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

Topic Contributions


Why Effective Altruists Should Put a Higher Priority on Funding Academic Research

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. 

Open Philanthropy's Cause Exploration Prizes: $120k for written work on global health and wellbeing

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).

Open Philanthropy's Cause Exploration Prizes: $120k for written work on global health and wellbeing

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)

Open Philanthropy's Cause Exploration Prizes: $120k for written work on global health and wellbeing

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)

Open Philanthropy's Cause Exploration Prizes: $120k for written work on global health and wellbeing

This is a good question, and it's certainly something that could be clearer on the website. The closest thing to what you're asking for is here but the page is slightly dated and is due to be refreshed soon. Some of the focus areas are also at a very high level of abstraction (e.g. global health and development) which should not be read as meaning we don't want suggestions for opportunities within those focus areas.

On the page for the new cause area prompt it specifies deliberately that we are open to suggestions for new problems to work on, and new ways to address problems we are already working on. So to pick an example, Open Philanthropy already funds work to fight malaria through its funding of GiveWell recommended charities that do service delivery work (e.g. AMF, Malaria Consortium) and through supporting research into gene drives (e.g. Target Malaria). But there are potentially other ways to fight malaria that we haven't funded historically (e.g. vaccine development). 

I would suggest authors do a quick check through our grant database before digging deep into a particular cause, and if there is a specific problem that you are considering writing about and are concerned might be too similar to what we already do, you're welcome to email

Open Philanthropy's Cause Exploration Prizes: $120k for written work on global health and wellbeing

Yes - this fits within our GHW portfolio. From the FAQ page:

Can I write about non-human animals?

Yes. Open Philanthropy is a major funder of work to improve farm animal welfare. If you want to write about a potential new cause area where the primary beneficiaries are non-human animals, please use the open prompt.

Open Philanthropy's Cause Exploration Prizes: $120k for written work on global health and wellbeing

Sorry to hear! I think you might have clicked it during the split-second I was updating that page. Please could you give it another try and send a screenshot of whatever error you're getting if it doesn't work

Making Effective Altruism more emotionally appealing

I was about to delete my post (thanks Gleb_T for the quick change of name) but noticed a downvote. Could that person come forward and explain why they thought my post was unhelpful?

Making Effective Altruism more emotionally appealing

I don't particularly object to the content of the post, but could you please consider rewriting the title?

"Overcoming emotional resistance" honestly sounds like something deeply unpleasant pick up artists write about coercing women into unwanted sex (

Load More