521Joined Oct 2014


Strategy Fellow at Open Philanthropy, working to help identify new cause areas within the Global Health and Wellbeing portfolio. Based in Brussels, grown in the UK.

Giving What We Can member since 2011. Previously earning to give as a strategy consultant.

Not the Chris Smith who used to work at GiveWell.

Tweets on global health, statistics, economics, feminism, and effective altruism at @chris_topian


Small suggestion - could you include some text on the front page about who you think the survey is for (e.g. is it everyone who self-identifies with the term effective altruist? anyone who considers themselves part of the EA community? someone who has read a book / listened to a podcast about effective giving / longtermism / farmed or wild animal welfare?). 

I appreciate that the sampling frame here is extremely difficult and I'm supportive of trying to survey ~everyone of relevance, but the way it's set up now it's not clear to me who you're trying to reach. I can imagine people who you might want to reach and fill the survey out not doing so because of how the landing page is set up. I'd push for an inclusive framing of who you're trying to include. The current page assumes that the reader knows what the "EA survey" is - which is pretty ingroup / assumes a lot.

[Context - I managed the Cause Exploration Prizes]

Thank you Gavriel for taking the time to write this out and thank you again for your original submission on ways that philanthropic funders can help address indoor air quality, which I encourage others to check out. I'm really sorry to hear you felt burnt out after completing the entry.

Although essay prizes and contests are quite prevalent in the EA community, this was very much an experiment for global health and wellbeing cause prioritization team at Open Phil. A major objective of the lower value prizes and participation awards was to enable people to feel able to submit ideas that were good / on their mind, but not fully polished. Personally I think we were reasonably successful with that - but if we run anything similar again, we'll definitely consider a smoother gradient and tweaking other parameters.

Thanks for writing this, it's an excellent first forum post and a great note on an important topic that is slightly under the EA radar. 

You identified the $20M (IRC) and $7M (ALIMA) grants Open Philanthropy made in 2021 through GiveWell for the treatment of malnutrition. I wanted to draw your attention to another series of grants that the Open Philanthropy Science team have made to improve the formulation of Ready to Use Therapeutic Food

My quick answers to your questions are that RUTF and other high impact malnutrition work is plausibly cost-effectiveness-competitive at the margin with the marginal malaria donation, although I expect that GiveWell have thought about this more carefully and indepth than I have and ultimately would defer to that. I'd note that they're both pretty great donation opportunities and I'd never want to dissuade someone from thinking about, working on, or donating to work on severe malnutrition (or malaria prevention). RUTF saves children's lives and is cheap.

On assessing STC or others, it's possible for GiveWell / other major movers of funds to engage directly and assess at a programmatic level (e.g. SAM work in Somalia) in a way that is difficult for individual donors to do. GiveWell have written  about how they are assessing some malnutrition interventions, although some of that work is now quite old. If someone was asking specifically what malnutrition work to donate, a dedicated emergency fund like the STC East Africa malnutrition one would be the recommendation I would give (in a personal capacity). 

Hi jserv! I'll aim to say a bit more about the nuts and bolts of the process in an update before the end of the year, but prize selection was dominated by blind, independent review. I'm following up with you privately on tuberculosis.

Hi Siebe - thank you again for your entry! Unfortunately we don't have capacity to provide feedback on every submission. There were many useful and interesting pieces of work that didn't receive a prize.

Hi arghya - sorry I missed this post. Just as a reminder, we're paying $200 for the first 200 submissions made in good faith, so don't feel put off submitting something if you don't think you have time to write something that you think will be competitive for the top prizes.

We suggest my colleague Lauren Gilbert's shallow on civil conflict as an example of a shallow investigation of a potential cause area. She's also published one more recently on telecoms in LMICs. There's also the guidance page of the Cause Exploration Prizes website. 

Looking forward to hopefully reading your submission!

I enjoyed reading this, thank you for writing it. Two things:

Firstly, I wondered if you were aware of this recent GiveWell scoping grant to Precision Development (PxD) which explores something very close to what you're suggesting - it's asking them to come up with an evaluation design (which could by an RCT) for their work on providing information to smallholder farmers, which GiveWell is then open to funding ("we think there's a 70% chance we will provide a grant to fund implementation, and evaluation of PxD's agriculture program...40% chance we'll provide a grant of $30 million or more..."). This isn't a full recent research agenda, but it could be a peer-review suitable RCT (depending of course on what PxD propose). How close is this to what you're advocating?

Secondly, if you wanted to submit this to the Open Philanthropy cause exploration prizes as is or after any changes, it is eligible. 

Suggestions of scientific research and lobbying / advocacy, or other activities where cost-effectiveness are hard to measure are all potentially valid suggestions and would be eligible for prizes (and the $200 participation awards). For each of these I'd say that costs are relatively estimable based on what individual research projects costs, current research spending in an area, the cost of comparable advocacy campaigns etc. I agree that the chances of success are more difficult, but they can be estimated to at least some extent based on comparable base rates. There will, of course, be substantial uncertainty associated with any estimates of cost-effectiveness that relies on research or advocacy, but as long as your reasoning is transparent that's ok. You can read more about this on our webpage on making a grant and on the guidance page for the Cause Exploration Prizes. 

Anti-aging research could be an interesting submission.

Investments in for-profit companies are eligible as suggestions - Open Philanthropy is a flexible funder. When thinking about the costs of such an investment program, you will want to reduce the costs by any returns that the investment generates (perhaps with a discount to reflect the opportunity cost of investing it elsewhere).

All of those things are ok. Open Phil staff shouldn't be listed as co-authors since they are not eligible for the prizes. A brief acknowledgement section is welcome if you've had substantial input from others who are not co-authors. 

If you are submitting an unpublished piece of writing which you've already produced, please make sure it is answering a question that we've put forward and is geared towards the perspective of a funder (see our guidance page for more detail)

Yes, a broader proposal on scientific reproducibility as a potential cause area would be appropriate for this. Your proposed project could be an example grantee, but it would be great idea to explore other ways that a funder could help address the problem as well (even if you conclude that something like I4R is the most cost-effective opportunity)

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