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Is anyone coordinating amateurs to do cause prioritization research in groups?

by TrenchFloat1 min read21st Sep 20205 comments


Community ProjectsCause PrioritizationEA Groups

I was reading 80,000 Hours's Cause Prioritization Shallow Overview when I read this, in their list of possible research-related initiatives (p.11):

Coordinate interested amateurs to do in-depth work together, or try out this kind of work on a small scale. e.g. choose a larger project together, such as evaluating education improvement in the developing world, and break it up into parts, so that for instance one person investigates the effect of education on fertility, and another the effect on income, etc.

Is anyone doing this kind of coordination? Are there any groups of amateurs out there doing this kind of research?

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EA Philippines is currently doing cause prioritization and career advice research on causes that could be very impactful for Filipinos to contribute to. We are currently doing research on local farm animal welfare and local mental health, and we're mostly done with a problem profile for local poverty.

We're also considering interviewing Filipinos working in the AI space or taking PhDs in computer science to see if it's recommendable for Filipinos to contribute to technical AI safety or AI policy.

I started this in April 2020, with no research background other than a couple of papers I wrote in university. My 2 co-founders have since helped in the research, and we're also now managing 3 volunteers (2 students and 1 fresh grad) who are helping out in the research.

I definitely think there's space for more people to do cause prioritization projects, whether to build up research experience and skills, find high-impact career paths or donation opportunities, or explore your own cause prioritization. I think it's even more important for people unable to move to the U.S. or U.K., since you can do research to determine which causes are most important, neglected, and tractable for you to have a career in within your region.

Yi-Yang Chua from EA Singapore wrote this great piece on why it's important to do local priorities research, which might be worth a read.

I'm not aware of anyone doing precisely this. But here are a couple quick pointers to potentially relevant things:

  • ALLFED coordinate volunteers to do research, and I believe some/many of these volunteers are "amateurs", and I'd guess that some of this research occurs in groups and could be called "cause prioritisation" (though I'm not certain)
    • There's some info on their volunteer program here
    • I'd guess ALLFED would be happy to talk to people about what they've learned from this
  • There's a group called READI coordinating a mix of amateur and professional researchers to do EA research, though not necessarily precisely "cause prioritisation research"
    • Here's their site
    • One of the coordinators is Peter Slattery, and I expect he'd be happy to talk to people about their work
  • I think Edo Arad has been involved in some relevant efforts
    • See their comments here
  • The various EA research coordination efforts related to COVID might provide useful evidence on how successful this sort of thing is in general, and how best to do it
    • This wouldn't be about cause prioritisation, but some lessons might generalise
  • I think someone is planning to or already providing country-specific EA career advice in France, similar to what Brian Tan describes for the Philippines
    • If people want to hear more, I can message the person who I think was planning/doing this and see if they're happy to give some public update or get in touch