Sindy li: current view, Against Malaria Foundation

This is part of a series of posts where each research fellow describes their reasons for favouring a certain recipient of our final donation, as described further in the full post on Version 0. 

Name: Sindy Li
Date: February 19, 2017

My current best guess is that we should donate to intervention/organisation:My current best guess is that we should donate to intervention/organisation:
Against Malaria Foundation                                                                                                                               

My cost-effectiveness estimate for the intervention/organisation is:
Following GiveWell’s cost effectiveness analysis here, it’s $3162 per life saved equivalent. I am unsure about parameters so I just followed their median result which seems the best thing to do in this case. I am currently not including SCI (their recommendation is donating 75% to AMF and 25% to SCI) since as a small donor we should donate to one organization with the highest expected value and I am also more skeptical of the long term effects of deworming which SCI’s cost-effectiveness relies on (I haven’t looked into if I agree with the way GiveWell already discounts SCI’s cost-effectiveness due to this reason).

What would change my mind:
On research into neglected tropical diseases:

  • This document by Max Dalton summarizes cost-effectiveness estimates from various studies and concludes that the payoff may or may not be higher than donating to GiveWell recommended charities. (It includes the author’s own calculations adapted from GiveWell’s cost-effectiveness analysis, with more or less the same conclusion.) They were done in 2015 and I haven’t had a chance to update numbers or address the limitations.

  • The non-profit organization Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) develops new treatments for neglected tropical diseases. They work on (with cost-effectiveness estimates in terms of $ per DALY from Dalton’s calculations in parentheses): leishmaniasis (51), sleeping sickness (5), chagas disease (269), paediatric HIV, filarial diseases (21), mycetoma and hepatitis C. Three of them have higher cost-effectiveness estimates than GiveWell’s top charities (which Dalton says is around $80/DALY; note: both sets of numbers are from 2015). Therefore it is possible that donating to them will result in higher cost-effectiveness than donating to GiveWell’s currently recommended charities. The main source of uncertainty here, in addition to the numbers being old and potential problems of the model, is how much of the donation would go to research on these diseases (including how much goes to research, split among diseases, cost-effectiveness of diseases not included in Dalton’s calculation, and also cost-effectiveness of their other work). I could consult their financial reports and talk to them to have a better idea. They also have a call for “urgent need” funds for drug development where we can contact them for opportunities to support one short-term project or part of the portfolio of projects for a specific disease. This may be a case where we are actually able to add a “brick” by seeking information and coordinating with the organization.

On research to reduce existential risk: This area is very important and relatively neglected. I am not convinced of tractability. If I could see some convincing numbers on that, as well as overall impact combining importance, neglectedness and tractability, I may change my mind.

On interventions to reduce animal suffering: I have not looked much into this but my sense is that we don’t have good evidence. So the highest return thing is probably to do more research in this. If I could be convinced that a particular research opportunity can generate valuable information then I might want to donate to them. Alternatively if I can be show existing evidence that’s convincing and points to large values of such interventions I might also donate to these interventions. (I have yet looked into Dickens’ model and evidence for leafleting, for instance.)

On mental health: From Lovisa and Konstantin’s writings it seems like a highly promising area. One open question is whether and by how much the current disability weights are underestimates for mental illness which is an important assumption for their argument. I will look into this and write a blog post in a few days.

My current best guess for a runner-up is:
Schistosomiasis Control Initiative, Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative