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1.

£10,000 to do the most good

The Oxford Prioritisation Project is a new research group in the effective altruism community. The Project’s goal is to allocate £10,000 to an organisation that accepts donations, in the way that will have the greatest positive impact. As a team, we will conduct in-depth research on how best to allocate the funds. We will publish the reasoning behind our decision so that others can learn from it and provide feedback.

In order to reach a decision, we will discuss crucial considerations [1], develop quantitative models, and use empirical data. In the world of philanthropy, the question of how to allocate money is a huge and unsolved one, but progress is being made. A multi-billion dollar foundation [2], charity evaluators [34] and researchers [5] in the effective altruism community have built up a wealth of material on this topic. We won't be starting from scratch. Instead, we will attempt to understand their reasoning in depth, weigh different models against each other, and build on them. For an example of the type of reasoning that may be relevant here, see: 678.

 

2.

the project

The final output will be a report defending the reasoning that led to our decision. The report will contain quantitative models, and detailed explanations highlighting areas of uncertainty. It will be published on our website, disseminated in the effective altruism community and beyond, and presented at a public seminar in Oxford. If our reasoning is compelling, we have the potential to influence donations many times larger than £10,000. In the past, researchers at the Global Priorities Project have published a report [9] which attracted international attention.

Max Dalton and Dr. Owen Cotton-Barratt, who develop quantitative models at the Global Priorities Project, will provide guidance to the team.  

Examples of topics we may cover include modelling the impact of research meta-charities such as GiveWell [10], estimating the price-elasticity of the demand for cultured meat [11], or assessing the funding landscape in the area of risks from advanced artificial intelligence [12]. However, we will have the liberty to explore the research directions we expect to be most useful for deciding how to allocate the money.

Inspired in part by the Open Philanthropy Project’s research methodology [13], we will focus on quickly obtaining the information that would be most decision-relevant. Among the approaches we may use are: conversations with domain-specific experts, critically evaluating relevant academic literature, learning about and using statistical tools, and routinely using informal quantitative estimates.

The Project will be led by Tom Sittler [14] as director. Tom is a philosophy and economics student and has worked at the Centre for Effective Altruism in the summer of 2015. He was in charge of metrics for EAGxOxford 2016 [15], co-founded effective altruism France [16], and worked at J-PAL New Delhi [17] in the summer of 2016. At the moment, Tom is learning as much as he can about global priorities research in preparation for the Project.

The Project is funded with a grant from the Centre for Effective Altruism. It will begin in the 1st week of Hilary term 2017 (January 15) and will end at the deadline for reaching a decision, in the 2nd week of Trinity term 2017 (May 6). After we reach our decision, the £10,000 will be disbursed to our chosen recipient. The funding is not restricted to a pre-selected set of charities.

 

3.

Be part of a dedicated team

To make the Project a success, we will need people with a wide range of skills, like manipulating data and models in a spreadsheet, writing text appropriate for a white paper, quickly scanning academic papers in different fields, making graphs and illustrations, feeling comfortable reaching out to experts, communicating ideas clearly, and more. You don’t need to already feel confident at all of these things to join the team. Throughout the Project we will be learning from each other and from experts to nurture and develop the skills we need to achieve our goal.

The Project could be a fit for you if you’ve been following donation recommendations from independent evaluators, were meaning to take a more pro-active and critical approach to your donation decisions, but never got around to it. (This is an illustrative example. There are many other ways to be a great fit and there is absolutely no need to be donating yourself in order to join the Project). If you’ve been in this situation, you know it can be hard to find the motivation to do this research on your own, and making the effort for a small personal donation can feel like a waste. In part, the Project offers a solution to that problem by creating a team of people together tasked with allocating a larger sum.

There will be regular socials, because an integral part of the Project is the chance meet other people who are excited by this intellectual challenge and chance to make an impact. Another goal of the Project is to provide high-quality donation reasoning as a public good for people in the wider effective altruism community. Our work could spark a more vibrant online conversation about prioritisation models.

 

4.

APPLY NOw

In order to keep the team focused and productive, there will be a maximum of ten participants. Applications are a way for us to determine who is likely to be a good fit for the team. We want you not only to bring a positive contribution to our research, but also to acquire useful skills for your own altruistic decisions.

Anyone can apply. You’ll need to contribute several hours of focused research time per week to the project, and attend regular meetings in Oxford. Students, professionals, academics, and anyone else is welcome.

Applications will close on January 9, 2017 at 23:59. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis, so you will be invited to join the team earlier if you send a high-quality application before the deadline.

Including thinking time we’d expect people to spend between 3 and 6 hours on the application, but up to a couple of days would be reasonable.

Applications are now closed. If you have not heard back about your application please email director@oxpr.io