PhD student @ MRC Biostatistics Unit, University of Cambridge
1264 karmaJoined Sep 2019Pursuing a doctoral degree (e.g. PhD)Seeking workCambridge, UK



I am an (almost finished) PhD student in biostatistics and infectious disease modelling (population-level); my research focuses on Bayesian statistical methods to produce improved estimates of the number of new COVID-19 infections. During the pandemic, I was a member of SPI-M-O (the UK government committee providing expert scientific advice based on infectious disease modelling and epidemiology).

I enjoy applying my knowledge broadly, including to models of future pandemics, big picture thinking on pandemic preparedness, and forecasting.

How others can help me

I'm currently nearing PhD competition with nothing lined up for after. I'm interested in opportunities in biosecurity and global health, especially answering questions about cost-effectiveness and prioritisation using modelling / stats / epidemiology skills. Please DM if of even vague interest.

How I can help others

Happy to chat about my experience providing scientific advice to government, the biosecurity field, epidemic modelling, doing a PhD, or pretty much anything else!


So the question is basically whether the (upkeep costs + opportunity cost of money - benefit from events) is more or less than discount from selling quickly?

What do you mean by take a huge loss? I'm not sure paper losses are relevant here.

Interesting read, I'm left unconvinced that traditional pharma is moving much slower than optimal. That would seem to imply that they're leaving a lot of money on the table (quicker approval = longer selling the drug before patent expires).

I have three speculative ideas on why this might be. Cost of the process, ability to scale the process, and risk (e.g. amount of resources wasted if a drug fails at some stage in development).

As the article points out, pharma can do this when the incentives are right (COVID vaccines) which implies there's a reason to not do it normally.

You need a step beyond this though. Not just that we are coming up with harder moral problems, but that solving those problems is important to future moral progress.

Perhaps a structure as simple as the one that has worked historically will prove just as useful in the future, or, as you point out has happened in the past, wider societal changes (not progress in moral philosophy at an academic discipline) is the major driver. In either case, all this complex moral philosophy is not the important factor for practical moral progress across society.

Bear in mind that even if FTX can pay everyone back now, that does not mean they were solvent at the point they were put into bankruptcy.

In your argument for 3, I think I accept the part that moral philosophising hasn't happened much historically. However, I can't really find the argument that it probably will in the future. Could you perhaps spell it out a bit more explicitly, or highlight where you think the case is being made please?

Great and interesting post though, I love seeing people rigourously exploring EA ideas and fitting them into the wider academic literature.

Thank you Ricardo, this is an insightful analysis. I'd like to see more EA Forum posts with this level of investigation invested into them. In particular, the balance of more longtermist and less global health funding is in contrast with other analyses on the forum.

I think your write-up could be improved more than the underlying analysis. To make this more accessible to others, and your work higher impact, I'd recommend the following.

  • Include your most important takeaways, and less information on your methods (eg the link to the notebook) in the tl;dr. Very few of your readers will have the time to dig into your code, and those who do are also likely to read the whole post. Almost all your readers want to know about your conclusions though.
  • Relatedly, your conclusions are quite meta (eg the stats page could be clearer), but don't highlight your important findings (eg: 2023 had a lot less money distributed, GHD is declining and LTFF is increasing).

This seems weird. We don't write 0156 for the year 156. I think this is likely to cause confusion.

This would surprise me. Surveillance is a very expensive ongoing cost, and the actions you should take upon detecting a new microbe which could potentially be a pathogen are unclear. Have you got a more detailed version of why you think this?

Do you know of anything else that feels similar to this? People in public areas collecting biological samples from volunteers (perhaps lightly compensated).

Afraid not. The closest I can think of is collecting samples from healthy volunteers without any benefit to them, but not in public areas. In particular, I'm thinking of swabbing in primary health settings (eg RGCP/UKHSA run something like this in England, I can't remember if it only includes those with respiratory symptoms) and testing blood donations (normally serological testing looking for antibodies). REACT (run by Imperial College) did swabbing for COVID via postal recruitment.

A bit of an aside, so maybe not of interest, however, this made me think of serological testing of residual blood samples. That is, when blood is collected for testing (for any clinical reason), not all of it is used in the tests, and the remaining (residual) part is tested. Here, there are no sample collection costs (the blood was collected anyway). However, it doesn't map exactly because you don't swab people without respiratory suspicion but you might take blood (eg anemia). Maybe there is an opportunity for either testing blood samples for pathogens (but I have no idea what that looks like) or samples taken for other respiratory reasons (but then you need to think about co-infection, ie does infection with influenza make you less likely to have another respiratory infection).

Finally, some shameless self-promotion. I'm currently nearing PhD competition with nothing lined up. If there are projects looking at these sorts of questions interested in modelling / stats / epidemiology input I'd be very interested, please DM. Please ignore this if unappreciated.

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