Catherine Low

Community Health Associate @ Centre for Effective Altruism
2632 karmaJoined Jun 2015Working (15+ years)Oxford, UK


I'm one of the contact people for the EA community (alongside Julia Wise):

I'm the main contact for community health support for EA groups, and I also works on assessing and mitigating risks to the EA community. 

I initially studied a lot of physics, then was a high school teacher for 11 years before moving full time into EA community building. I ran local and national EA groups and worked on EA outreach projects ,  before joining CEA’s Groups Team in early 2020 to support EA groups worldwide. I started working for the Community Health team mid 2021. 


Hey Rainer and Mandy. This is really exciting!

My first suggestion would be to sync up with Animals Aotearoa which are an EA aligned, EA Animal Welfare funds funded org.

[I used to be involved in Animal Advocacy work in NZ (and in EA NZ) - I'm now in the UK, but I still have contacts and can intro you to some folk. Let's talk at EAG London if not before]. 

Thanks to all the commenters asking us about whether our response is different depending on the person’s perceived value to the community and world. The community health team discussed responding to these questions when this post was first written, but we wanted all relevant team members to be able to carefully check and endorse our statements, and it was a very busy time. So we put our response on hold for a bit. Apologies for the delay.  

First, I want to say that our team cares a lot about the culture of EA. It would be a terrible loss to EA’s work if bad behaviour were tolerated here, both because of the harm that would do to individuals and because of the effect on people’s interest in getting involved and staying involved with EA projects. We care about the experience of individuals who go through any kind of harm, but there’s a reason we focus on people in EA. We do this work in EA and not in some other community because we think EA has a real chance at making a difference on very serious problems in the world, and we think it’s especially important that this community be a healthy one that doesn’t lose people because they don’t feel safe. We’ve changed some wording on our website to better reflect this.

I’ll give some examples of how this looks in practice. I don’t want to convey that we’ve developed the ideal policy here - it’s definitely a work in progress and I think it is likely that we’ve made mistakes. 

I do want to be clear on one thing: If we believe someone had committed a violent crime then we would take serious action (including, if the victim wished) helping the victim navigate the police and justice system. It doesn’t matter how valuable the person’s work is. No one is above the law. Tolerating this kind of behaviour would erode basic norms that allow people to cooperate.

If we had good reason to think someone had committed a serious offence against another person (e.g. assault) it wouldn’t matter the value of their work, we would not want them at CEA events.

Exceptions we have made a handful of times (~5 times in thousands of conference applications over 7 years):

  • If the victim/survivor did not want action taken, for example because they believed it would increase danger to themselves.
  • if the assault happened a long time ago and there is strong reason to believe the person is not at risk of causing problems now (e.g. if the victim doesn’t believe other people are at risk and doesn’t want the person banned.)

In situations where the action was minor (e.g. by being quite argumentative with people, or making a person feel uncomfortable by flirting but without a significant power difference) or when we can’t get much information (i.e. the reports are hearsay/rumour) then our approach has been: 

  • If the grantmaker/events admissions team already think it is borderline whether the person should be given the opportunity, we might recommend the person not get the opportunity.
  • But if the grantmaker/events admissions team think there is a lot of value from this person getting the opportunity and still want to proceed knowing our concerns, we’ll aim to do harm reduction e.g. by
    • talking to the person about how their actions weren’t received well and giving them suggestions to prevent this happening. We try to do this in cases where we have reason to think the person is well intentioned but unaware of the effect they sometimes have on others.
    • suggesting some alterations to the project (e.g. by suggesting a different person working on their project does some of the tasks)
    • trying to find more information about the person or incident. For example, we might talk to the person directly, the people who reported the concern, or ask one of their colleagues or the organiser of their EA group if they have any concerns about this person in other contexts. If we’re not able to share the identity of the person, we might just ask how their group/workplace is going and if there are any worries they have - which is something we commonly do whether or not there are concerns about a member of their group/workplace).
  • If we are only concerned about someone’s in-person actions, we generally don’t try to block remote or intellectual work like research funding.

Thanks Ivy and Jason for your thoughts on internal and external investigations of problems of sexual misconduct in EA.

There are a few different investigation type things going on at the moment, and some of them aren’t fully scoped or planned. So it is a bit confusing. To clarify, this is where we are at right now:

  1. Catherine, Anu and Lukasz from the Community Health team are investigating the experiences of women and gender minorities in EA
    1. Analysing existing data sources (in progress - Rethink Priorities has kindly given us some (as yet) unpublished data from the 2022 Survey to help with this step)
    2. We are considering gathering and analysing more data about the experiences of women and gender minorities in EA, and have talked with Rethink Priorities about whether and how they could help. Nothing has been decided yet. To clarify a statement in Ivy’s comment though, we’re not planning to hand over any information we have (e.g. survey data from EAG(x)s or information about sexual misconduct cases raised to our team) to Rethink Priorities as part of this process.   
  2. The EV board has commissioned an external investigation by an independent law firm into Owen’s behaviour and the Community Health team’s response.
  3. The Community Health team are doing our own internal review into our handling of the complaints about Owen and our overall processes for dealing with complaints and concerns. More information about this here.

Thanks for this lovely post. I have SO many reasons to love effective altruism, here’s one (maybe I'll write more later):


I’ve been seeking out truthseeking communities all my life, but they all fell short of my goals until I found EA. Some examples:

  • I studied particle physics - what could be more truthseeky than trying to find the fundamental nature of the universe? Back then, a bunch of particle physicists claimed to believe in a class of theories called “supersymmetry” - and I never understood why - there was no evidence for it, and I never really grokked why people thought the theoretical arguments were so compelling. At the time I just thought I wasn’t intelligent or knowledgeable enough to get it, but I might have undersold myself. The Large Hadron Collider has since ruled out all the then most popular versions of supersymmetry, and it isn’t cool any more. I think there might have been some sort of shared delusion because people wanted it to be true, partly because it was testable by the particle accelerator that was under construction. 
  • When I was a science teacher it used to drive me BONKERS that students were taught (and required to regurgitate in national exams) incorrect force diagrams. (E.g. for a car accelerating on a flat, level road, students were required to draw the “friction” arrow pointing backwards - whereas in reality, friction is forward and without it the wheels would just spin and the car wouldn’t go anywhere). I get the need for simplification as much as the next guy, but you can’t tell me that “point the arrow in the exact opposite direction” counts as simplification. I talked to a bunch of teachers, the national qualifications authority,  the ministry of education, and created draft alternative (and equally simple) resources for them to review. But no one else seemed to care at all about whether what we were teaching was accurate - or at least didn’t care enough to do anything about it.

But EA seems to be very different - this community seems to be unusually good at seeking the truth, even (or especially?) when it is inconvenient, scary, or even shameful.  One of the first EA talks I went to blew my mind by questioning whether we are currently wasting our donations, by doing and then undoing good. Then I read GiveWell’s noodling on whether or not some of  their (then) top charities are likely to have no impact, and discussions on whether becoming vegetarian increases animal suffering. More recently I’ve seen commentary about whether our community has accelerated dangerous AI capabilities or whether our community contributed to an environment that led to multi-billion dollar fraud. We should take these possible negatives very seriously. The fact that we do take these negatives seriously, and that we continue to try to get better a truth seeking gives me a whole bunch of hope. 

I haven't personally heard any instances of this, but it's certainly possible :(

Hi all -

This post has now been edited, but we would like to address some of the original claims, since many people have read them. In particular, the author claims:

  1. They have identified 30 incidents of rape or abuse with strong ties to EA, as well as 14 that are “EA adjacent”
  2. They have been fighting assault in EA since 2016

Here is some context: 

  • The author emailed the Community Health team about 7 months ago, when she shared some information about interpersonal harm; someone else previously forwarded us some anonymous information that she may have compiled. Before about 7 months ago, we hadn’t been in contact with her.
  • The information from her included serious concerns about various people in the Bay Area, most of whom had no connection to EA as far as we know. 4 of the accused seemed to be possibly or formerly involved with EA. CEA will not allow those 4 people at our events (though for context most of them haven’t applied). As we’ve said before, we’re grateful to her for this information. 
  • In addition, she later sent us some information that we had also previously received from other sources and we were already taking action on. We appreciate people sharing information even when it turns out we already have it, but it is relevant for clarifying the degree to which she is counterfactually responsible for our actions. 
  • Based on our records, this is the extent of the relevant information she has shared with us.
  • She referred to some other situations both on the Forum and privately, which did not contain enough information for us to identify the situation or learn more. 
  • We have emailed the author to tell her we will not be contracting her services.

We don’t think it’s productive to go into more depth about the author’s specific claims or engage in a back and forth with her, but we wanted to publicly flag that we disagree with many of her claims.

If you have concerns about our approach here, our reasoning etc., please let us know. Please reach out to me by email ( or fill in this form (anonymously if you wish) to reach the whole Community Health team. You can read more about Julia Wise and my roles as contact people for the EA community here

Thanks Keerthana. I'm afraid I don't know anything about CFAR's processes. It might be worth you reaching out to CFAR directly:

I look forward to reading your 
> women-friendly culture updates a movement can take
If and when you choose to share. 

Thanks for all the suggestions and comments on this post! I have read them and will respond. 

I know some commenters have been trying to square the uncertainty I express in this post with the allegations in TIME. I’ve added a new comment where I’ve shared the Community Health team’s understanding about most (not all) of the cases: 

Hey Aella, I appreciate you telling your story. I’m really sorry that you’ve experienced people lying about you, and making harmful assumptions about your intent . That really really sucks. 

I’ve put more information about most (not all) of the Community Health team’s understanding of the TIME cases in this comment: 
It might clarify some of your questions about individual cases. 

We (the Community Health team at CEA) would like to share some more information about the cases in the TIME article, and our previous knowledge of these cases. We’ve put these comments in the approximate order that they appear in the TIME article. 


Re: Gopalakrishnan’s experiences

We read her post with concern.  We saw quite a few supportive messages from community members, and we also tried to offer support. Our team also reached out to Gopalakrishnan in a direct message to ask if she was interested in sharing more information with us about the specific incidents. 


Re: The man who

  1. Expressed opinions about “pedophilic relationships”
  2. “Another woman, who dated the same man several years earlier in a polyamorous relationship, alleges that he had once attempted to put his penis in her mouth while she was sleeping.” 

We don’t know this person’s identity for sure, but one of these accounts resembles a previous public accusation made against a person who used to be involved in the rationality community. He has been banned from CEA events for almost 5 years, and we understand he has been banned from some other EA spaces. He has been a critic of the EA movement for some time. 

We were aware of the second allegation and were in contact with the woman. We did not know about the first allegation until recently. 


Re: Masturbation comment

Time magazine described it as “After that leader arranged for her to be flown to the U.K. for a job interview, she recalls being surprised to discover that she was expected to stay in his home, not a hotel. When she arrived, she says, “he told me he needed to masturbate before seeing me.””

We know lots of people are particularly concerned about this, which makes sense. Our understanding is that more information will be forthcoming, and we hope to be able to say more about it next week.

Re: Rochelle Shen “says she has firsthand experience of the ways the movement dismisses allegations. “They want to keep it all in the family.””

As far as we know, we hadn’t interacted with Shen at the time this was written. We don’t have a complete picture of how others in the community have handled allegations that have come to them.  In general, the community health team encourages people to consider all their options for handling a problem, including getting legal advice if they think a crime may have happened.


Re: The Bay Area House

The TIME article describes the house as “roughly a third of the residents were EAs, and the house regularly hosted EA events.” We were aware of the existence of this house after some concerns were raised about a year ago. We weren’t aware of EA events hosted in the house, but it is common for people in the EA community to invite other community members around to their houses.

Re: “male co-leader of the house was accused of sexual misconduct by an ex-girlfriend who says she met him at an EA conference”

Community Health became aware of concerns about this person about a year ago. He had been to an EA Global conference around 5 years ago,  and we decided not to admit him to any future CEA-run events. We reached out to the accuser asking if we could help.

Re: “the other residents of the house started a Google Doc to collectively discuss how to handle them.”

 Community Health was not aware of this document or the process in the house generally. 


Re: “an EA living in the house suggested bringing in a mediator named Aurora Quinn-Elmore”

Community Health has not referred people to Quinn-Elmore. She last attended an EA conference around 5 years ago. 


Re: “a much older EA recruited her to join his polyamorous relationship while she was still in college”

To our knowledge, we don’t know about this specific situation

Re: Man who “asked how old she was, she recalls, then quickly suggested she join his polyamorous relationship. Shortly after agreeing to date him, “He told me that ‘I could sleep with you on Monday,’ but on Tuesday I’m with this other girl,”

To our knowledge, we don’t know about this specific situation.  


Re: other concerns raised in the comments section

A commenter wrote that they had heard some very serious allegations. They later removed their own comments about this. 

We were aware of one of these situations and had already taken action to ban the accused from CEA events (although the accused doesn’t seem to have been involved with the EA community in some time). 

Some of the other situations this commenter referred to were not ones we had heard about, and did not contain enough information for us to identify the situation or learn more. We have asked the commenter for more information. If anyone has specific information about these or other problems in the community, our door is very much open.


If you have more information about these cases, or other situations of harassment or abuse in the EA community, we would really like to help. 

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