M

mildlyanonymous

176 karmaJoined Nov 2023

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15

I'll say something I said to Joey in this thread early - I expect that the best animal charities in the future will come out of AIM, but it will come with a lot of avoidable waste of funds and talent due to the things related to my concerns. I think AIM focusing on their skills at incubating charities, and less on what I believe are weaknesses or threats (coordinating donors and research), would be much better for the space.

I think it is quite clear that a lot of your research isn't at the bar of those other organizations (though I think for the reasons Joey mentioned, that definitely can be okay). For example, I think in this report, collapsing 30 million species with diverse life histories into a single "Wild bug" and then taking what appear to be completely uncalibrated guesses at their life conditions, then using that to compare to other species is just well below the quality standards of other organizations in the space, even if it is a useful way to get a quick sense of things.

I think being hostile was probably slightly too strong, though I will note that the original comment still has positive upvotes / many agree votes, but no other people defending this position in the comments, which is concerning, and mostly CE staff and incubatees responding

I gave a few examples here, but as I mentioned in response to Aidan, I don't think that comment makes much sense as an overall defense. 

My goal here is not to provide this to the EA Forum, but to caution donors about doing further due diligence. But I mentioned a few examples of more egregious research failures in another comment.

I'll also add that the original comment still has positive comment karma and many agree votes, and that many of the disagree votes seem to be AIM staff and incubatees, and not necessarily others in animal welfare research. I think that at a minimum, that should raise flags for many people to take these concerns seriously.

It looks like the report has been taken down, but I think the degree to which you pushed dissolved water oxygenation for fish welfare before launching Fish Welfare Initiative is an especially strong example of this. At the time I heard skepticism from many experts. You can see a reference to that report in this post. This report is another example of something that I think would not have passed any kind of rigorous external review.

I think this is overly simplifying of something a lot more complex, and I’m surprised it’s a justification you use for this. Of course on some level what you’re saying is correct in many cases. But imagine you recommend a global health charity to be launched. GiveWell says “you’re misinterpreting some critical evidence, and this isn’t as impactful as you think”. Charities on the ground say “this will impact our existing work, so try doing it this other way”. You launch the intervention anyway. The founders immediately get the same feedback, including from trying the intervention, then pivot to coordinating more and aligning with external experts.

This seems much more analogous to what happens in the animal space, and it seems absolutely like a good indicator that people were skeptical. Charities aren’t for-profits, who exist in a vacuum of their own profitability. They are part of a broader ecosystem.

I definitely agree that organizations should pivot as they learn about how an intervention works in practice. I think the errors I refer to are more things of the type: a cursory glance from an animal welfare scientist could have told you your research was missing key considerations, and the charity would have not wasted time on the recommended intervention. These seem cheap to prevent and preventable issues.

Thanks for sharing this! It differs from the narrative I’ve heard elsewhere is critical ways, but I don’t really know much about this situation, and just appreciate the transparency.

It also concerns me that I’ve seen 5 instances of this post being disagree voted and strong downvoted, then a CE staff member commenting right after. I think those are obviously things people have a right to do if it is CE staff downvoting and disagreeing, but it means this post, outside of CE staff, might have fairly strong agreement from many people, which seems like an important note, given that it is still very positive karma, and without those votes might be positive agreement on balance.

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