Introducing Asterisk

post by Clara Collier · 2022-05-26T05:54:06.923Z · EA · GW · 32 comments


  Submission Guidelines

Asterisk is a new quarterly magazine/journal of ideas from in and around Effective Altruism. Our goal is to provide clear, engaging, and deeply researched writing about complicated questions. This might look like a superforecaster giving a detailed explanation of the reasoning they use to make a prediction, a researcher discussing a problem in their work, or deep-dive into something the author noticed didn’t quite make sense.  While everything we publish should be useful (or at least interesting) to committed EAs, our audience is the wider penumbra of people who care about improving the world but aren't necessarily routine readers of, say, the EA forum.  

In a nutshell: we're for Bayes' theorem, acknowledging our uncertainty, weird hypotheticals, and well constructed sentences. We're against easy answers, lazy metaphors, and the end of life as we know it.

Submission Guidelines

While we expect the bulk of our pieces will be about typical EA cause areas (we think they’re important for a reason!), we’re a lot less interested in covering specific topics than in showcasing an "EA-ish" way of thinking about the world. We want to show off what this community does best: finding new ideas, taking them seriously, and investigating them rigorously – all while doing our best to reason under uncertainty. 

We’re especially excited about pieces that help readers improve their epistemics and build better models of the world (the kinds of questions you’d see in the world-modeling tag on Less Wrong would all be within scope for us). We’d like to see smart writing about global catastrophic risks aimed at a wider audience, EA methods applied to topics we’ve never thought about, and historical case studies that help us understand the present. Here are a few representative examples of the kinds of questions we’d like to see people tackle: 

Right now, we’re not interested in pure philosophy, movement evangelism, or meta-EA and other inside baseball. Reports on the health of the community or various internal organizations can be interesting, but they don’t have the kind of broad appeal we’re looking for.

If you're interested in writing for us, please send a short paragraph explaining your idea (along with a writing sample, if you have one) to  


In addition to writers, we're looking for:  

Asterisk is fiscally sponsored by the Centre for Effective Altruism and our salary and benefits are managed by CEA, but we are an independent organization and retain full editorial oversight. 


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Michael_Wiebe · 2022-05-26T21:39:19.051Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Disappointed it's not dedicated to asteroid risk.

Replies from: alexrjl, Clara Collier, NunoSempere
comment by alexrjl · 2022-05-27T05:26:53.829Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

And it never will be with that attitude! Sounds like you should write a piece on asteroid risk for it!

comment by Clara Collier · 2022-05-27T16:50:05.143Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

We're taking pitches! 

comment by NunoSempere · 2022-05-27T04:46:26.206Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Same here to say this

comment by BrianTan · 2022-05-27T01:53:48.719Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Cool project! Could I ask why it's called Asterisk?

Replies from: Clara Collier, joshjacobson
comment by Clara Collier · 2022-05-27T15:52:48.499Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I liked that it brings up associations with risk, stars/space/a bigger, stranger future, and a healthy dose of pedantry. Part of the "EA mindset" I'm trying to illustrate is the urge to investigate claims in more depth. We like footnotes – hence, Asterisk

Replies from: david_reinstein
comment by david_reinstein · 2022-05-28T13:25:18.043Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Hoverable footnotes I hope :)

comment by Josh Jacobson (joshjacobson) · 2022-05-27T07:02:52.553Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

The name seems potentially quite bad. To me, the connotation is that everything in it should be taken with an asterisk. E.g. its meaning as described here:

Replies from: BrianTan, david_reinstein
comment by BrianTan · 2022-05-27T10:14:16.072Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Interesting, I wasn't familiar with this connotation (even if I watch quite a few sports). 

To me the name Asterisk is decent, but yeah it might not be a good one if it would be confused with other search results or journals/magazines, like as noted by Azure here [EA · GW]

Replies from: Clara Collier
comment by Clara Collier · 2022-05-27T15:42:01.753Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I did notice Asterisk Journal, but I'm not too worried about the name collision – it's an arts journal by Yale undergrads (and I went to Yale and never heard of it). 

comment by david_reinstein · 2022-05-28T13:28:30.078Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I think they do want to allow speculative, less 'we know for sure' claims that are "epistemically signposted" and reasoning transparent. So to some extent that connotation for the asterisk is not so far off.

But I agree that I have heard of "that home run record comes with an asterisk". But somewhat doubtful this will come to mind in this context.

comment by david_reinstein · 2022-05-26T13:16:45.390Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Very interesting and welcome. This is distinct but has some overlap with the Unjournal .

We should coordinate; some work not relevant for one might be passed to the other, unjournal work might be rewritten for asterisk, and we will face some overlapping implementation issues. Please reach out. 

Replies from: rodeo_flagellum
comment by rodeo_flagellum · 2022-05-27T14:12:19.383Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thank you for commenting this! I have not previously heard of Unjournal, but believe it's very likely that I will try to use this for feedback (decided after taking a ~5 min look at the link). 

comment by Adam Binks · 2022-05-26T10:35:38.862Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

This is exciting! If you've got this far in your planning yet, I'd love to hear more about how the journal will be promoted and how you plan for readers to find you? Do you have any examples of "user stories" - stories about the kind of reader you'd hope to attract, how they'd find the journal, and what it might lead them to do subsequently?

comment by Raemon · 2022-05-30T20:01:48.275Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Where are you expecting to find your audience? (I feel surprisingly ignorant on how journal projects like this bootstrap their way into wider readership)

comment by Sarah H · 2022-05-29T21:23:27.478Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Could you talk a little about how selections will be chosen? Will there be a peer review process?

Replies from: Clara Collier
comment by Clara Collier · 2022-05-30T16:15:14.208Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Perhaps I should have been clearer in my initial post – Asterisk is a popular magazine, not a scientific journal. I'll be selecting pieces, with consultation from coworkers and subject matter experts in situations where that's appropriate. 

comment by JasperGeh · 2022-05-30T12:38:31.993Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Very cool to see! I would, however, be quite cautious of infohazards when calling for some areas of biosecurity research and rather consult with experts before publishing such papers.

E.g., "Are there plausible candidate pathogens outside the usual suspects (flu, pox or coronavirus)?" is an exploration of a topic that most EA biosecurity researchers would not like to see circulated widely.

Replies from: Clara Collier
comment by Clara Collier · 2022-05-30T16:13:01.923Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

This is something I've been thinking a lot about, and I've consulted several people working in biosecurity at different organizations. I (edit: currently) think it's quite plausible to thread the needle of discussing what natural pandemics it's important to prepare for without giving actionable ideas to bad actors, but I agree it's something that would have to be treated with caution. 

comment by PeterSlattery (Peterslattery) · 2022-05-26T23:42:15.188Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Excellent! I am really glad to see this.

comment by Garrison · 2022-05-26T16:57:24.075Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Congratulations Clara! I think this is a really valuable project and am excited to see it come to fruition.

comment by Dave Cortright (DaveC) · 2022-06-01T21:32:55.313Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Just a suggestion, but maybe throw a simple landing page up on

I recommend Caard as a service for this (happy customer)

comment by Azure · 2022-05-26T10:40:21.532Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Is there a potential naming collision with ? Are you going with 'asteriskmag' as the domain name perhaps?

Replies from: Clara Collier, Jérémy Perret
comment by Clara Collier · 2022-05-27T15:44:02.396Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Yes, asteriskmag is the domain name. I'm not too worried about the name collision – Asterisk Journal is an undergrad arts magazine at Yale (and I went to Yale and never heard of it before I started looking up names for this project). 

comment by Jérémy Perret · 2022-05-26T17:06:40.572Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

please send a short paragraph [...] to

Apparently, yes!

comment by aaronmayer · 2022-05-29T15:36:04.215Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

This is a FABULOUS name! Kudos!

comment by Sharmake · 2022-05-27T15:45:49.320Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Is there a link to your website, because I didn't see it in this post.

Replies from: Clara Collier
comment by Clara Collier · 2022-05-30T16:24:00.392Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

We're still working on the design/identity development process, but watch this space. 

comment by Ben Snodin (Ben_Snodin) · 2022-05-27T09:08:51.217Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Nice, sounds like a cool project!

comment by timfarkas · 2022-05-26T15:54:15.575Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I love the idea , sign me up! Are you planning to also publish this in a printed form? I would be interested in ordering this as a haptic copy as well - if just for the feel of it.

Replies from: Clara Collier
comment by Clara Collier · 2022-05-26T17:17:41.538Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Yes, the magazine will be both print and online.

Replies from: david_reinstein
comment by david_reinstein · 2022-05-28T13:32:58.540Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Issue to look out for: some features of an online presentation are hard to display in print (folding boxes, links, interactives). Probably not a big obstacle, but maybe worth keeping in mind.