Your August 2019 EA Newsletter    
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We hope you enjoy this month's edition!

The EA Newsletter Team

“If we think that the grave harms that others in this world suffer are urgent enough that we ought to use some of our resources to fight those harms, those exact same reasons warrant us using those resources in ways that help as much as possible.”

William MacAskill, who helped to start the effective altruism movement and founded several of its longest-running organizations, recently published a series of pieces on the EA Forum. 

You can see all of Will’s Forum posts here, but newsletter readers might especially like:

“Are we doomed to a future with battery cages? I don’t think so.”

Battery cages confine chickens in tiny spaces, causing tremendous suffering. Over the last few years, many companies have pledged to switch entirely to cage-free eggs — but some of those have gone on to halt or delay these plans, leaving advocates uncertain about the value of cage-free campaigning.

Despite these setbacks, Lewis Bollard (who leads the Open Philanthropy Project’s work on farm animal welfare) sees a lot of good news in this area. In his monthly newsletter (subscribe here), he explains that campaigns are (slowly) leading U.S. egg producers to shift toward cage-free production, and suggests ways that we can pressure companies to keep their pledges.


Since 2015, the Open Philanthropy Project has made ~$200 million in grants to scientific research and U.S. policy work, in hopes of finding opportunities even more effective than GiveWell’s top charities.

In a new article, Alexander Berger summarizes what Open Phil has learned: while many grants seem to have been at least as effective as cash transfers, it’s likely that few grants beat out interventions like malaria bednets and deworming, which may be 5 to 10 times as effective as cash.

(That said, there are many uncertainties in the analysis: read the full piece to get a sense for how difficult it is to determine the impact of a donation.)


“EA currently focuses on scaling up development aid interventions that have a strong evidence base of randomized controlled trials. But if you buy [the book’s] argument, you should probably prefer to take countries with extractive institutions and move them towards inclusivity.”

Ben Kuhn reviews Why Nations Fail, a book that attempts to explain why some poor countries become wealthy while others struggle. He also speculates on how EA might contribute to intellectual progress in development economics, even if it means conducting and funding research outside of traditional RCTs.


Speaking of intellectual progress in global development: 

The Journal of Development Economics (JDE) just became the first journal in its field to experiment with “pre-results review”a new way for academics to publish their research.

Most journals prefer to publish splashy papers that draw strong conclusions. Meanwhile, most researchers prefer to publish work that supports their own ideas. 

Combine these preferences, and you get “publication bias”. Papers that suit the interests of journals and researchers are more likely to be published, while other (equally strong) papers are more often rejected, or abandoned on an academic’s hard drive.

Pre-results review aims to fix this. Rather than submitting a full paper, researchers submit their research plans to a journal, before they’ve even collected data. If the journal judges the submission worthy, it commits to publishing the eventual results, no matter what they are. This helps journals avoid a bias in favor of “interesting” results, and pushes researchers to submit whatever they find, even if the results aren't what they hoped for.

JDE tried this out, and the results were promising: pre-results submissions had a higher chance of being published, and required less time for reviewers to evaluate. (It remains to be seen whether this system will improve the average quality of the journal’s published articles.)

More articles:
Timeless Classic

If you find a way to help others effectively — whether with your money, your time, or your career — you can make an enormous positive impact over the course of your life. 

But while finding a way to help isn’t too hard, staying on course can be a lot more challenging. Like other habits, our altruistic practices (from giving to vegetarianism) often fade away. 

This phenomenon — which Joey Savoie, in this classic article, calls “value drift” — is common:
  • Savoie surveyed 38 people he met when he joined the EA community, and found that after five years, half of them were donating significantly less than they had been when he first met them.
  • Larger surveys of people in the community also find evidence of widespread value drift.
If we care about doing good right now, and we want to maintain our values far into the future — even if we experience other changes in our lives — how should we go about that? 

Darius Meissner, in a response to Savoie, suggests a few different strategies, which include:
  • Storing money in a donor-advised fund so that you can commit to donating it later.
  • Regularly revisiting books, articles, and other media which motivate you to help others.
  • Working to build and maintain small altruistic habits now, even if you think most of your impact will come from actions you take later on.

As always, 80,000 Hours’ High-Impact Job Board features 100+ positions.

If you’re interested in policy or global development, you may also want to check Tom Wein’s list of social purpose job boards.

If you want to hear about new positions as they arise (or post a position yourself), check out the Effective Altruism Job Postings group on Facebook.
Center for Human-Compatible Artificial Intelligence Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (Cambridge, UK) Founders Pledge Future of Humanity Institute (Oxford, UK) Good Food Institute Open Philanthropy Project Ought Other positions (sampled from the High-Impact Job Board) We also recommend checking out Scott Weathers’ recent EA Forum post, which features dozens of jobs in the plant- and cell-based meat industries.

EAGxAustralia 2019 have just announced speakers. These include Najwa Al Abdallah, from the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative Foundation (SCI); Luke Kemp, from the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER); and Julia Wise, from the Centre for Effective Altruism (CEA). Tickets are available here.


EA Global: London 2019 (held from 18-20 October) is still accepting applications. 

Additionally, graduate students and academics are encouraged to submit abstracts to the academic session of the conference. The submission deadline is Sunday, 11 August. More details are available here.
Organizational Updates

Updates are submitted by organizations and lightly edited for clarity.

Starting this month, we're moving these updates to the EA Forum. We hope the change will make it easier for readers to view past updates, while giving us the space to include a wider range of organizations. (See the linked post for more details.)
We hope you found this edition useful!

If you’ve taken action because of the Newsletter and haven’t taken our impact survey, please do — it helps us improve future editions.

(Actions we'd love to hear about include donating to charity, applying to a job, or joining a community group.)

Finally, if you have feedback for us, positive or negative, let us know!

Aaron, Michał, Pascal, and Sören
– The Effective Altruism Newsletter Team

The Effective Altruism Newsletter is a joint project between the Centre for Effective Altruism, the Effective Altruism Hub, and Rethink Charity.
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