2018 list of half-baked volunteer research ideas

post by Jacy_Reese · 2018-09-19T07:58:34.213Z · EA · GW · 3 comments

[Beta content for the new EA Forum]

I've heard from some EAs recently that they would like to do research in a part-time/volunteer capacity, but their bottleneck is research ideas that could be done by a non-expert without much support from a professional organization, e.g. Saulius Šimčikas' recent post on "Fish used as live bait by recreational fishermen." In this post, I'll share some ideas for such projects.

I tend to prioritize movement-building, farmed animal issues, and improving the quality of the far future, but I'd encourage other people to contribute any other EA research ideas in the comments section.

And these are definitely half-baked ideas, and I'm not prepared to defend them in much detail. I've tried to add citations for context when I had some readily available.

I also don't expect so many people to work on these ideas with sufficient rigor that duplicating effort is a huge concern, though of course coordination is helpful. I've seen a lot of research that was never done because of duplication concerns, but very little harm from duplication of effort in this context.

Some of these are also included in Sentience Institute's research agenda, though many of those (e.g. RCTs) aren't as promising for this context.

The list is in very rough order of the value of a decent-quality implementation of the idea.

Research Ideas

[1] (see comment)


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Gregory_Lewis · 2018-09-20T08:55:13.801Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Something similar perhaps worth exploring is putting up awards/bounties for doing particular research projects. A central clearing-house of this could be interesting (I know myself and a couple of others have done this on an ad-hoc basis - that said, efforts to produce central repositories for self-contained projects etc. in EA have not been wildly successful).

A couple of related questions/topics I'd be excited for someone to have a look at:

1. Is rationality a skill, or a trait? Stanovich's RQ correlates with IQ fairly strongly, but I imagine going through the literature could uncover how much of a positive manifold there is between 'features' of rationality which is orthogonal to intelligence, and then investigation of how/whether this can be trained (with sub-questions around transfer, what seems particularly promising, etc.

2. I think a lot of people have looked into the superforecasting literature for themselves, but a general write-up for public consumption (e.g. How 'traity' is superforecasting? What exactly does GJP do to get a reported 10% boost from pre-selected superforecasters? Are there useful heuristics people can borrow to improve their own performance beyond practice/logging predictions? (And what is the returns curve to practice, anyway?)) could spare lots of private duplication.

3. More generally, I imagine lots of relevant books (e.g. Deep Work, superforecasting, better angels) could be concisely summarised. That said, I think there are already services that do this, so less clear if this already exists whether it is worth EA time to repeat 'in house'.

comment by Khorton · 2018-10-21T08:28:09.755Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Questions about the EA community:

  1. Attendance data from EA London suggests women are as likely to attend an initial event as men, but less likely to attend future events. Is this true for other EA communities?
  2. Interview people who have previously attended 5+ EA events, but haven't attended any community events in the last year. Do they still consider themselves part of the community? Why don't they attend events anymore?
comment by Jacy_Reese · 2018-09-19T08:00:28.803Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

[1] Cochrane mass media health articles (and similar):

  • Targeted mass media interventions promoting healthy behaviours to reduce risk of non-communicable diseases in adult, ethnic minorities
  • Mass media interventions for smoking cessation in adults
  • Mass media interventions for preventing smoking in young people.
  • Mass media interventions for promoting HIV testing
  • Smoking cessation media campaigns and their effectiveness among socioeconomically advantaged and disadvantaged populations
  • Population tobacco control interventions and their effects on social inequalities in smoking: systematic review
  • Are physical activity interventions equally effective in adolescents of low and high socioeconomic status (SES): results from the European Teenage project
  • The effectiveness of nutrition interventions on dietary outcomes by relative social disadvantage: a systematic review
  • Use of folic acid supplements, particularly by low-income and young women: a series of systematic reviews to inform public health policy in the UK
  • Use of mass media campaigns to change health behaviour
  • The role of the media in promoting and reducing tobacco use
  • Getting to the Truth: Evaluating National Tobacco Countermarketing Campaigns
  • Effect of televised, tobacco company-funded smoking prevention advertising on youth smoking-related beliefs, intentions, and behavior
  • Do mass media campaigns improve physical activity? a systematic review and meta-analysis