Yale EA’s Fellowship Application Scores were not Predictive of Eventual Engagement

Hi Tony!

We actually originally created the scoring breakdown partly to help with unconscious biases. Before, we had given people a general score after an interview but we learned that that is often really influenced by biases and that breaking scores down into components with specific things to look for would reduce that.  We are hoping the checkbox system we are trialing out this semester will reduce it even more as it aims to be even more objective. It is still possible, though, that it would lead to a systemic bias if the checkboxes themselves have one ingrained in them. We will be on the lookout for that and it is part of the reason we are not using it for selection this round :)


Additionally, at the end of the selection process we would look into the demographics of the selected fellows compared to all those being interviewed. Fortunately, for the past several years our selections actually were pretty representative of the total demographics of applicants. Unfortunately, our diversity of applicants, particularly racial, has not been as high as we would like and we are looking for ways to change that. 


As for an experimental approach - I would be interested if you had any ideas on how to go about doing that?   

Yale EA’s Fellowship Application Scores were not Predictive of Eventual Engagement

My instinctual response to this was: "well it is not very helpful to admit someone for whom it would be great if they got into EA if they really seem like they won't".

 However, since it seems like we are not particularly good at predicting whether they will get involved or not maybe this is a metric we should incorporate. (My intuition is that we would still want a baseline? There could be someone it would be absolutely amazing to have get involved but if they are extremely against EA ideas and disruptive that might lower the quality of the fellowship for others.) 

I am not super confident, though, that we would be very good at predicting this anyways. Are there certain indicators of this that you would suggest? I am also really not sure how/when we would collect feedback.  Also open to thoughts here. 

Personality traits associated with being involved in EA?

Thank you so much for this! It is super helpful! Is the raw data from the 2018 survey available anywhere?

Evidence on correlation between making less than parents and welfare/happiness?

From what I have read there is an important difference between perceptions of life satisfaction and well-being/happiness. Perception of life satisfaction continues to grow but actual affective well-being basically stops increasing after around $75,000. I have seen this a lot stemming back to this study. I did most of my research on this a few years ago so it might be outdated. Of course well being research is just really difficult and it is still unknown what exactly we should be measuring.

Some thoughts on EA outreach to high schoolers

Note: While I contributed to one of the posts about unsuccessful high-school outreach my experience with teaching EA concepts to high schoolers is much more limited than the others in the post. Most of my thoughts on this are based off of a few experiences teaching high schoolers, discussions with other people teaching high schoolers, my relative freshness out of high school (Graduated in 2017), and some extrapolations from running Yale EA and interacting with first-years.

As someone who contributed to one of the posts about unsuccessful high-school outreach I agree that outreach to high schoolers is not a lost cause (though I am inclined to think the majority of value would come from students in their last two years of high school since they will have a better grasp on topics and are closer to college).

I think even in just the few years after these posts were written we have learned a lot about movement building that could possibly contribute to more successful outreach. Particularly having more targeted outreach seems to be promising.

Catherine Low suggests here (though her opinions may have changed):

“This might be possible if you have a strong brand (such as an association with elite University) allowing you to attract suitable students through schools and other networks, and the resources to run a fellowship-type program with these students”

University group leaders have found that marketing their Fellowships as “prestigious” brings in more and better applicants. I imagine if you add prestige, the possibility of being able to add the program to college apps, and some selection process you could draw in a pretty promising high school crowd to a similar program. (However, if you did this I would disagree with your pro that there is “There’s less competition for the attention and time of younger people” since these types of students are often incredibly busy although they are more free in summers)

I agree with Peter’s concern about continued engagement. My inclination would be that a lot of the value would come from getting these students to then join their respective University group or start their own. This would probably require a bit more of a focus on community building as being particularly valuable.

As for concerns of the delicate nature of outreach to high schoolers, I think this should really be talked and thought about more. High schoolers being susceptible to ideas coming from older impressive people has its advantages and disadvantages. I haven’t thought about this enough to really contribute but would like to.

Lastly, most of my optimism around this would be specifically for EA outreach as opposed to rationality outreach. I pretty much agree with all of your concerns about rationality outreach listed in cons here and at least personally think they outweigh the pros of having purely rationality outreach rather than mainly EA outreach with some rationality concepts. I do think you can greatly minimize the concern of people losing intellectual hobbies as a result of getting involved in EA if this concern is built into the curriculum (ie: how to be sustainable in your altruism, the value of non-directly EA activities etc.)

I'm Michelle Hutchinson, head of advising at 80,000 Hours, AMA

Could you possibly share how much the ACE off-set was? I have been having trouble finding a good number for this when people ask me about it.

"EA residencies" as an outreach activity

General Positive Notes:

I think building relationships between EA professionals and groups is highly valuable and think that programs such as residencies could be really beneficial.

As someone, who had not met too many EA professionals (outside of community builders) until fairly recently I can at least attest to how beneficial it was for me. I was able to have deep discussions on EA issues with those who knew more about EA than anyone I had met before. This led to me changing some of my ideas on things and generally having a better understanding of where EA stands on things. (My answer: a lot of disagreement)

I learned a lot and now have a much better network of EA connections which I have been increasingly realizing the importance of.

There is a possibility that my experience was especially beneficial since I met many professionals at once. (Through a MIRI workshop, Community Building Grantee Retreat, and EAG London all within a span of 3 weeks. ) I think this was particularly beneficial and encourage programs that allow this type of interaction between EA Professionals and group leaders in the future.

However, I still see the prospect of a residency program as very promising. Many of my group members (Yale EA) will not be able to attend EAG (especially with EAG accepting fewer undergraduates) and have very few opportunities to meet EA Professionals. (EAGx is a possible place for this however there are a lot fewer EA professionals at EAGx as compared to EAG)

In my one-on-ones and our community surveys we have heard one element of feedback again and again which is the desire to hear from people who have careers in EA and more experience than us.

As for things like the SSC trip - the group was only able to visit for a very short amount of time. (Most had to leave after about an hour I believe) There were a number of members that I think could have really benefited from meeting them that weren't able to because they were unavailable at that time. So I think the point of having a larger window to meet people is a very good one.

General Worries:

I really agree with Neel's concerns in this write-up. This is particularly potent with my group as many did not come from a rationalist background and some have had poor experiences when meeting Bay Area rationalist EAs. I think the right person could avoid these problems by communicating with group leaders beforehand as mentioned in this post. I still do worry though that it is just generally difficult to change aspects of one's personality in different contexts.

I also strongly second the point that this person does not act as a representative of the EA community as a whole. I think this would need to be very clearly communicated. I can imagine situations in which group members who had never met an EA professional before immediately take what this particular one says as a testament to what EA as a whole thinks. I also worry that if people had a particularly negative interaction that they might generalize that to EA as a whole as well. I think this person would have to maintain awareness that this might be happening throughout the program and actively seek ways to reduce the possibility.

I also think there are other ways to increase interaction between EA professionals and group members but am not sure what exactly those would look like. We have had some good interactions with guest speakers in our dinners following talks but these are often larger groups than optimal. It would be great to have more EA professionals at EAGxs and have career fairs similar to those at EAG. (This might happen in some - Fair warning that I am basing all of my knowledge of EAGxs on EAGx Boston)

Overall, I am generally in favor of something like this residency program happening and think it would be great if Yale EA got to be a stop. I think that if the right person is picked and is aware of these concerns that this could definitely be very positive.

Load More