I'm a junior at The University of Chicago, majoring in Public Policy. Highly uncertain about how to integrate EA with my career path but trying hard, hopefully through some intersection of policy + narrative change + movement-building.

Wiki Contributions


Miranda_Zhang's Shortform

Thanks! I'll take a break from thinking about the theory - ironically, I am fairly confident I don't want to go into academia.

Again, appreciate your thoughts on this. Hope I'll hear from you again if I post another Shortform about my thesis!

Miranda_Zhang's Shortform

Hmm! Yes, that's interesting - and aligns with the fact that many different policy influencers weighed in, ranging from former to current policymakers. Thank you very much for this!

I think something I'm worried about is how I can conceptualize [inside experts] vs. [outside experts] ... It seems like a potentially arbitrary divide and/or a very complex undertaking given the lack of transparency into the policy process (i.e. who actually wields influence and access to Biden and Katherine Tai, on this specific issue?).

It also complicates the investigation by adding in the element of access as a factor, rather than purely thinking about narrative strategies - and I very much want to focus on narratives. On one hand, I think that could be interesting - e.g. looking at narrative strategies across levels of access. On the other, I'm uncertain that looking at narrative strategies would add much compared to just analyzing the stances of actors within the sphere of influence.

What do you think of this alternate RQ: "How did pro/anti-waiver coalitions use evidence in their narratives?"

Moves away from the focus on experts but still gets to the scientific/epistemic component.

(I'm also wondering whether I am being overly concerned with theoretically justifying things!)

Miranda_Zhang's Shortform

*edit 3: After reading more on Epistemic Communities, I think I'm back where I started.
*edit 4: I am questioning, now, whether I need a framework of how experts influence policymaking at all ... Maybe I should conceptualize my actors more broadly but narrow the topic to, say, the use of evidence in narratives?

I really appreciate your response, Ian! I think it makes sense that the more convoluted status of the first debate would make it a more valuable question to investigate.

My hesitation was not worded accessibly or clearly - it was too grounded in the specific frameworks I'm struggling to apply - so let me reword: it doesn't seem accurate to claim that there was one expert consensus (i.e. primarily pro-/anti-waiver).  Given that, I am not sure a) how to break down the category of 'expert' - although you provide one suggestion, which is helpful - and b) how strongly I can justify focusing on experts, given that there isn't a clear divide between "what experts think" and "what non-experts think."


My main concern with investigating the debate around the TRIPS waiver is that there doesn't seem to be a clear expert consensus. I'm not even sure there's a clear EA-aligned consensus, although the few EAs I saw speak on this (e.g. Rob Wiblin) seemed to favor donating over waiving IP (which seems like a common argument from Europe). Given that, I question

  1. the validity of investigating 'expert narratives' because 'experts' didn't really agree there
    1. However, I don't know if it would be in/valid (per the theories I want to draw from, e.g. Advocacy Coalition Framework (ACF) or Epistemic Communities), so that would be one of my next steps.
      1. This particular description worries me: "Advocacy coalitions are all those defined by political actors who share certain ideas and who coordinate among themselves in a functional way to suggest specific issues to the government and influence in the decision-making process."
      2. This would be subverted by your suggestion, though, as I note in point 3!
  2. the validity of investigating expert narratives specifically instead of the general public—if experts didn't coalesce around a specific stance, what's my justification for investigating them specifically instead of getting a sense of the public generally? ACF explicitly notes that "common belief systems bind members of a coalition together." Given that the pro-/anti-waiver coalitions  are defined by common beliefs held by both experts and non-experts (e.g.  pro-free-market), how can I justify exclusively focusing on experts?
    1. This is probably not a valid concern, now that I think about it. After all, my thesis hinges upon the idea that experts help inform policymakers + policymaking, so it makes sense to focus on their narratives rather than looking at the public as a whole...
    2. However, it seems like focusing exclusively on two expert groups is valid at least within the Epistemic Community framework, so perhaps this would work if it turns out that certain kinds of experts advocated for the same stance.
  3. whom I should focus on—without being able to lump all experts together, how should I break them down?
    1. Perhaps I could subdivide experts into coalitions - e.g. experts for the waiver and experts against the waiver? (This is akin to the fault lines you mention)
      1. I still feel kind of iffy about investigating experts specifically here, instead of the general public, particularly because I could use the same coalitional divide (pro-/anti-waiver)
    2. Or should I focus on EA-aligned experts specifically?
      1. But I don't know how to justify this... It doesn't seem like the smartest research practice
Miranda_Zhang's Shortform

I'm (still!!!) thinking about my BA thesis research question and I think my main uncertainty/decision point is what specific policy debate to investigate. I've narrowed it down to two so far - hopefully I don't expand - and really welcome thoughts.

Context: I am examining the relationship between narratives deployed by experts on Twitter and the Biden Administration's policymaking process re: COVID-19 vaccine diplomacy. Specifically,  I want to examine a debate on an issue wherein EA-aligned experts have generally coalesced around one stance.

Motivating questions/insights:

  1. COVID-19 policymakers solicited help from experts
    1. However, the U.S. public's trust in experts has varied. It may have peaked last year and now be declining
  2. Vaccine diplomacy (along with all health policy) is not solely an issue of 'following the science'
    1. This is not to say that data or rationality is not important. In fact, I would be extremely interested in investigating whether the combination  of scientific evidence + thematic framing is more effective than either alone.
      1. However, that would be an experimental study which is not something I am interested in.
    2. This suggests I might want to investigate the presence of scientific vs thematic elements in expert narratives. Not sure though... It's not what I'm immediately drawn to
  3. Evidence/science alone is insufficient. Experts need to be able to tell stories/persuade/make a moral or emotional appeal. (Extrapolated from the claim that narratives can be influential in policymaking)
    1. At the very least, experts should make clear that no decision is value-neutral and the specific values they are prioritizing in their recommendation
    2. Now that I think about it, the fact that I'm 'not sure' about this re: COVID-19 might mean this would make for a good RQ? Or maybe I'm just not thinking of the relevant literature right now.

The two debates below, including general thoughts

  1. The COVID-19 TRIPS Waiver (waiving IP)
    1. What most excites me about this: The Biden Admin did a strong 'about-face' on this and the discourse around this was very rich (involved many actors with strong opinions, and entwines with debates around vaccine sharing etc.).
    2. Main hesitation: I don't know how to think about experts as an actor here. Should they be considered a coalition, per the Advocacy Coalition Framework? Or should I look at a specific set of aligned expert organizations/individuals? Or should I look at all experts on Twitter?
      1. But ACF emphasizes long-term policymaking and shared beliefs - and it seems like there was no singular expert consensus on whether the TRIPS waiver would be a net good. Now that I think about it, this might be due to a lack of transparency over what is being [morally] prioritized...
      2. But why focus on aligned orgs/individuals? How can I justify that? How generalizable is that even?
      3. But if I include all experts, including experts who might have other avenues to policy influence (e.g. big think tanks or former officials), then why not also examine non-expert narratives?
        1. Specifically, the rationale behind examine Twitter is that it provides a highly-accessible advocacy platform to people who do not otherwise have much visibility/leverage
        2. Also, looking at a wide range of Tweets helps get a sense of the general narrative
  2. Delaying child vaccinations (viz. the WHO's recommendation)
    1. What most excites me about this: There is an explicit non-epistemic debate here (prioritizing children domestically vs the global poor), and that is what I care the most about. There still remains a scientific/epistemic component, too: "Are children safe without vaccines?"
      1. Additionally, there is an added controversial non-epistemic element of anti-maskers
    2. Main hesitation: But the Biden administration hasn't really 'made a policy' on this. So what policy process would I be examining?
      1. This also straddles the line between domestic and international, in that the debate is primarily about picking between the two (in contrast to the first debate), which could be tricky

*edited for clarity - was in a rush when I posted!

Linch's Shortform

I love Hamilton!  I wrote my IB Extended Essay on it!

I also really love and relate to Non-Stop but in the obsessive, perfectionist way. I like + appreciate your view on it, which seems quite different in that it is more focused on how Hamilton's brain works rather than on how hard he works.

Building my Scout Mindset: #1

Oh, I didn't know that! Appreciate the clarification of how the Forum works.

Humanities Research Ideas for Longtermists

Update: This article seems to be pretty relevant to the above question.

Unfortunately, I'm starting to think my interest is even more qualitative than the above. So I'm not sure how much I'll be contributing to that research question.

On what kinds of Twitter accounts would you be most interested in seeing research?

Yes, I think Lizka might have mentioned him too. Good suggestion, thank you!

Building my Scout Mindset: #1

Glad it was interesting! I did hope that others might be motivated to take up a scout habit if they read this, so I'm happy to hear that you might be one step closer to that. : )

Also, thank you for commenting because I am now realising I didn't include the article that this post is on...

Building my Scout Mindset: #1

I think this might be appearing on the front page despite me unchecking the 'Frontpage' box - which seems like a recurring issue for me.

I am sorry if this is on the front page; I don't think it should be and I intended for this to live on my personal blog...

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