities because they didn’t seem very tractable. However, I will probably try to make progress on some of these topics in the future. ↩︎ [#fnref-S6mdncHLA6XdbQL4w-1]
5abrahamrowe1yI guess my inclination toward in-house teams would be that an organization would be more likely to respond / change direction on the basis of findings from in-house teams. But I'm unsure that there is much evidence that organizations have changed directions from research done by anyone, except perhaps in small ways. I also imagine being in-house would reduce barriers for data collection, etc., because there wouldn't be NDAs or privacy concerns that might govern inter-org interactions. I think you and I had previously had this issue, where I had done research that might have been relevant to your work, and couldn't share it due to an NDA.

Where do you think most of RP's short term and long term impact is going to come from?

I think some of the main ways will be:

  • Generating new cause areas/interventions/charities
  • Moving investment away from ineffective interventions
  • Causing there to be a lot more active EA researchers

I don't think those will differ too much across the short/long term, except that shifting resources away from bad interventions may happen more in the short term.

It seems like RP's team is working remotely. If not please ignore my questions.

How do you deal with the challenges of researchers working remotely? How do you make sure you are having frequent exchanges and smooth communication?

In case you have some people working at one place (eg office) and some people working remotely:

How do you maintain a coherent team feeling? Do you think one requires such a feeling?


Hi,

You're correct that we have a remote team located in many countries.

1)Challenges

Time zone challenges are definitely present with such a global team, especially for scheduling. There is also a barrier to having natural interactions in the way that would randomly happen in an office.

2)Frequent & Smooth communication

Slack is immensely useful for quick and easy communication. We have daily check-ins on Slack to let each other know what we are working on. We share what we are working on in Google Docs for others to comment and collaborate on. Some team members have frequent calls with managers or eachother. We have a randomized rotating system to pair people up for social calls. RP has monthly all-staff calls. We particiapte in the wider Rethink Charity "all-hands" calls.

Animal Charity Evaluator's roundtable discussions about remote teams have definitely informed my own personal view of what might work well and that the issues we encounter are pretty common for remote teams. https://animalcharityevaluators.org/blog/tag/roundtable-series/

Hey all, thanks for all that you do!

Fish and, potentially, invertebrates will probably be the most intensively farmed animals for quite some time. What fundamental research, do you reckon, is most needed to spearhead their protection and welfare? Thanks.

For fish, I'd refer you to the "Questions for Further Consideration" section of the ACE Farmed Fish Report (which we contributed research to).

For invertebrates, we wrote a three part series on next steps for research: see Part 1 on fundamental research, Part 2 on intervention research, and Part 3 on attitudes research.

2lukasj101yThanks for answering, Peter! Yes, I've gone through those great resources already. I simply thought of asking the question during this AMA as maybe some new ideas arose since publishing. Thanks again!

Do you have any sense of whether or not the invertebrate welfare pieces have had an impact on organizations, decision makers, etc? It seems like it would be reasonable to expect them to translate to more donations for groups working on invertebrate issues, since I'd guess the evidence for valenced experience was stronger than many would have expected. Though in the EA space that would basically mean donating to you all or Wild Animal Initiative. Those pieces were great, and I hope they lead to more interest in invertebrates in the animal welfare community.

Thanks for the question and thanks for the compliment about our work! As to the impact of the work, from our Impact survey:

Invertebrate sentience was the second most common (13) piece of work that changed beliefs. Also the second largest number of changed actions of all our work (alongside EA survey) including 1 donation influenced, 1 research inspiration, and 4 unspecified actions.

Informally, I could add many people (probably >10) in the animal welfare space have personally told me they think our work on invertebrates changed their opinion about invertebrate sentience (though there is, of course, a chance these people were overemphasizing the work to me). A couple of academics have also privately told us they thought our work was worthwhile and useful to them. These people largely aren't donors though and I doubt many of them have started to give to invertebrate charities.

That said, I think the impact of this project in particular is difficult to judge. The diffuse impact of possibly introducing or normalizing discussion of this topic is difficult to capture in surveys, particularly when the answers are largely anonymous, and the payoffs even if people have been convinced to take them seriously may not occur until there is an actionable intervention to possibly support.

2abrahamrowe1yThat's great to hear! I guess I think it would be great for norms of caring about invertebrates to be spread in the animal advocacy space, so that seems good.

Can you tell us a bit more about which animal welfare ballot initiatives and other policies are on your radar to research?

It's worth mentioning that Switzerland has a referendum coming up to ban factory farming, with campaign headed by Sentience Politics. Basically, it will require all farmed animals (and animal product imports) to be farmed according to organic standards. Some discussion here; based on the polls described here, it looks pretty promising. (The Swiss did reject a dehorning ban earlier, though.)

It seems like it's worth looking into bigger changes like this. EDIT: just came across this on my Facebook feed:

A new poll, commissioned by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for a Livable Future and released Tuesday, surveys voter sentiment on banning CAFO construction for the first time. Polling group Greenberg Quinlan Rosner surveyed 1,000 registered Democrats, Republicans, and Independents from across the nation and found that 43 percent of respondents favored a national ban on the creation of new factory farms, as opposed to 38 percent of respondents who oppose a ban. But in Iowa, where more than 400 additional registered voters were asked the same questio
... (read more)

Thanks for the question. We have forthcoming work on ballot initiatives which will hopefully be published in January and other work that we plan to keep unpublished (though accessible to allies) for the foreseeable future.

In addition, we have some plans to investigate potentially high value policies for animal welfare.

On CE's work, we communicate with them fairly regularly about their work and their plans, in addition to reading and considering the outputs of their work.

3MichaelStJules1yMaybe an interesting (but probably too ambitious) ask would be to extend the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act to farmed animals (and imports) at the state-level or even more locally, or otherwise remove exceptions. I think such a survey could tell us a lot about attitudes towards farmed animals, at least.

Besides funding, what currently feels most limiting to RP?

Understanding how research can influence decision makers or have an impact in some other ways. Similarly, understanding how charities and funders make decisions. Even though I talked with funders and heads of charities quite a lot, I still feel that I only have a very incomplete picture of what factors end up influencing their decisions, I can't quite put myself in their shoes.

6saulius1yHands-on experience and understanding how charities operate, what problems they face, etc. I think I'd be a better researcher if I worked in an animal charity before in some very generalized role where I have to do almost everything (there are fewer such roles nowadays because there is a lot of specialization)
6saulius1yGood research topics that could influence decision-makers (feel free to suggest them!)

Has your work on invertebrate sentience changed the dietary habits of any of your staff? Would any of you recommend for/against bivalveganism or similar "vegan except some invertebrates" diets?

I agree that bivalves are probably the least likely to be sentient of the animals that are easily available to eat. I wouldn't necessarily recommend eating them because there may be issues with the way they are collected. (I haven't looked into this at all.) I don't eat them because I don't find it particularly hard not to eat meat, and it's easier to explain my dietary restrictions to people if there aren't too many exceptions.

The research I did for my honey bee report has affected the way I feel about almonds. It hasn't really reduced my almond consumption, but I now feel slightly guilty about eating almonds. Modern almond farming is pretty bad for bees, and bees are super cool and smart. From a bee welfare perspective, I'm pretty confident eating commercially farmed almonds is worse than eating wildflower honey. (Note that most honey is not wildflower honey.)

I do think that the chances of bivalves being sentient are quite low. However, I do not eat them because I'm already used to a plant-based diet, and given our uncertainty, I adhere to the precautionary principle in this case.

In general, I would not recommend consuming marine invertebrates produced in countries where trawling is not banned, given its impact on other aquatic animals for whom there is a high probability that they are sentient (i.e., fish and other vertebrates).

Still, I'm unsure about the consequences of promoting bivalve consumption, even if they are farmed. I'm concerned about how some people might interpret such a message –e.g., they may assume, without much thought, that consuming other more complex invertebrates (e.g., shrimps) is equivalent.

6Peter_Hurford1yI used to somewhat regularly eat shrimp because I did not think they were sentient. As a result of this report, I now do not eat shrimp and have returned to being vegetarian. I already did not consume bivalves mainly because I don't like their taste, so that hasn't been a concern for me.
4MichaelStJules1yI wonder if a diet consisting primarily of farmed bivalves would be the most ethical, ignoring cost. I still think they're very unlikely to be sentient, and much less likely to be sentient than the insects routinely killed with pesticides. This could depend substantially on the effects on wild animals and your beliefs about the welfare of wild animals. What are the effects of agriculture on the populations of insects, for example, and how would insects live and die otherwise?
3MichaelStJules1yAlso, behaviour generally, like being more careful while walking outside, or in dealing with insects and spiders in your homes?

I've generally become much more chill about coexisting with invertebrates in and around my house. Mostly I just find them fascinating now rather than scary or repugnant, especially arthropods (the phylum that insects and spiders belong to). That said, I did recently kill a scorpion that had stung my daughter, so I guess there are limits to my tolerance.

Yes, now I'm more careful while walking outside.
After our research on invertebrates, I also placed a net in some windows at home, and I purposefully keep them closed as long as possible to prevent any flying insects from visiting us and being "welcomed" by my cats.

How do you think about your role as a research organization working across different cause areas?

Personally, I have considered donating to Rethink Priorities. But I care a lot about capacity-building with organizations, so I tend to donate to the other animal welfare EA research organizations such as Animal Charity Evaluators and Sentience Institute. My impression is that while RP is currently focused on animal welfare, a substantial part of the impact of my donations might spillover too much into cause areas that are personally less of a priority to me, s... (read more)

(I have no formal ties to RP.)

FWIW,

Currently, our funding gap through the end of 2021 is $1.79M overall. This consists of gaps of $1.27M for animal research, $337k for longtermism research, and $177k for meta / other research respectively. We do accept and track restricted funds by cause area if that is of interest.

Even if you gave unrestricted funding, most of it (70%, if they allocate funding proportionally) would likely end up in research for animals, anyway. With unrestricted funding, if you think donating to the other orgs is at most ~70% as cost-effective as donating to RP, it's worth donating to RP, but I also don't think a factor of 0.7 should really sway your donations, given how much uncertainty we should have, anyway.

Unrestricted funding would not necessarily be spent proportionately across the totality of our budget. If, as is currently the case, we have raised a greater percentage of our gap for animals than non-animals, unrestricted funding could, for example, go mostly to non-animals. However, it is still the case that animal-restricted funding would cause us to do more animal-focused research than we otherwise would.

1MichaelStJules1yHow do you allocate your unrestricted funding in response to restricted donations? E.g., if someone donates $5K to animal welfare, will the proportion of unrestricted funding going to animal welfare stay roughly the same, or decrease slightly (or increase)? My guess from your comments are to: 1. allocate restricted funding first, and then 2. decide based on the remaining gaps where to allocate unrestricted funding. You wrote in another comment "100% of any animal-specific funding is always 100% spent on pro-animal research". This could indeed apply to 1, but once we consider 2, would it still be the case that $X to animals means $X more dollars spent on animals? Wouldn't it end up being less because you'll allocate less of the unrestricted funding in 2 to animals?

We in fact do (1) then (2). However, to continue your example, donations to animal work still end up going to animals. If it were the case, say, that we hit the animal total needed for 2020 before the overall total, additional animal donations would go to animal work for 2021.*

It is true in this scenario that in 2020 we'd end up spending less unrestricted funding on animals, but the total spent on animals that year wouldn't change and the animal donations for 2020 would not then be spent on non-animal work.

*We would very much state publicly when we have no more room for further donations in general, and by cause area.

6redmoonsoaring1yThat sounds broadly correct, but just for clarification, my question was about capacity-building impact, not current spending and research output. For example, RP funding contributes to the research experience of their staff, and RP staff might be considerably less likely to stay in the animal welfare cause area than researchers at other animal charities. So there might be more spillover of this long-term impact than is reflected in the current budget breakdown. This is especially likely if RP itself shifts its funding allocation in the future.
1MichaelStJules1yAh, my mistake. This is an interesting consideration.

We welcome cause-specific donations. 100% of any animal-specific funding is always 100% spent on pro-animal research. Many of our grants have been restricted by cause (for animals, longtermism, or meta work).

We do think there are a lot of benefits to working across causes and there is a lot of transfer of knowledge. For example, quantitative methods used in global health and economic development apply very well to analyzing animal-focused interventions. Additionally, work on animal-focused policy informs our approach to longtermist-focused policy and vice-versa. We think a good amount of our impact as a research organization could come from uncovering these cross-cause insights.

What are your ethical and metaethical views?

Do you see altruism as an ethical obligation?

Whatever you're comfortable sharing.

I’m not a philosopher, but to the extent I have opinions on such things they are about the same as Moss’s, i.e. classical hedonistic utilitarianism with quite a lot of moral uncertainty. I have somewhat suffering-focused intuitions but (a) I’ve never seen a remotely convincing argument for a suffering-focused ethic, and (b) I think my intuitions – and, I suspect, those of many people who identify as suffering-focused – can be explained by other factors. In particular, I think there are problems with the scales people use to measure valence/wellbeing/value of lives, both in reality and in thought experiments, e.g. it seems common for philosophers to assume a symmetrical scale like -10 to +10, whereas it seems pretty obvious to me that the worst lives – or even, say, the 5th percentile of lives – are many times more bad then the best lives are good. So if the best few percent of lives are 10/10 and 0 is equivalent to being dead, the bottom few percent of any large population are probably somewhere between -100 and -100,000. (It is not widely appreciated just how awful things are for so many people.) If true, classical utilitarianism may have policy implications similar to prioritarianism and related theories, e.g. more resources for the worst off (assuming tractability). But I haven’t seen much literature on these scale issues so I’m not confident this is correct. If you know of any relevant research, preferably peer-reviewed, I’d be very interested.

I take moral uncertainty extremely seriously, but my most preferred theory is classical hedonic utilitarianism. My most prominent uncertainties are about non-utilitarian consequentialisms which would include non-experiential goods (not preference utilitarian) and downside focused views.

I'm almost entirely uncertain about prescriptive metaethics. As someone who's pretty Wittgensteinian, I'm inclined to see much debate between metaethical theories as confused. The metaethical views which (fwiw) strike me as most appealing don't have too much to differentiate them in practice, i.e. versions of softer realism or anti-realism which give a central role to what would actually be rationally endorseable by humans in certain conditions.

My descriptive metaethical views, however, are that folk metaethical discourse and judgement is almost entirely indeterminate with regards to philosophers' metaethical theories. i.e. there is no determinate fact of the matter as to whether folk views best fit realism/anti-realism, objectivism/relativism etc., and that the folk evince a contextually and inter-personally variable mix of conflicting metaethical commitments or proto-commitments. (e.g. Gill, 2009,

... (read more)
9Peter_Hurford1yI wrote up my meta-ethical views here [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/CHcmNrkqtj6aeamhK/end-relational-theory-of-meta-ethics-a-dialogue] . I endorse End-Relational Theory. I am a moral realist but not a moral monist/universalist. Ethically, I am some form of utilitarian consequentialist [http://everydayutilitarian.com/essays/what-is-utilitarianism/]. I lean toward an objective list theory of value [https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/well-being/#ObjLisThe] but I have a decent amount of moral uncertainty around this. For implementing utilitarianism in practice, I lean toward Hare's Two-Level Utilitarianism [http://everydayutilitarian.com/essays/what-does-utilitarianism-look-like-in-practice/] . Also, in practice, I put a large amount of additional weight on myself, my immediate family, and my friends. I do see altruism as an ethical obligation, though do see my meta-ethical views [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/CHcmNrkqtj6aeamhK/end-relational-theory-of-meta-ethics-a-dialogue] for lots of caveats about what this means and doesn't mean.
5Jason Schukraft1yMy impression is that I'm considerably less of a consequentialist than the average EA. Mostly I'm just pretty uncertain and so I put some stock in (some forms of) deontology and virtue ethics. I'm a metaethical realist. One's obligations are context-sensitive, so I can't say for sure what altruistic obligations others have. But for a person in my circumstances, I believe altruism (in many forms) is a moral obligation, one that I'm continually failing to fulfill.

Do you see your animal welfare work as mostly focused on the West? Do you have any plans to look at emerging economies and non-Western countries?

6Marcus_A_Davis1yThanks for the question! We do not view our work as necessarily focused on the West. To the extent our work so far has focused on such countries, it's because that's where we think our comparative advantage currently has centered but as our team learns, and possibly grows, this won't necessarily hold over time.
5saulius1yI plan to contact people in Asia and talk to them about research priorities and other things after I finish my current project. I already began collecting some contacts.

What are the most significant ways you've changed your mind recently in relation to EA and EA priorities, philosophy and ethics?

My ethical and philosophical views haven't changed a huge amount.

I've become even less confident in most EA interventions than I was (and I started out very unconfident). I think there are various plausible reasons why most EA activities could easily turn out to be net negative. I don't know whether I have become more or less confident about research specifically in recent years in absolute terms, but it's definitely become relatively more appealing (as a relatively robust strategy) as a result.

8Derek1yI’ve become a bit more longtermist in outlook and more uncertain of the sign/effect size of most interventions/projects, mostly due to issues around indirect effects/cluelessness [http://users.ox.ac.uk/~mert2255/papers/cluelessness.pdf].
7saulius1yEthics: some years ago I was utilitarian and I pushed myself to do utilitarian things. Then I realized that there are other values that I care about and I tried to specify what they are. Eventually I realized that it’s impossible because there are too many. I then still tried to specify what actions should I push myself to do in order to achieve my vaguely-defined long-term goals. Now I abandoned even that and I just do whatever I want. It didn’t really change much in terms of behaviour. E.g., I still want to never lie. I just don’t think about it in terms of ethics. Also, my mindset is different, more easy-going. Some ethical stances did change though. For example, past-me would’ve pressed a button to create an utilitronium shockwave [https://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Utilitronium] because it’s a logical conclusion to utilitarianism. Now I wouldn’t press such button because I don’t want to. I don’t claim that this approach to life and ethics is better or correct in any way though, and I don’t know if I should stick to it. If anyone has reasons why I should change it, I’d be curious to read.

What are your plans and hopes for RP for the next 5, 10 years and beyond?

I have a lot of vague aspirations over the next 5-10 years, but in practice I only plan about six months out at most. I think while people overestimate how much we can do in a day, people tend to dramatically underestimate how much they can do in 5-10 years. The space of opportunities changes so dramatically over a six month interval that it is very difficult to plan further than that.

Which are the internal politics to promote diversity and non-discrimination?

Internally, as part of Rethink Charity, we have fairly standard formal anti-harassment, discrimination, and reasonable accommodation policies. That is, we comply with all relevant anti-discrimination laws, including [Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA.)] We explicitly prohibit offensive behavior (e.g. derogatory comments towards colleagues of a specific gender or ethnicity.)

We also provide a way for any of our staff to offer anonymous feedback and information to senior management (which can help assist someone in the reporting a claim of harassment or discrimination)

Finally, I’d note that during our hiring round last year we pretty actively sought out and promoted our job to a diverse pool of candidates and we tracked performance of hiring on these metrics. We plan to continue this going forward.

3Khorton1yI'm glad to hear you've taken steps to be an inclusive organisation. Follow up question: Do you plan to do any more with on diversity and inclusion going forward?
1mativazquez1yThanks a lot, Marcus.

What successes are you most proud of as a team?

I'm just proud we've survived as an organization so far and that we hired so many wonderful and talented people!

RP seems to err more towards quantity of research over quality than other organizations. Is this your impression as well? Is this a conscious decision? Do you think other EA research organizations should also steer in that direction, or does it reflect RP's niche?

For example, Global Priorities Institute seems to prioritize high-quality research that will help garner momentum for longtermist work in academia, such as journal articles published by PhDs (compare to RP's large number of blog post research and having, I believe, only one PhD on staff ... (read more)

Thanks for the comment!

I just wanted to add my 2 cents. I work at FHI (near GPI) and am separately involved with Rethink Charity, so am involved (somewhat) in both.

I'd agree that Rethink Priorities' work is formatted very differently than that of GPI, but am really not sure I'd say it's lower quality on average. I'd have to spend much more time investigating both to be more sure of either side being "higher in quality" to whatever that could be compared (perhaps, differences in the rates of under-inspection-errors).

My impression is that Rethink Priorities is attempting optimizing it's research for EA endeavors. So, if you would prefer them spend more time to change the formatting or similar, I'm sure they would be curious to know. I imagine they could shift more to produce LaTeX-type work, but that may take more time; but if this community would find it correspondingly more valuable, it could be worth it.

I'm also interested in this question for my own work and similar.

3redmoonsoaring1yThat sounds right to me and seems consistent with my original comment.

Yep, makes sense. One unfortunate and frustrating thing that I've noticed over the last few years is that lots that gets posted on the forum and similar gets amplified and misunderstood by many people online.

I'm quite sure that you were pretty reasonable, but I would flag that I would guess that at least some readers wouldn't understand the nuance, and may just think something like, "I guess this user is using this as a sarcastic-like take at saying they think that Rethink's work is low quality." When I read your post I personally had a lot of uncertainty on where exactly you were coming from.

I'd definitely encourage you to keep on pointing things out and would probably recommend not modifying the main messages, buy may suggest that you be extra careful with the wording on such items. It kind of sucks, but that seems like one restriction of public forums like this.

Similar, to be extra clear, so this doesn't get misinterpreted, my points are:

  1. Feedback and comments are great! Please leave more! Don't censor your main points, especially if they are important!
  2. However, if they are things that could be misunderstood by some audience members in fairly impactful ways, try on the margin to make things extra clear.

Strongly agreed. In order to make myself understood to a broad audience online, I find I have to be much more sincere, straightforward, and kind than I would be in real life.

Personally, I really appreciate when other people online go out of their way to say positive things about me or my thoughts, particularly when it's right before they disagree with or criticize me - feeling affirmed keeps me from getting defensive.

Online, you're simultaneously speaking to many different people who come to the discussion with very different perceptions of background and context. I try to write accessibly, so that no matter your level of understanding of context and background assumptions, you can read what I'm saying and interpret it how I intended.

It's a lot more work, and it feels weird to write with a different personality than I live, but I think it helps many more people understand what I really mean.

(I'm not trying to criticize redmoonsoaring's comment, or say it fails to do these things, I'm just going on a tangent about communicating online)

4redmoonsoaring1yThat seems right, but I might be more inclined to push back against this kind of norm. I find on Reddit that I can be quite straightforward and brief, and people don't downvote based on their interpretation of the feelings of the commenter. I would like to encourage that sort of norm on the EAF, rather than the norms that (as I see! and I could be wrong) focus on excessive positivity towards established views of the community as it currently stands.
3Ozzie Gooen1yI generally don't like negativity, including negativity about negativity! (Harsh downvotes on cynical-seeming comments). There are other times where harsh comments get a lot of upvotes; like around Leverage Research. I think many people think that those go a bit too far and seem a bit more intense than the individuals mean. Similar to how you didn't mean your comment to be too harsh, the downvoters probably didn't mean to be too harsh in that signal.

Thanks for the question! To echo Ozzie, I don't think it's fair to directly compare the quality of our work to the quality of GPI's work given we work in overlapping but quite distinct domains with different aims and target audiences.

Additionally, we haven't prioritized publishing in academic journals, though we have considered it for many projects. We don't believe publishing in academic journals is necessarily the best path towards impact in the areas we've published in given our goals and don't view it as our comparative advantage.

All this said, we don't deliberately err more towards quantity over quality, but we do consider the time tradeoff of further research on a given topic during the planning and execution phases of a project (though I don't think this is in any way unique to us within EA). We do try to publish more frequently because of our desire for (relatively) shorter feedback loops. I'd also say we think our work is high quality but I'll let the work speak for itself.

Finally, I take no position on whether EA organizations in general ought to err more or less towards academic publications as I think it depends on a huge number of factors specific to the aims and staffs of each organization.

Relatedly, who is the intended audience of RP research products?

4Peter_Hurford1yPeople in the effective altruism movement and EA-aligned organizations.
1MichaelStJules1yMinor correction: Kim and Jason each have a PhD. Daniela is also working on one.

Correction to the correction, just to be clear:

Kim and Jason each have a PhD. Daniela, Neil, and David are also all working toward getting one. David is also a Research Fellow (normally requires a PhD) at a university in the UK. Kim is an Associate Professor and Principal Investigator of her own lab at the University of Waterloo.

1redmoonsoaring1yThank you. I was just estimating PhDs based on their bios.
0redmoonsoaring1yThank you. I was just estimating PhDs based on their bios.