Should I give to Our World In Data?

post by Cullen_OKeefe · 2019-09-10T04:56:41.437Z · score: 20 (13 votes) · EA · GW · 9 comments

I’m considering making a donation to Our World in Data, which is currently fundraising. My thinking is that:
1. I haven’t seen any EAs (except Steven Pinker) donate or grant here so it might be an overlooked/undervalued opportunity. Besides Pinker and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, I didn’t recognize any of the donors on their donor list.
2. EAs frequently use this as a source that is high-quality in both substance and presentation and focuses on important issues. They have an explicit focus on doing work that neglected. Expanding their work could therefore be useful as source for both substantive EA work and movement-building. I also think there might be something of a network effect of having a bunch of macroeconomic data in one place.

Reasons against:
1. Same as 1 above: there might be a good reason for no grants to-date. If the EA donor "market" is efficient, a good opportunity like this would have been taken, especially since the site is well-known.
2. Unclear what the effect size of a donation is. I asked Max Roser on Twitter and hope he’ll answer.
3. The data collected and published might not be particularly important on the margin. If you look at the latest posts, the importance of the topics varies pretty widely. But overall I think the new work is still impressively important on average!

Assume the donation size in consideration is between $1,000-$10,000.

9 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Larks · 2019-09-10T12:18:55.458Z · score: 18 (8 votes) · EA · GW
I haven’t seen any EAs (except Steven Pinker) donate or grant here so it might be an overlooked/undervalued opportunity. Besides Pinker and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, I didn’t recognize any of the donors on their donor list.

It seems strange to use the fraction of donors who are EAs as a negative signal, holding their total fundraising constant. Surely the information about implicit EA cost-effectiveness estimates is dominates the crowding out effect? In equilibrium this consideration would suggest that EA giving should be equally spread among all groups!

And if this was valid, you might not want EA opinions on the subject. Would you not then equally take persuasive EA arguments for giving there to be a reason to think it is not overlooked/undervalued?

comment by Cullen_OKeefe · 2019-09-10T16:32:10.447Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Yes, on balance I suspect you’re right. But I also think individual donors should be looking for black swan opportunities.

comment by jpaddison · 2019-09-10T22:56:50.773Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Then you'd be looking for something with no donors. (Or nearly none.) The percent of them who were EAs wouldn't be relevant.

comment by Cullen_OKeefe · 2019-09-11T02:34:19.983Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I’m not sure that’s entirely true. The one’s who don’t care about effectiveness make the opportunity less neglected, but it still might be neglected relative to its effectiveness if EAs haven’t noticed the potential there.

comment by jpaddison · 2019-09-11T04:59:34.222Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Ah, like, if EAs have already discovered it, then you expect it to quickly reach saturation, efficient market style?

comment by Cullen_OKeefe · 2019-09-11T15:44:24.259Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Exactly!

comment by Stefan_Schubert · 2019-10-03T09:52:25.713Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Two positions at Our World in Data are listed on the 80,000 Hours job board.

comment by aarongertler · 2019-10-02T04:27:19.216Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Did you ever hear back from Max Roser? I'd be interested to hear his thoughts, as the donation page on the website is bare-bones, with no information on runway, projects they might pursue or not pursue based on certain funding targets, etc.

comment by Cullen_OKeefe · 2019-10-03T04:12:14.223Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Nope. I might follow-up by email.