Your April 2020 EA Newsletter    

Given the current state of the world, we’ve chosen to focus this edition on content related to COVID-19 and other biosecurity issues. EA-aligned people and organizations around the world are pivoting to counter the crisis; these are just a few of their stories.

Meanwhile, worldwide shutdowns have led people in the EA community to run a wide range of virtual events for anyone who wants to attend. If you’d like to meet other altruistic people or learn about important issues from home, check out “Connecting with Online EA Events.”

As always, we hope that you are safe and well, and that you find something valuable in this month's newsletter.

— The EA Newsletter Team

News and updates from the world of effective altruism

COVID-19: Analysis, resources, and how you can help

80,000 Hours, a nonprofit organization which helps people find high-impact careers, has compiled a formidable collection of resources related to COVID-19. These include:
  • A collection of introductory articles from governments and academics
  • Advice on self-care (physical and mental) during the crisis
  • A list of more than 200 job and volunteer opportunities endorsed by relevant experts or institutions

In a similar vein, we recommend a list of coronavirus research ideas compiled by Peter Hurford, co-founder of Rethink Priorities.

Adapting development research in the face of a pandemic

When COVID-19 began to spread in earnest, hundreds of development projects ground to a halt.

But the researchers involved didn’t all go home; instead, many have adapted their work to help others track and counter the pandemic.
Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) explains how their staff have been contributing — lending their expertise in survey design, data collection, and behavior change to governments around the world.

(IPA also responded to the 2014 Ebola crisis in a similar fashion.)

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst

Last month, we covered Toby Ord’s The Precipice, a book on risks that could cause the end of civilization. But we neglected to mention his topical article in the Guardian: "Why we need worst-case thinking to prevent pandemics.

The piece covers some of the worst pandemics we’ve experienced so far, and explains how modern life has changed our vulnerability to disease (for better and for worse). It also suggests ways for the world’s political and scientific communities to ward off future crises.

An excerpt:
It may be possible for the scientific community to overcome these challenges and provide strong management of global risks, but it would require a willingness to accept serious changes to its culture and governance – such as treating the security around biotechnology more like that around nuclear power.”

EA Global goes virtual

After coronavirus made large gatherings infeasible, The Centre for Effective Altruism (which helps to produce this newsletter) wasn’t able to hold the EA Global: San Francisco conference as planned. However, they bounced back and organized a virtual version of the same conference, using recorded talks filmed in speakers’ homes. 

The videos from that conference are now available. Highlights include:  

In other news: For more stories, try these EA-related email newsletters and podcasts.

New this month: We also recommend EA Hub’s list of Facebook groups where people discuss different aspects of effective altruism.

Timeless Classic

Ideas that have shaped the way we think about doing good

In light of the current crisis, we are presenting 80,000 Hours’ cause profile on reducing global catastrophic biological risks (recently updated; the original was published in 2016).

Gregory Lewis of the Future of Humanity Institute wrote the profile. In it, he explains the enormous damage GCBRs can cause and argues that some of the most dangerous risks are largely neglected by current biosecurity work.

The link above includes an audio version, read by Kieran Harris.

An excerpt:

Polio, the 1918 pandemic influenza strain, and most recently horsepox (a close relative of smallpox) have all been synthesised ‘from scratch’. The genetic sequence of all of these disease-causing organisms (and others besides) are publicly available, and the progress and democratisation of biotechnology may make the capacity to perform similar work more accessible to the reckless or malicious. Biotechnology therefore poses the risk of rapidly (and repeatedly) recreating the pathogens which led to the worst biological catastrophes observed in history.

“Beyond repetition, biotechnology allows the possibility of engineering pathogens more dangerous than those that have occurred in natural history. Evolution is infamously myopic, and its optimisation target is reproductive fitness, rather than maximal damage to another species. Nature may not prove a peerless bioterrorist; dangers that emerge by evolutionary accident could be surpassed by deliberate design.”



Opportunities to work on some of the world's most pressing problems

80,000 Hours’ High-Impact Job Board features more than 500 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 find out about new positions as they arise (or post a position yourself), check out the EA Job Postings group on Facebook.

New this month: 80,000 Hours has a list of roles in biosecurity and pandemic preparedness, many of which focus on COVID-19. (Those which aren’t focused on COVID-19 may instead help to prevent future pandemics.)
Charity Entrepreneurship GiveWell Open Philanthropy The Good Food Institute
Other featured roles

Each month, 80,000 Hours asks us to feature a few roles from their job board. These may be unusually strong opportunities to make an impact.

Interim Program Officer (Giving Pledge Outreach), Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (Seattle)

History and Public Policy Intern (Nuclear Proliferation/Cold War), Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (Washington, DC)

Biomedical Scientist (National Security and WMD Nonproliferation), US Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (Richland, WA)

Monitoring and Data Systems Specialist, IDinsight (New Delhi)

Postdoctoral Researcher (Ethics and Governance of AI), Max Planck Institute for Human Development (Berlin)

Research Scientist (Safety), DeepMind (London)

Security Engineer, OpenAI (San Francisco)

Legislative Intern (Federal Affairs), Humane Society International (Washington, DC)


Books, events, community projects, and more!

How to find online EA events

The EA community has been working furiously to plan online events during this time of worldwide lockdown. Related resources:  

EAGx Berlin to be held online

Because of the high chance that an in-person conference will not be safe or possible in June, EAGxBerlin will be held as a virtual conference this year.

Currently, the dates are set as 12-14 June, but other dates may be added so that content can be spread out over more than one weekend. For updates, see the event’s webpage or join the Facebook event.

Micro grants for new ClearerThinking modules

From ClearerThinking, which offers online critical thinking programs (including several developed with effective altruism in mind):

Get paid to make a short program for ClearerThinking!

Up to 35 hours’ work, up to $595 in payment

Deadline: 1 May, 5pm EST
Are you interested in improving the world using concepts from psychology, behavioural economics, math, or social science? Can you come up with ideas for teaching a skill, framework, or behaviour change strategy that would work well in an interactive digital format?
Since many people have recently lost a source of income or are searching for meaningful work to do while stuck at home, ClearerThinking has decided to offer micro grants (up to $595) for proposals, outlines, and realizations of short online programs that align with our mission to improve people’s critical thinking and decision-making skills. Read our application guide for all the details!


New donation platform for U.S.-registered charities

Newsletter readers might be interested in, a new donation platform that allows users to donate to any registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit. If you connect a bank account, all transaction fees will be covered by supporters of the platform, so this may be the most efficient way for some donors to support certain charities. also gives you the option to add donations to a profile page, letting you easily share them with other people.

Browser extension for donating as you shop

Altruisto has just published the latest version of their browser extension, which lets you donate to EA-aligned charities when you shop online (including Microsoft, eBay, AliExpress, and Etsy). The typical donation is 2-6% of your total purchase, at no extra cost to you.

Organizational Updates

You can see updates from a wide range of EA-aligned organizations on the EA Forum. (Organizations submit updates, which we edit for clarity.)
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, Heidi, Michal, 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.
Click here to access the full EA Newsletter archive
A community project of the Centre for Effective Altruism, a registered charity in England and Wales (Charity Number 1149828) – Centre for Effective Altruism, Littlegate House, St Ebbes Street, Oxford
OX1 1PT, United Kingdom
Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.