Michael Noetel

Senior Lecturer // Chair and Director @ Australian Catholic University // Effective Altruism Australia
Working (6-15 years of experience)
258Joined Jan 2020


I think my competitive advantage is in effectively training people to make clear and ethical decisions, at scale. I use systematic reviews to figure out what works,  and online/blended educational interventions to scale those interventions faithfully and cost-effectively. My reviews also aim to figure out how to improve the quality of those interventions.

I'm an awarded educator, receiving national awards, international senior fellowships, and the highest honour from my university. I also have a strong academic research background: I'm Chief Investigator on $3.7m of competitive, industry-partnered research grants; have published in the Scimago #1 journals for psychology, applied psychology, ageing, paediatrics, education (three times, see #1, #2, #3), and sport science (twice, see #1 & #2); and my work is cited almost 4x the world average (according to InCites; all data as of June 2021). 


How others can help me

I'm moving to the University of Queensland and, in doing so, am looking to expand a team of researchers looking at how to most effectively train people to make clear and ethical decisions. This might include:

  • Improving the quality of education and communication for EA community building
  • Training policymakers and organisational leaders in clear/ethical thinking (improving institutional decision-making)
  • Training young people in clear thinking about their careers

To that end, I'd appreciate introductions to:

  • Potential PhD / honours students who might want to work on the questions above
  • Early-career researchers who might want to do research fellowships together
  • Like-minded researchers looking to collaborate on similar projects

How I can help others

I have strong methodological expertise in a few areas that might be valuable:

  • Figuring out what works best to solve a problem by designing and running systematic reviews / meta-analyses
  • Effectively and faithfully scaling up behaviour change with online educational intervention
  • Designing and running projects, like randomised trials of interventions
  • Accumulating academic career capital


Classic Aird: great collection of links to useful resources. Thanks mate. Looking forward to meta-Aird: a collection of links to the best of Aird's collection of links.

Argh bugger, this conflicts with EAGx so won't make this but would love to be kept in the loop

What about 'card-carrying EAs'? Doesn't have the same dark connotations as "drank the kool-aid" and does somewhat exemplify the difference you're hinting at.

Maybe GWWC can start printing cards 😅


I should clarify: RCTs are obviously generally >> even a very well controlled propensity score matched quasi-experiment, but I just don't think the former is 'bulletproof' anymore. The former should update your priors more but if you look at the variability among studies in meta-analyses, even among low-risk-of-bias RCTs, I'm now much less easily swayed by any single one.

Yeah these are interesting questions Eli. I've worked on a few big RCTs and they're really hard and expensive to do. It's also really hard to adequately power experiments for small effect sizes in noisy environments (e.g., productivity of remote/in-person work). Your suggestions to massively scale up those interventions and to do things online would make things easier. As Ozzie mentioned, the health ones require such long and slow feedback loops that I think they might not be better than well (statistically) controlled alternatives. I used to think RCTs were the only way to get definitive causal data. The problem is, because of biases that can be almost impossible to eliminate (https://sites.google.com/site/riskofbiastool/welcome/rob-2-0-tool) RCTs are seldom perfect causal data. Conversely, with good adjustment for confounding, observational data can provide very strong causal evidence (think smoking; I recommend my PhD students do this course for this reason https://www.coursera.org/learn/crash-course-in-causality). For the ones with fast feedback loops, I think some combination of "priors + best available evidence + lightweight tests in my own life" works pretty well to see if I should adopt something.

At a meta-level, in an ideal world, the NSF and NIH (and global equivalents) are probably designed to fund people to address questions that are most important and with the highest potential. There are probably dietetics/sleep/organisational psychology experts who have dedicated their careers to questions #1-4 above, and you'd hope that those people are getting funded if those questions are indeed critical to answer. In reality, science funding probably does not get distributed based on criteria that maximises impartial welfare, so maybe that's why #1-4 would get missed. As mentioned in a recent forum post, I think the mega-org could be better focused nudging scientific incentives to focus on those questions rather than working on those questions ourselves https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/JbddnNZHgySgj8qxj/improving-science-influencing-the-direction-of-research-and

3 months on, and this has become one of the most valuable EA/Alignment/Rationality dissemination innovations I've seen. Has replaced almost all my more vapid listening. Would get through an extra 10-20 hours of content a week. Thank you Nonlinear/Kat/Emerson

I'm sure you've read this paper that guides young psychologists like you in some useful directions: https://psyarxiv.com/8dw59/

If you're committed to mental health then the research agenda for the Happier Lives Institute is useful to consider: https://www.happierlivesinstitute.org/ or scaleable online interventions like those of Spencer Greenberg's team (see MindEase and UpLift: https://www.sparkwave.tech/)

If you're more flexible, then your skills from counselling psychology would be useful in movement building (because basically you learn how to be a warm, supportive person who helps people change behaviour [in this case, maybe careers]): https://80000hours.org/problem-profiles/promoting-effective-altruism/

Personally, I switched out of clinical/counselling work because it was so difficult to scale. There are also many more psychologists (etc.) in wealthy countries per head than there are overseas, so many other options are more neglected https://founderspledge.com/stories/mental-health-report-summary

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