Request for Feedback: Draft of a COI policy for the Long Term Future Fund

post by Habryka · 2020-02-05T18:38:24.224Z · score: 38 (20 votes) · EA · GW · 63 comments

Contents

  LTFF Conflict of Interest Policy
    Addendum: Additional factors to take into consideration for COIs
None
63 comments

The document below is a first draft of a COI policy for the Long Term Future Fund. I drafted this a few weeks ago with some people from CEA and the other fund members, but overall am not very attached to anything in this document. I am very curious about ideas other people have about improving the policy, getting feedback about which parts are unclear, as well as getting high-level feedback on whether the whole frame of this policy is even a good idea.

LTFF Conflict of Interest Policy

This document is the first draft of a supplemental conflict of interest (COI) policy for the Long-Term Future Fund (LTFF). It serves as a supplement to the CEA fund-general COI policy, which deals with a narrower class of conflicts of interest, in particular the cases where the fund member has a direct financial or professional relationship to the grantee. This document tries to be more restrictive and cover a larger variety of potential conflicts of interest. We expect to revise this first draft over time in response to feedback from donors and others.

This supplement policy distinguishes between three different types of conflicts of interest:

Due to the nature of the domain in which we are working, we expect to make a significant fraction of our grants to individuals or organizations we have a past relationship with. As such, we decided that relatively few conflicts should prevent a grant from being made, or should cause a fund member to completely recuse themselves. However, partially in order to compensate for that, we aim to be very open with our existing conflicts and err on the side of making all relevant conflicts known when we recommend a grant.

What follows is a list of situations in which a fund member should definitely disclose a conflict of interest, followed by a list of examples that tries to provide a more extensional definition of our conflict of interest policy.

Situations in which fund members should definitely disclose a COI:

Some examples of situations in which a fund member has to disclose a COI, and some situation in which they do not (though they are generally still encouraged to do so, if it seems at all relevant to the decision):

Addendum: Additional factors to take into consideration for COIs

Here are some additional factors that should make a fund member more likely to disclose information about their relationship with the potential grantee. These are not binding, due to their inherent ambiguity, but serve as guidelines for fund members to decide for themselves whether they should disclose something:

63 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by willbradshaw · 2020-02-06T17:30:10.854Z · score: 36 (23 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

This policy seems too lax to me. In particular, I'm fairly surprised at the very narrow range of circumstances in which individual fund members would recuse themselves. It seems fairly obvious to me that being in a close friendship or active collaboration with someone should require recusal and being personal friends with someone should require disclosure.

In general I feel CoI policies should err fairly strongly on the side of caution, whereas this one does the opposite. I'd appreciate some discussion on why this is the case.

comment by Ben Pace · 2020-02-07T19:28:50.756Z · score: 13 (5 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Using the information available to you and not excluding a person's judgment in situations where they could reasonably be called 'biased' is the standard practise in places like Y Combinator and OpenPhil. OpenPhil writes about this in the classic post Hits-based Giving. A relevant quote (emphasis in original):

We don’t: put extremely high weight on avoiding conflicts of interest, intellectual “bubbles” or “echo chambers.”
...In some cases, this risk may be compounded by social connections. When hiring specialists in specific causes, we’ve explicitly sought people with deep experience and strong connections in a field. Sometimes, that means our program officers are friends with many of the people who are best suited to be our advisors and grantees.
...it sometimes happens that it’s difficult to disentangle the case for a grant from the relationships around it.[2] When these situations occur, there’s a greatly elevated risk that we aren’t being objective, and aren’t weighing the available evidence and arguments reasonably. If our goal were to find the giving opportunities most strongly supported by evidence, this would be a major problem. But the drawbacks for a “hits-based” approach are less clear, and the drawbacks of too strongly avoiding these situations would, in my view, be unacceptable.
comment by Habryka · 2020-02-06T22:54:22.391Z · score: 13 (7 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)
It seems fairly obvious to me that being in a [...] active collaboration with someone should require recusal

This seems plausibly right to me, though my model is that this should depend a bit on the size and nature of the collaboration.

As a concrete example, my model is that Open Phil has many people who were actively collaborating with projects that eventually grew into CSET, and that that involvement was necessary to make the project feasible, and some of those then went on to work at CSET. Those people were also the most informed about the decisions about the grants they eventually made to CSET, and so I don't expect them to have been recused from the relevant decisions. So I would be hesitant to commit to nobody on the LTFF ever being involved in a project in the same way that a bunch of Open Phil staff were involved in CSET.

My broad model here is that recusal is a pretty bad tool for solving this problem, and that this instead should be solved by the fund members putting more effort into grants that are subject to COIs, and to be more likely to internally veto grants if they seem to be the result of COIs. Obviously that has less external accountability, but is how I expect organizations like GiveWell and Open Phil to manage cases like this. Disclosure feels like the right default in this case, which allows us to be open about how we adjusted our votes and decisions based on the COIs present.

In general I feel CoI policies should err fairly strongly on the side of caution

I don't think I understand what this means, written in this very general language. Most places don't have strong COI policies at all, and both GiveWell and OpenPhil have much laxer COI policies than the above, from what I can tell, which seem like two of the most relevant reference points.

Open Phil has also written a bunch about how they no longer disclose most COIs because the cost was quite large, so overall it seems like a bad idea to just blindly err on the side of caution (since one of the most competent organizations in our direct orbit has decided that that strategy was a mistake).

The above COI policy is more restrictive than the policy for any other fund (since its supplementary and in addition to the official CEA COI policy), so it's also not particularly lax in a general sense.

It seems fairly obvious to me that being in a close friendship [...] should require recusal

I am pretty uncertain about this case. My current plan is to have a policy of disclosing these things for a while, and then allow donors and other stakeholders to give us feedback on whether they think some of the grants were bad as a result of those conflicts.

Again, CSET is a pretty concrete example here, with many people at Open Phil being close friends with people at CSET. Or many people at GiveWell being friends with people at GiveDirectly or AMF. I don't know their internal COI policies, but I don't expect those GiveWell or Open Phil employees to completely recuse themselves from the decisions related to those organizations.

There is a more general heuristic here, where at this stage I prefer our policies to end up disclosing a lot of information, so that others can be well-informed about the tradeoffs we are making. If you err on the side of recusal, you will just prevent a lot of grants from being made, the opportunity cost of which is really hard to communicate to potential donors and stakeholders, and it's hard for people to get a sense of the tradeoffs. So I prefer starting relatively lax, and then over time figuring out ways in which we can reduce bad incentives while still preserving the value of many of the grants that are very context-heavy.

comment by Jonas Vollmer · 2020-05-14T08:33:18.582Z · score: 9 (6 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

I wonder why you think recusal is a bad way to address COIs. The downsides seem minimal to me: The other fund managers can still vote in favor of a grant, and the recused fund manager can still provide information about the potential grantee. This will also automatically mean that other fund managers have to invest more time into investigating the grant, which is something you seemed to favor. I'd be keen to hear your thoughts.

In comparison, using internal veto power seems like a more brittle solution that relies more on attention from other fund managers and might not work in all instances.

In comparison, disclosure often seems more complicated to me because it interferes with the privacy of fund managers and potential grantees.

I think Open Phil's situation is substantially different because they are accountable to a very different type of donor, have fewer grant evaluators per grant, and most of their grants fall outside the EA community such that COIs are less common. (That said, I wonder about the COI policy for their EA grants committee.) GiveWell is also in a landscape where COIs are much less likely to arise.

I think there should be a fairly restrictive COI policy for all of the funds, not just for the LTFF.

comment by Habryka · 2020-05-15T03:06:08.032Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

The usual thing that I've seen happen in the case of recusals is that the recused person can no longer bring their expertise to the table, and de-facto when a fund-member is recused from a grant, without someone else having the expertise to evaluate the grant, it is much less likely for that grant to happen. This means two things:

1. Projects are now punished for establishing relationships with grantmakers and working together with grantmakers

2. Grantmakers are punished for establishing relationships with organizations and projects they are excited about

3. Funds can no longer leverage the expertise of the people with the most relevant context

In general when someone is recused they seem to no longer argue for why a grant is important, and in a hit-based view a lot of the time the people who have positive models for why a grant is important are also most likely to have a social network that is strongly connected to the grant in question.

I don't expect a loosely connected committee like the LTFF or other EA Funds to successfully extract that information from the relevant fund-member, and so a conservative COI policy will reliably fail to make the most valuable grants. Maybe an organization in which people had the time to spend hundreds of hours talking to each other can afford to just have someone with expertise recuse themselves and then try to download their models of why a grant is promising and evaluate it themselves independently, but the LTFF (and I expect other EA Funds) do not have that luxury. I have not seen a group of people navigate this successfully and de-facto I am very confident that a process that relies heavily on recusals will just tend to fail to make grants when the fund-member with the most relevant expertise is excused.

have fewer grant evaluators per grant

Having fewer grant evaluators per grant is a choice that Open Phil made that the EA Funds can also make, I don't see how that is an external constraint. It is at least partially a result of trusting in the hit-based giving view that generates a lot of my intuitions around recusals. Nothing is stopping the EA Funds from having fewer grant evaluators per grant (and de-facto most grants are only investigated by a single person on a fund team, with the rest just providing basic oversight, which is why recusals are so costly, because frequently only a single fund member even has the requisite skills and expertise necessary to investigate a grant in a reasonable amount of time).

and most of their grants fall outside the EA community such that COIs are less common.

While most grants fall outside of the EA community, many if not most of the grant investigators will still have COIs with the organizations they are evaluating, because that is where they will extend their social network. So the people who work at GiveWell tend to have closer social ties to organizations working in that space (often having been hired from that space), the people working on biorisk will have social ties to the existing pandemic prevention space, etc. I do think that overall Open Phil's work is somewhat less likely to hit on COIs but not that much. I also overall trust Open Phil's judgement a lot more in domains where they are socially embedded in the relevant network, and I think Open Phil also thinks that, and puts a lot of emphasis of understanding the specific social constraints and hierarchies in the fields they are making grants in. Again, a recusal-heavy COI policy would create really bad incentives on grantmakers here, and isolate the fund from many of the most important sources of expertise.

comment by Habryka · 2020-05-15T03:15:48.428Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

I've also outlined my reasoning quite a bit in other comments, here is one of the ones that goes into a bunch of detail: https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/Hrd73RGuCoHvwpQBC/request-for-feedback-draft-of-a-coi-policy-for-the-long-term?commentId=mjJEK8y4e7WycgosN [EA(p) · GW(p)]

comment by Habryka · 2020-02-07T18:35:21.918Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)
being personal friends with someone should require disclosure.

I think this comment [EA(p) · GW(p)] highlights some of the reasons for why I am hesitant to just err on the side of disclosure for personal friendships.

comment by willbradshaw · 2020-02-08T17:22:02.506Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

I'm sympathetic to this consideration, but I think it applies much more strongly to romantic/sexual relationships than friendships.

comment by Larks · 2020-02-09T23:38:34.225Z · score: 23 (11 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for writing this up for comment.

Quick possible oversight - I didn't see any discussion of recusal because the fund member is employed or receives funds from the potential grantee? Sorry if I just misread! The closest I saw was this:

A very close friend or partner of a fund member is employed, receiving funds from, or has some kind of other directly dependent relationship to the potential grantee

Right now I assume this would mainly apply to you (CFAR) and possibly Alex.


Separately, you mentioned OpenPhil's policy of (non-) disclosure as an example to emulate. I strongly disagree with this, for two reasons.

Firstly, I think OpenPhil's policy is bad. They enacted this policy as part of their general movement towards secrecy, but the actual reasons they described for sharing less details about their evaluation (i.e. issues are too complex, don't want to aid hostile actors etc.) do not seem to be that relevant to not disclosing conflicts. Certainly, OpenPhil's policy of non-disclosure makes me trust their work significantly less now as I have to assume there is a significant chance any given decision was unfairly biased.

Secondly, there are significant differences between OpenPhil and you guys. In particular, OpenPhil's main job is advising a very small number of individuals, who (I presume) have access to many private details that they do not need to make public. Additionally, those individuals have a considerable amount of influence over OpenPhil. In the case of the LTFF, however, donors are reliant on public disclosure in order to be able to evaluate the fund. It is like the difference between a private company (who have almost no public disclosure requirements) and a public one (who have a lot of disclosure requirements).

comment by Habryka · 2020-02-10T17:48:58.025Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)
I didn't see any discussion of recusal because the fund member is employed or receives funds from the potential grantee?

Yes, that should be covered by the CEA fund policy we are extending. Here are the relevant sections:

Own organization: any organization that a team member
is currently employed by
volunteers for
was employed by at any time in the last 12 months
reasonably expects to become employed by in the foreseeable future
does not work for, but that employs a close relative or intimate partner
is on the board of, or otherwise plays a substantially similar advisory role for
has a substantial financial interest in

And:

A team member may not propose a grant to their own organization
A team member must recuse themselves from making decisions on grants to their own organizations (except where they advocate against granting to their own organization)
A team member must recuse themselves from advocating for their own organization if another team member has proposed such a grant
A team member may provide relevant information about their own organization in a neutral way (typically in response to questions from the team’s other members).

Which covers basically that whole space.

Note that that policy is still in draft form and not yet fully approved (and there are still some incomplete sentences in it), so we might want to adjust our policy above depending on changes in the the CEA fund general policy.

comment by Larks · 2020-02-13T17:54:44.095Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Makes sense, thanks for clarifying!

comment by Habryka · 2020-02-10T17:51:38.967Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)
Separately, you mentioned OpenPhil's policy of (non-) disclosure as an example to emulate. I strongly disagree with this, for two reasons.

This sounds a bit weird to me, given that the above is erring quite far in the direction of disclosure.

The specific dimension of the OpenPhil policy that I think has strong arguments going for it is to be hesitant with recusals. I really want to continue to be very open with our Conflict of Interest, and wouldn't currently advocate for emulating Open Phil's policy on the disclosure dimension.

comment by Ozzie Gooen (oagr) · 2020-02-06T22:09:14.343Z · score: 21 (8 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

I'm a bit surprised that recusal seems to be pushed for last-resort in this document. Intuitively I would have expected that because there are multiple members of the committee, many in very different locations, it wouldn't be that hard to have the "point of contact" be different from the "one who makes the decision." Similar to how in some cases if one person recommends a candidate for employment, it can be easy enough to just have different people interview them.

Recusal seems really nice in many ways. Like, it would also make some things less awkward for the grantors, as their friends wouldn't need to worry about being judged as much.

Any chance you could explain a bit how the recusal process works, and why it's preferred to not do this? Do other team members often feel really unable to make decisions on these people without knowing them? Is it common that the candidates are known closely by many of the committee members, such that collective recusal would be infeasible?

comment by Habryka · 2020-02-06T22:29:21.056Z · score: 14 (6 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

We're a pretty small team, and for most grants, there usually are only one or two people on the fund who have enough context on the project and the grantees to actually be able to assess whether the grant is a good idea. Those are also usually the fund members who are most likely to have conflicts of interest.

Since none of us are full-time, we also usually don't have enough time to share all of our models with each other, so it often isn't feasible to just have the contact-person share all of their impressions with the other fund members, and have them vote on it (since we realistically can't spend more than an hour of full-fund time on each individual grant we make).

One of the things that I am most concerned about if you were to just move towards recusal, is you just end up in a situation where by necessity the other fund members just have to take the recused person's word for the grant being good (or you pass up on all the most valuable grant opportunities). Then their own votes mostly just indirectly represent their trust in the fund member with the COI, as opposed to their independent assessment. This to me seems like it much further reduces accountability and transparency, and muddles a bunch of the internal decision-making.

The current algorithm we are running is something closer to: Be hesitant with recusal, but if the only people on the fund who are strongly in favor of a grant also have some potential weak COI, then put more effort into getting more references and other external sources of validation, but usually still taking the vote of the person with the potential weak COI into account.

Maybe we could integrate this officially into this policy by saying something like: If you have a COI of this type, we will give less weight to your vote, but your vote will still have some weight, depending on how strong your COI is judged by the other fund members. Though I am worried that this is too detailed and would require changing every time we change the local dynamics of how we vote on things.

comment by Larks · 2020-02-09T23:38:12.946Z · score: 16 (7 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)
One of the things that I am most concerned about if you were to just move towards recusal, is you just end up in a situation where by necessity the other fund members just have to take the recused person's word for the grant being good (or you pass up on all the most valuable grant opportunities).

It also seems that the recusal being discussed is quite weak. In my limited experience, recusal means totally vacating oneself from the decision making process. For example, when a SCOTUS Judge recuses himself, he doesn't take any role in the debate or voting. Similarly, when moderating the EA facebook group, generally conflicted mods won't argue for a position (though this is just my description of a norm and not an explicit rule we've had). If fund members with large conflicts of interest end up de facto making the decision anyway then the COI policy doesn't seem to have achieved anything.

I would suggest instead that other fund managers research the application and make the decision. This would help avoid an unfair bias towards funding people who are 'in the community'.

comment by Anonymous_Poster · 2020-02-07T09:23:05.332Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)
One of the things that I am most concerned about if you were to just move towards recusal, is you just end up in a situation where by necessity the other fund members just have to take the recused person's word for the grant being good (or you pass up on all the most valuable grant opportunities

I agree this would be a very bad outcome, and I'm surprised you think it is a possibility. Individuals/organisations should not be precluded from receiving LTF grants due to their personal lives, particularly if LTF continues to be the major funder for certain types of grants. I think the onus is on LTF to find a way of managing COIs that avoids this, while also having a suitably stringent COI policy.

comment by Habryka · 2020-02-07T18:21:57.373Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)
I think the onus is on LTF to find a way of managing COIs that avoids this, while also having a suitably stringent COI policy.

I mean, these are clearly trading off against each other, given all the time constraints I explained in a different comment. Sure, you can say that we have an obligation, but that doesn't really help me balance these tradeoffs.

The above COI policy is my best guess at how to manage that tradeoff. It seems to me that moving towards recusal on any of the above axes, will have to prevent at least some grants being made, or at least I don't currently really see a way forward that would not make that the case. I do think looking into some kind of COI board could be a good idea, but I do continue to be quite concerned about having a profusion of boards in which no one has any real investment and no one has time to really think through things, and am currently tending towards that being a bad idea.

comment by rmoehn · 2020-02-06T06:13:15.889Z · score: 21 (12 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Who would get to see this policy statement? If I imagine myself in the shoes of a more conservative potential donor, who is checking the fine print as part of their due diligence, I would be put off by phrases like ‘metamour’, ‘consumption of drugs’ and the repeated mentioning of sexual relationships.

comment by HowieL · 2020-02-06T14:48:28.020Z · score: 14 (9 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Wanted to +1 this in general although I haven't thought through exactly where I think the tradeoff should be.

My best guess is that the official policy should be a bit closer to the level of detail GiveWell uses to describe their policy than to the level of detail you're currently using. If you wanted to elaborate, one possibility might be to give some examples of how you might respond to different situations in an EA Forum post separate from the official policy.

comment by Habryka · 2020-02-06T22:31:28.527Z · score: 7 (4 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Yeah, splitting it into two seems reasonable, one of which is linked more prominently and one that is here on the forum, though I do much prefer to be more concrete than the GiveWell policy.

I guess I am kind of confused about the benefit of being vague and high-level here. It just seems better for everyone if we are very concrete here, and I kind of don't feel super great about writing things that are less informative, but make people feel better when reading them.

comment by HowieL · 2020-02-07T18:24:29.929Z · score: 14 (7 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

[Note - I endorse the idea of splitting it into two much more strongly than any of the specifics in this comment]

Agree that you shouldn't be quite as vague as the GW policy (although I do think you should put a bunch of weight on GW's precedent as well as Open Phil's).

Quick thoughts on a few benefits of staying at a higher level (none of which are necessarily conclusive):

1) It's not obviously less informative.

If somebody clicks on a conflict of interest policy wanting to figure out if they generally trust thee LTF and they see a bunch of stuff about metamours and psychedelics that's going to end up incredibly salient to them and that's not necessarily making them more informed about what they actually cared about. It can actually just be a distraction.

Like, let's say analogous institutions also have psychedelic-related COIs but just group them under "important social relationships" or something. Now, the LTF looks like that fund where all the staff are doing psychedelics with the grantees. I don't think anybody became more informed. (This is especially the case if the info is available *somewhere* for people who care about the details).


2) Flexibility

It's just really hard to anticipate all of the relevant cases and the principles you're using are the thing you might actually want to lock in.


3) Giving lots of detail means lack of disclosure can send a lot of signal.

If you have enough detail about exactly what level of friends someone needs to be with someone else in order to trigger a disclosure then you end up forcing members to send all sorts of weird signals by not disclosing things (e.g. I don't actually consider my friendship with person X that important). This just gets complicated fast.

---

All that said, I think a lot of this just has to be determined by the level of disclosure and type of policy LTF donors are demanding. I've donated a bit and would be comfortable trusting something more general but also am probably not representative.

comment by Habryka · 2020-02-07T18:53:33.076Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

This is a more general point that shapes my thinking here a bit, not directly responding to your comment.

If somebody clicks on a conflict of interest policy wanting to figure out if they generally trust thee LTF and they see a bunch of stuff about metamours and psychedelics that's going to end up incredibly salient to them and that's not necessarily making them more informed about what they actually cared about. It can actually just be a distraction.

I feel like the thing that is happening here makes me pretty uncomfortable, and I really don't want to further incentivize this kind of assessment of stuff.

A related concept in this space seems to me to be the Copenhagen Interpretation of Ethics:

The Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics says that you can have a particle spinning clockwise and counterclockwise at the same time – until you look at it, at which point it definitely becomes one or the other. The theory claims that observing reality fundamentally changes it.
The Copenhagen Interpretation of Ethics says that when you observe or interact with a problem in any way, you can be blamed for it. At the very least, you are to blame for not doing more. Even if you don’t make the problem worse, even if you make it slightly better, the ethical burden of the problem falls on you as soon as you observe it. In particular, if you interact with a problem and benefit from it, you are a complete monster. I don’t subscribe to this school of thought, but it seems pretty popular.

I feel like there is a similar thing going on with being concrete about stuff like sexual and romantic relationships (which obviously have massive consequences in large parts of the world). And maybe more broadly having this COI policy in the first place. My sense is that we can successfully avoid a lot of criticism by just not having any COI policy, or having a really high-level and vague one, because any policy we would have would clearly signal we have looked at the problem, and are now to blame for any consequences related to it.

More broadly, I just feel really uncomfortable with having to write all of our documents to make sense on a purely associative level. I as a donor would be really excited to see a COI policy as concrete as the one above, similarly to how all the concrete mistake pages on all the EA org websites make me really excited. I feel like making the policy less concrete trades of getting something right and as such being quite exciting to people like me, in favor of being more broadly palatable to some large group of people, and maybe making a bit fewer enemies. But that feels like it's usually going to be the wrong strategy for a fund like ours, where I am most excited about having a small group of really dedicated donors who are really excited about what we are doing, much more than being very broadly palatable to a large audience, without anyone being particularly excited about it.

comment by Ben Garfinkel (bmg) · 2020-02-08T19:22:13.531Z · score: 14 (5 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

More broadly, I just feel really uncomfortable with having to write all of our documents to make sense on a purely associative level. I as a donor would be really excited to see a COI policy as concrete as the one above, similarly to how all the concrete mistake pages on all the EA org websites make me really excited. I feel like making the policy less concrete trades of getting something right and as such being quite exciting to people like me, in favor of being more broadly palatable to some large group of people, and maybe making a bit fewer enemies. But that feels like it's usually going to be the wrong strategy for a fund like ours, where I am most excited about having a small group of really dedicated donors who are really excited about what we are doing, much more than being very broadly palatable to a large audience, without anyone being particularly excited about it.

It seems to me like there's probably an asymmetry here. I would be pretty surprised if the inclusion of specific references to drug use and metamours was the final factor that tipped anyone into a decision to donate to the fund. I wouldn't be too surprised, though, if the inclusion tipped at least some small handful of potential donors into bouncing. At least, if I were encountering the fund for the first time, I can imagine these inclusions being one minor input into any feeling of wariness I might have.

(The obvious qualifier here, though, is that you presumably know the current and target demographics of the fund better than I do. I expect different groups of people will tend to react very differently.)

I feel like the thing that is happening here makes me pretty uncomfortable, and I really don't want to further incentivize this kind of assessment of stuff.

Apologies if I'm misreading, but it feels to me like the suggestion here might be that intentionally using a more "high-level" COI is akin to trying to 'mislead' potential donors by withholding information. If that's the suggestion, then I think I at least mostly disagree. I think that having a COI that describes conflicts in less concrete terms is mostly about demonstrating an expected form of professionalism.

As an obviously extreme analogy, suppose that someone applying for a job decides to include information about their sexual history on their CV. There's some sense in which this person is being more "honest" than someone who doesn't include that information. But any employer who receives this CV will presumably have a negative reaction. This reaction also won't be irrational, since it suggests the applicant is either unaware of norms around this sort of thing or (admittedly a bit circularly) making a bad decision to willfully transgress them. In either case, it's reasonable for the employer to be a lot more wary of the applicant than they otherwise be.

I think the dynamic is roughly the same as the dynamic that leads people to (rationally) prefer to hire lawyers who wear suits over those who don't, to trust think tanks that format and copy-edit their papers properly over those who don't, and so on.

This case is admittedly more complicated than the case of lawyers and suits, since you are in fact depriving potential donors of some amount of information. (At worst, suits just hide information about lawyers' preferred style of dress.) So there's an actual trade-off to be balanced. But I'm inclined to agree with Howie that the extra clarity you get from moving beyond 'high-level' categories probably isn't all that decision-relevant.

I'm not totally sure, though. In part, it's sort of an empirical question whether a merely high-level COI would give any donors an (in their view) importantly inaccurate or incomplete impression of how COIs are managed. If enough potential donors do seem to feel this way, then it's presumably worth being more detailed.

comment by Habryka · 2020-02-08T21:58:19.306Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Responding on a more object-level:

As an obviously extreme analogy, suppose that someone applying for a job decides to include information about their sexual history on their CV.

I think this depends a lot on the exact job, and the nature of the sexual history. If you are a registered sex-offender, and are open about this on your CV, then that will overall make a much better impression than if I find that out from doing independent research later on, since that is information that (depending on the role and the exact context) might be really highly relevant for the job.

Obviously including potentially embarrassing information in a CV without it having much purpose is a bad idea, and mostly signals various forms of social obliviousness, as well as distract from the actually important parts of your CV, which pertain to your professional experience and factors that will likely determine how well you will do at your job.

But I'm inclined to agree with Howie that the extra clarity you get from moving beyond 'high-level' categories probably isn't all that decision-relevant.

So, I do think this is probably where our actual disagreement lies. Of the most concrete conflicts of interest that have given rise to abuses of power I have observed both within the EA community, and in other communities, more than 50% where the result of romantic relationships, and were basically completely unaddressed by the high-level COI policies that the relevant institutions had in place. Most of these are in weird grey-areas of confidentiality, but I would be happy to talk to you about the details of those if you send me a private message.

I think being concrete here is actually highly action relevant, and I've seen the lack of concreteness in company policies have very large and concrete negative consequences for those organizations.

comment by Habryka · 2020-02-08T21:50:03.879Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)
less concrete terms is mostly about demonstrating an expected form of professionalism.

Hmm, I think we likely have disagreements on the degree to which I think at least a significant chunk of professionalism norms are the results of individuals trying to limit accountability of themselves and people around them. I generally am not a huge fan of large fractions of professionalism norms (which is not by any means a rejection of all professionalism norms, just specific subsets of it).

I think newspeak is a pretty real thing, and the adoption of language that is broadly designed to obfuscate and limit accountability is a real phenomenon. I think that phenomenon is pretty entangled with professionalism. I agree that there is often an expectation of professionalism, but I would argue that exactly that expectation is what often causes obfuscating language to be adopted. And I think this issue is important enough that just blindly adopting professional norms is quite dangerous and can have very large negative consequences.

comment by Larks · 2020-02-09T22:11:45.476Z · score: 10 (9 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)
If I imagine myself in the shoes of a more conservative potential donor, who is checking the fine print as part of their due diligence, I would be put off by phrases like ‘metamour’, ‘consumption of drugs’ and the repeated mentioning of sexual relationships.

The purpose of disclosure is to provide potential donors with information they consider relevant to their decision process. That some of donors will be persuaded not to donate by the information is a feature, not a bug.

comment by Stefan_Schubert · 2020-02-10T12:38:28.403Z · score: 7 (4 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)
That some of donors will be persuaded not to donate by the information is a feature, not a bug.

That isn't true as a matter of definition, as you seem to imply. Some donors being persuaded not to donate by the information can be a feature, but it can also be a bug. It has to be decided on a case-by-case-basis, by looking at what the disclosure statement actually says.

comment by rmoehn · 2020-02-10T11:13:00.629Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

It's better if potential donors are persuaded by content, not by form, ie. choice of words.

comment by Habryka · 2020-02-06T07:30:20.753Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Yeah, I was also unsure about this. In the original Google Doc, I had the comment:

I sure feel like this is going to confuse people, but not sure what else to do. Any help would be appreciated.

Highlighting the word metamour. If someone has a better word for that, or a good alternative explanation, that would be good.

I think I would eventually want this policy to be public and linked from our funds page, though it should probably go through at least one more round of editing before that.

Overall, I think if you want a good conflict of interest policy, you have to be concrete about things, which includes talking about things that in reality are often the sources of conflict of interest, which are pretty often messy romantic and sexual relationships and sharing weird intense experiences together. I don't know of a way to both be concrete here, and not be off-putting, while also actually addressing many of these potential sources for COIs.

comment by rmoehn · 2020-02-06T11:36:56.799Z · score: 23 (9 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Some suggestions:

  • Go over this with a lawyer and let them formulate it right.
  • Replace ‘romantic and/or sexual’ with ‘intimate’.
  • Right now those terms are at the top level of the bullets. One could make them stand out less by turning the hierarchy around. Example:
Sufficient causes for recusal of a fund member: Applicant is a close family member, or is/was a romantic/sexual partner within the last year.
Not sufficient for recusal, but should be made public: Intimate relationship that lasted longer than two weeks and ended more than a year ago. / Current intimate relationship with a third person who is in an intimate relationship with the applicant.
  • Pull things together to make them more innocuous:
The fund member has shared particularly intense experiences with the applicant on the level of, eg. a week-long silent meditation retreat, a CFAR workshop, or a shared psychedelic experience.
comment by Habryka · 2020-02-06T20:32:03.379Z · score: 2 (3 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)
Go over this with a lawyer and let them formulate it right.

Huh, I am a bit confused. This is not intended to be a legally binding document, so I am not sure how much a lawyer would help. Do you have any specific questions you would ask a lawyer? Or is it just because lawyers have a lot of experience writing clear documents like this?

Replace ‘romantic and/or sexual’ with ‘intimate’.

Yeah, I could see that, though it feels a bunch less clear to me, and maybe too broad? I don't have a great model of what qualifies as an "intimate" relationship, but do feel pretty comfortable judging a romantic and/or sexual relationship.

I do like all of your edit suggestions, and will incorporate them sometime today.

comment by rmoehn · 2020-02-06T21:53:16.224Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Regarding the lawyer: Perhaps I have a wrong idea both about the legal nature of the document and about what a lawyer does. But yes, in my imagination a lawyer is able to advise you on how to formulate a policy clearly and remove vagueness. So I might go to the lawyer and ask: ‘If this were to be legally binding, how would we have to write it?’

My imagination might be wrong, though – I haven't dealt with lawyers much.

comment by Habryka · 2020-02-06T22:16:46.196Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

My model suggests that a lawyer would say: "Very little of this is legally enforceable, I could help you write something legally enforceable, but it would be a much smaller subset of this document, and I don't know how to help with the rest".

Would be curious if people disagree. I also don't have a ton of experience in dealing with lawyers.

comment by HowieL · 2020-02-12T10:06:48.231Z · score: 8 (5 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Fwiw, I think you're both right here. If you were to hire a reasonably good lawyer to help with this, I suspect the default is they'd say what Habryka suggests. That said, I also do think that lawyers are trained to do things like remove vagueness from policies.

Basically, I don't think it'd be useful to hire a lawyer in their capacity as a lawyer. But, to the extent there happen to be lawyers among the people you'd consider asking for advice anyway, I'd expect them to be disproportionately good at this kind of thing.

[Source: I went to two years of law school but haven't worked much with lawyers on this type of thing.]

comment by Khorton · 2020-02-06T08:32:22.392Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Instead of metamour, you could expand to say "the partner or immediate family of your romantic partner" (Metamour means partner of your partner, right?)

comment by Hamish_Hobbs · 2020-02-12T18:14:12.170Z · score: 18 (7 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for this post. Overall, it seems like a great move to develop a formalised COI policy and to seek public feedback on the draft. I think these types of policies are useful for two main reasons. The first is reaching reliably good decisions. The second is giving people justified confidence in the decision-making process. Often the second reason is somewhat neglected. A lot of potential damage is from people losing trust in a process rather than from real misuse of power, but it is easy to just focus on preventing COIs rather than ensuring justified public trust. To address this, I think the pub test is actually one pretty good benchmark for a COI policy (i.e. if you asked the patrons of an average pub, would they think it seems legitimate or fishy).

To pass the pub test, I think it is important to have a process for reporting any potential COIs that could be perceived as influencing a decision. By that, I mean any relationship or connection that a reasonable person could believe might have influenced a decision. Because that is quite a strict standard, it seems too invasive to require all of these potential COIs to be disclosed publicly. To address this, you can require that any potential COI be reported to a third party within the organisation who will determine a management approach for the COI. This can be quite a quick process, just requiring one email exchange and some formal record of the decision. The management approach could include recusal, publicly disclosing the COI, or other options like seeking an extra opinion on a grant or allowing the decision to be made without needing any changes to the process. The third party’s management approach decision could also be informed by more explicit guidelines like the ones detailed in this post, but having the third party decision helps to prevent unanticipated COI circumstances from slipping through.

This third party could take the form of a small board, as has been suggested in other comments, but it could also be something else like another fund member or someone at CEA. I’m not really best placed to know who would combine the right amount of context with sufficient independence and efficiency. The main thing would be that this disclosure and management approach are formally (but not by default publicly) recorded, and are available if any concerns are raised about a potential COI.

A similar model is used in the Australian Public Service (including for COIs in grant making). Any potential real or perceived COI is disclosed to the agency head or a senior manager who then determines how the COI will be managed and the details are recorded in a COI declaration. More details of that process are here. The declaration and decision are not public, but records are kept in case the issue comes up in the future.

Adopting something like this could be a good way to get the right mix between justified public trust and non-invasiveness regarding privacy.

comment by Anonymous_Poster · 2020-02-06T12:41:09.850Z · score: 17 (10 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)
A fund member had some substantial past romantic and/or sexual relationship with a potential grantee that ended more than a year ago, or is a metamour of an applicant in an ongoing relationship
...
This is not sufficient cause for recusal, but should be made public when the fund member decides to not recuse themselves and the grant is made

I'm not sure information about past romantic/sexual relationships/metamourships should ever be made public.

  • not a healthy community norm
  • reputational hazards for individuals, the fund, and the community
  • grantees might be discouraged from applying due to concerns about publicizing their personal lives
  • individuals might feel pressured into publicly disclosing personal information in order to make or receive a grant, or might later come to regret publicly disclosing the information
  • large scope for unforeseen negative consequences

An external board should be available to deal with situations like this - they can then either insist on recusal, or judge the COI not to be a problem.

comment by HowieL · 2020-02-06T14:42:38.492Z · score: 11 (5 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

+1 that requiring disclosure of past intimate relationships seems bad. Especially if the bar is lasting 2 weeks.

comment by Habryka · 2020-02-06T20:29:05.247Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

So, I am not sure what the alternative is. The pressures seem worse if anything at that level would automatically result in a complete recusal, and not disclosing it also seems kind of bad.

Having a private board also doesn't feel great to me, mostly because I am not a huge fan of lots of intransparent governing bodies, but maybe that's the best path forward?

comment by HowieL · 2020-02-06T22:37:17.215Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Hmm. Do you have to make it public every time someone recuses themself? If someone could nonpublicly recuse themself that at least gives them the option to avoid biasing the result but also not have to stick their past romantic lives on the internet.

comment by Habryka · 2020-02-06T22:55:27.197Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Oh, no. To be clear, recusals are generally non-public. The document above should be more clear about that.

Edit: Actually, the document above does just straightforwardly say:

(recusals and the associated COIs are not generally made public)
comment by HowieL · 2020-02-07T18:00:29.580Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Ah - whoops. Sorry I missed that.

comment by HowieL · 2020-02-06T22:37:49.323Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Having a private board for close calls also doesn't seem crazy to me.

comment by Habryka · 2020-02-06T23:08:20.346Z · score: 17 (7 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

So, the problem here is that we are already dealing with a lot of time-constraint, and I feel pretty doomy about having a group that has even less time than the fund already has, to be involved in this kind of decision-making.

I also have a more general concern where when I look at dysfunctional organizations, one of the things I often see are profusions of board upon boards, each one of which primarily serves to spread accountability around, overall resulting in a system in which no one really has any skin in the game and in which even very simple tasks often require weeks of back-and-forth.

I think there are strong arguments in this space that should push you towards avoiding the creation of lots of specialized boards and their associated complicated hierarchies, and I think we see that in the most successful for-profit companies. I think the non-profit sector does this more, but I mostly think of this as a pathology of the non-profit sector that is causing a lot of its problems.

comment by HowieL · 2020-02-07T18:06:30.216Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

I guess I think a private board might be helpful even with pretty minimal time input. I think you mostly want some people who seem unbiased to avoid making huge errors as opposed to trying to get the optimal decision in ever case. That said, I'm sympathetic to wanting to avoid the extra bureaucracy.

The comparison to the for-profit sector seems useful but I wouldn't emphasize it *too* much. When you can't rely on markets to hold an org accountable, it makes sense that you'll sometimes need an extra layer.

When for-profits start to need to achieve legitimacy that can't be provide by markets, they seem to start to look towards these kinds of boards, too. (E.g. FB looking into governance boards).

That said, I don't have a strong take on whether this is a good idea.

comment by Anonymous_Poster · 2020-02-07T08:59:26.757Z · score: 0 (3 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

I understand your hesitance about board-profusion, but this seems like a reasonably clear-cut case in which a layer of non-public decision-making is necessary to manage COIs in a responsible way.

One possibility is having the CEA trustees do this, alongside the oversight they already provide.

comment by HowieL · 2020-02-06T15:17:22.442Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

(Note that I'm not saying that recusal would necessarily be bad)

comment by Ben Pace · 2020-02-07T19:44:12.491Z · score: 7 (4 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)
grantees might be discouraged from applying due to concerns about publicizing their personal lives

This is a good point. While I think the disclosure policy is correct, some mitigation of this can happen - it's probably good to mention in the policy that all public writeups get seen by grantees before being published, and they will not be blindsided by private information being published about them.

comment by Anonymous 7 · 2020-02-07T16:10:46.260Z · score: 9 (4 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

As willbradshaw [EA(p) · GW(p)] and Ozzie [EA(p) · GW(p)] commented, it seems to me that the COI policy can benefit from categorizing more of the cases as "requiring the fund manager to recuse themselves from casting a vote".

I can't imagine myself being able to objectively cast a vote about funding my room-mate / close friend / partner's boss / someone who I had a substantial romantic relationship with that ended 2 years ago (especially if the potential grantee is in a desperate financial situation!). I'm skeptical that humans in general can make reasonably objective judgments in such cases.

If fund managers that recuse themselves from casting a vote can still provide their analysis and final recommendation to other fund managers, it seems to me that the downsides are mitigated to a large extent.

You commented [EA(p) · GW(p)]:

One of the things that I am most concerned about if you were to just move towards recusal, is you just end up in a situation where by necessity the other fund members just have to take the recused person's word for the grant being good (or you pass up on all the most valuable grant opportunities). Then their own votes mostly just indirectly represent their trust in the fund member with the COI, as opposed to their independent assessment. This to me seems like it much further reduces accountability and transparency, and muddles a bunch of the internal decision-making.

These considerations indeed seem important! Perhaps the problem of muddling internal decision-making can be mitigated by making the voting anonymous (or having the final discussions and voting process being visible only to the fund managers who cast a vote).

comment by Ben Pace · 2020-02-07T19:23:41.067Z · score: 9 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)
I can't imagine myself being able to objectively cast a vote about funding my room-mate / close friend / partner's boss / someone who I had a substantial romantic relationship with that ended 2 years ago (especially if the potential grantee is in a desperate financial situation!). I'm skeptical that humans in general can make reasonably objective judgments in such cases.

(emphasis added)

This isn't a point about the OP, but I thought I'd mention that I think humans can make these choices, if they have the required discipline and virtue, and I think in many situations we see that.

When you're the CEO of a successful company, you often have very close relationships with the 5-20 staff closest around you. You might live / have lived with them, work with them for hours every day, be good friends with them, etc. And many CEOs make sensible decisions about when to move these people around and fire them - it's not remotely standard practise to 'recuse' yourself from such decisions, you're the person with the most information about the person and how the organisation works, and if you actually care about those things enough and are competent enough to know your own mind and surround yourself with good people and a healthy environment, many CEOs are massively successful at making these decisions. I think this is true in other groups as well - I expect many people are pretty good at deciding e.g. if a close friend is unhealthy for them and that they want to cut ties.

I agree many people make quite unfortunate decisions here, but it is no iron law of psychology that 'humans in general' cannot make 'reasonably objective judgments' in such cases.

comment by Habryka · 2020-02-07T18:13:11.092Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)
I can't imagine myself being able to objectively cast a vote about funding my room-mate

So, I think I agree with this in the case of small houses. However, I've been part of large group houses with 18+ people in it, where I interacted with very few of the people living in it, and overall spent much less time with many of my housemates than I did with only very casual acquaintances.

Maybe we should just make that explicit? Differentiate living together with 3-4 other people, from living together with 15 other people? A cutoff at something like 7 people seems potentially reasonable to me.

comment by Habryka · 2020-02-05T18:42:49.146Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

One additional idea that we had might be for us to create some kind of small external board that can supervise our COI decisions, and that in some sense has authority to deal with difficult edge-cases. By default this would be CEA staff members, but it might make sense to invest some more resources into this, and have more clearly delineated responsibilities in this space, and to allow for broader community buy-in than I think would be the case if we were supervised just by CEA staff members.

Curious about whether anyone has experience with something like this, and whether it seems like a good idea.

comment by Ozzie Gooen (oagr) · 2020-02-06T21:54:05.597Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Kudos for writing up a proposal here and asking for feedback publicly!

Companies and nonprofits obviously have boards for similar situations, these funds having similar boards that would function in similar ways would seem pretty reasonable to me. I imagine it may be tricky to find people both really good and really willing. Having a board kind of defers some amount of responsibility to them, and I imagine a lot of people wouldn't be excited to gain this responsibility.

I guess one quick take would be that I think the current proposed COI policy seems quite lax, and I imagine potential respected board members may be kind of uncomfortable if they were expected to "make it respectable". So I think a board may help, but wouldn't expect it help that much, unless perhaps they did some thing much more dramatic, like work with the team to come up with much larger changes.

I would personally be more excited about methods of eventually having the necessary resources to be able to have a less lax policy without it being too costly; for instance, by taking actions to grow the resources dedicated to funding allocations. I realize this is a longer-term endeavor, though.

comment by Anonymous_Poster · 2020-02-07T09:09:16.091Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Another thing missing is the procedure when multiple members recuse themselves from a decision. It seems important:

(a) that decisions are always made by more than one individual

(b) that applicants are not disqualified from receiving grants on the grounds of (e.g.) having COIs with multiple fund managers.

It is also worth thinking about COIs when it comes to board composition. Having multiple board members that are more isolated romantically/socially/geographically from the Bay Area scene would make the fund more robust to COIs, particularly if the standards for recusal are raised.

comment by Habryka · 2020-02-07T18:09:12.903Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Yeah, I am not sure how to deal with this. Currently the fund team is quite heavily geographically distributed, with me being the only person located in the Bay Area, so on that dimension we are doing pretty well.

I don't really know what to do if there are multiple COIs, which is one of the reasons I much prefer us to err on the side of disclosure instead of recusal. I expect if we were to include friendships as sufficient for recusal, we would very frequently have only one person on the fund being able to vote on a proposal, and I expect that to overall make our decision-making quite a bit worse.

comment by Khorton · 2020-02-05T23:26:54.196Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

I found this section confusing

"Not necessary to disclose or recuse: A fund member is friends with a grantee, but does not share a living arrangement or is in some way romantically involved"

Are you saying they don't have to disclose if they're romantically involved, or they do?

comment by Pablo_Stafforini · 2020-02-06T00:49:16.217Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

I think he means that they do have to disclose if they're romantically involved. Perhaps replace 'or is' with 'nor is' to make it clearer.

comment by Habryka · 2020-02-06T03:27:10.800Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Yes, this was just intended as a negative example. If you are friends with a grantee, but do not share a living arrangement and don't have any romantic involvement with them, you don't have to disclose that, or recuse yourself from the decision.

comment by Khorton · 2020-02-06T08:29:48.237Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

I'd write it as:

"Not necessary to disclose or recuse: A fund member is friends with a grantee, but does not share a living arrangement and is not in any way romantically involved"

comment by Habryka · 2020-02-06T23:02:55.068Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

That seems good. Edited the document!

comment by MichaelStJules · 2020-02-08T01:17:47.764Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

For privacy, you could let potential grantees request the recusal of specific fund members to prevent the publication of certain COIs, since the COIs of recused fund members don't need to be published.

They could do this at two points:

1. At the very start of the process.

2. After they see the COI statements but before final decisions are made.

I'm not sure how early you would want to do 2 in the process, to avoid writing many unnecessary COI statements. You could do early screening by unanimous vote against funding specific potential grantees, and, in these cases, no COI statement would have to be written at all.

comment by Habryka · 2020-02-08T02:48:05.746Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)
You could do early screening by unanimous vote against funding specific potential grantees, and, in these cases, no COI statement would have to be written at all.

Since we don't publicize rejections, or even who applied to the fund, I wasn't planning to write any COI statements for rejected applicants. That's a bit sad, since it kind of leaves a significant number of decisions without accountability, but I don't know what else to do.

The natural time for grantees to object to certain information to be included would be when we run our final writeup past them. They could then request that we change our writeup, or ask us to rerun the vote with certain members excluded, which would make the COI statements unnecessary.

comment by MichaelStJules · 2020-02-08T04:26:40.938Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)
Since we don't publicize rejections, or even who applied to the fund, I wasn't planning to write any COI statements for rejected applicants. That's a bit sad, since it kind of leaves a significant number of decisions without accountability, but I don't know what else to do.

You could give short write-ups (with COI statements) to rejected applicants, which they could then share themselves (publicly or privately). If someone asks you why a particular applicant didn't get funding, you could request permission from the applicant to share the write-up with them or direct them to the applicant.

Do you expect that publicizing rejections would deter the kinds of applicants that would actually get grants from the fund? It might be worth running an informal survey. You could publicize all applicants and rejections as a rule, but only publish reasoning and COI statements for rejections with consent from the applicants. Such a rule might even encourage some applicants, if they believe it improves transparency and accountability.

The charity evaluators GiveWell and ACE publicize the charities they consider.

Of course, I don't know how much extra work this would be.

The natural time for grantees to object to certain information to be included would be when we run our final writeup past them. They could then request that we change our writeup, or ask us to rerun the vote with certain members excluded, which would make the COI statements unnecessary.

Sounds good!