Posts

Desperation Hamster Wheels 2020-10-30T16:55:05.961Z
Brief update on EA Grants 2020-04-21T22:00:42.641Z
Update on CEA's EA Grants Program 2019-11-08T23:00:19.476Z
EA Interview Series, February 2016: John Salvatier 2016-02-28T18:13:24.346Z

Comments

Comment by Nicole_Ross on AMA: Working at the Centre for Effective Altruism · 2021-05-26T17:42:03.668Z · EA · GW

Positives:

  • I feel like I was able to create a role that played to my strengths, and I feel excited about the expected value of my career.
  • I care a lot about my work.
  • I really like my colleagues.

 

Negatives:

  • It can be stressful. I feel like I'm working on important things, and care a lot about how they go. When things don't go well or there's something time-sensitive and important to get right, it can feel stressful. This might be particularly related to my role (I handle risky situations a lot).
  • It can be hard to take my brain off of work. I'm a lot better than I used to be, but it's a concerted effort I have to make. (e.g. my partner will remind me not to look at my work computer, I've uninstalled my work slack from my phone)
Comment by Nicole_Ross on AMA: Working at the Centre for Effective Altruism · 2021-05-26T17:37:01.293Z · EA · GW

I have a lot of "life shit" that has happened (chronic health issues, I'm accident-prone, my mom died). In addition, my role can be inherently stressful sometimes (I do some risk mitigation work). CEA has been amazingly supportive. CEA has helped me figure out a schedule that feels sustainable and part of a thriving life for me. CEA has helped me orient towards my "life shit" in much healthier and constructive ways. I now have an automatic reminder (or "TAP") installed to talk to our people ops person whenever I feel angsty or stressed, or uncomfortable. She's so good at helping me identify what's going on and helping me figure out what to do about it.

Comment by Nicole_Ross on AMA: Working at the Centre for Effective Altruism · 2021-05-26T17:23:59.466Z · EA · GW

What Amy said above! I've also been doing some thinking about how to improve the community's epistemics in a more targeted way. As part of this, I conducted a small test run of a project that I hope will help (the "EA Librarian" project mentioned in Max's link). I've also developed a few other ideas (e.g., a coaching program). Unfortunately, the work here has been pretty limited so far due to capacity constraints. Right now, I'm focusing on trying to hire to add more capacity. I've also been working on my project management skills to try to increase my ability to push things forward in this space.

Comment by Nicole_Ross on My mistakes on the path to impact · 2020-12-05T18:00:40.162Z · EA · GW

I love this post. Thanks so much for sharing.

Comment by Nicole_Ross on LessWrong is now a book, available for pre-order! · 2020-12-04T20:45:30.709Z · EA · GW

I'm very excited for this!

Comment by Nicole_Ross on Brief book review 2020 · 2020-12-04T14:53:04.903Z · EA · GW

Thanks so much for writing this! Added a couple to my "to read" list.

Comment by Nicole_Ross on Desperation Hamster Wheels · 2020-11-04T04:26:41.974Z · EA · GW

Thanks for the links!

I think my professional and social spaces at this time both made this feeling worse (because others felt this too and there was feeding on each other's angst cycle) and enabled me to get out of it/provided a healthy path forward (because others had navigated this before and gave me thoughtful and insightful advice, and also supported me as I made steps in this direction). I also think it's a broader dynamic than my personal professional and social spaces -- I was mostly within EA at this time, but I've seen this dynamic play out in a lot of other "do-gooder" friends from college who were never involved at all with EA.

Comment by Nicole_Ross on Desperation Hamster Wheels · 2020-11-04T04:21:56.844Z · EA · GW

Thanks! This is an interesting point, and I'll mull on it.

Comment by Nicole_Ross on Desperation Hamster Wheels · 2020-11-04T04:20:42.722Z · EA · GW

Yay! Hope it helps them

Comment by Nicole_Ross on Desperation Hamster Wheels · 2020-11-04T04:19:50.568Z · EA · GW

Thanks for the link! I'm adding it to my to listen to list :)

A few rambly reactions/thoughts in response to your message in case they are helpful:

  • I wonder if doing some experiments here would be useful. e.g. do you seem to have more impact if you assess your impact/usefulness daily, weekly, monthly, yearly? (or whatever intervals feel worth a test to you) What happens if you experiment with just leaning into your interests (rather than usefulness)? Seems worth trying some things out and then taking time to reflect on how they went. I've benefited a lot from experimentation of this form.
  • FWIW I find assessing my impact more than a couple of times a year to be quite stressful and not very helpful (often a distraction from actually doing things). Interestingly and perhaps counterintuitively, I find prioritizing based on expected value to be useful in my role daily. Somehow the frame of prioritization enables me to make those trade-offs without kicking up this sort of desperation hamster wheel/stress cycle. I wonder if trying on different frames could be useful for you too? Prioritization depersonalizes it a bit for me in a useful way.
Comment by Nicole_Ross on Desperation Hamster Wheels · 2020-11-04T04:05:15.948Z · EA · GW

[Apologies for the rambly nature of this response]

Thanks Ozzie, I agree with your point here. I don't think this is essential for everyone and I agree it can lead to or be indicative of some weird biased mental move.

A couple of clarifications/mini-rambles on what I mean (but I think what I mean is a much less interesting than a useful discussion about what is helpful to people and what the implications and pros and cons of different views are):

  • I agree that the value I can give to others is a lot more in expectation than the value of my life on its own.
  • My career and donation decisions are mostly based on utilitarian reasoning (or at least that's what I intend). Not all of my life is though (there's a future post on this topic brewing in my mind -- something about a portfolio approach to life).
  • [super confused on this] I think sometimes acting as if I believe more of a virtue ethics-y/deontological thing in some day to day decisions, particularly around personal life/happiness might be better as measured/defined by utilitarianism lights? Anyways, something in the vague direction of this argument feels true for me with optimizing for my own happiness. I'm confused about this though, and depending on the day might respond very differently if asked about it.
  • I think the main underlying point I was trying to make is more along the lines of the latter thing Ozzie said (with one slight edit, in bold) "actually, optimizing for my own happiness more than I had been is the optimal way of achieving a more universally good outcome".
  • I probably should have worded that point differently? I'm not positive though -- I wrote the initial phrase in question for the Nicole of a few years ago who had literally forgotten that she, too, counts and has value. I can't quite put my finger on it, but it felt like a very important realization to me.  I had actually forgotten and that forgetting had lots of subtle impacts on my emotional well-being and intellectual resiliency that were quite bad.
Comment by Nicole_Ross on Avoiding Munich's Mistakes: Advice for CEA and Local Groups · 2020-10-15T17:59:17.426Z · EA · GW

+1. I also think that the chilling effect can extend to people's thoughts, i.e., limiting what people even let themselves think let alone write.

Comment by Nicole_Ross on Brief update on EA Grants · 2020-05-26T18:59:14.577Z · EA · GW

EDIT: The EA Meta Fund and Long-Term Future Fund deadline is now 12 June, as announced elsewhere.

Comment by Nicole_Ross on Update on CEA's EA Grants Program · 2020-01-30T23:16:27.906Z · EA · GW

Unfortunately, I don’t know the identity of the anonymous donor myself, so I can’t speak to their plans for 2020 and beyond.

The most relevant question might be: if EA Grants is going to collapse into EA Funds, what would that mean in terms of funding needs for EA Funds? EA Funds grew something like 30% last year. From 2018-2019, Funds grew by $1.3M (and growth was concentrated in the Meta, Long Term Future, and Animal Welfare Funds, all of which make grants to individuals). If this growth rate remained steady through 2020, we would expect the ‘funding gap’ created by EA Grants (at the historical level of Grants funding, under $1M per year) to be covered by organic growth in EA Funds. However, if the number of strong grant opportunities also continues to increase, organic growth could still leave a similar proportion of strong opportunities going unfunded. In that case, I’d encourage Fund teams to make that known and fundraise accordingly. Of course, it’s hard to predict how much the size of the total pool of opportunities will increase in 2020 and beyond.

Comment by Nicole_Ross on Update on CEA's EA Grants Program · 2020-01-30T23:15:53.397Z · EA · GW

I feel very uncertain. I wasn’t very involved with funding individuals and that ecosystem before taking on EA Grants, so it’s hard for me to speak to the changes over time.

Comment by Nicole_Ross on Where are you donating this year and why – in 2019? Open thread for discussion. · 2020-01-08T15:22:33.902Z · EA · GW

I decided to mostly not donate this year, and instead save for future donations. Because of my role at CEA and the fact that I might not be doing as much grantmaking in the future (see "Update on CEA's EA Grants Program"), I think it's reasonably likely I'll come across some small grantmaking opportunities that otherwise might not be funded. I want the resources available to be opportunistic. If I don't come across any opportunities this year, I think I should reassess my donation plans.

I also cut down my allocation this year in order to cover some health expenses. I have a chronic illness and am doing a big health push right now, including seeing a doctor not covered by health insurance. I strongly think that people should take care of their health (physical and mental), so wanted to explicitly mention that here. My mom also passed away so I am allocating more money towards therapy and grief processing support, which I similarly endorse for others in this position.

Comment by Nicole_Ross on EA Hotel Fundraiser 5: Out of runway! · 2019-12-20T19:01:50.939Z · EA · GW

We are still happy to help with hiring and to consider helping to fund the role if there's enough general funding. We haven't received new info from Greg about whether there is enough general funding that it's worth moving forward hiring, so we're currently on standby.

Comment by Nicole_Ross on Update on CEA's EA Grants Program · 2019-12-20T19:00:45.121Z · EA · GW

Thanks for the question! My exact role is still being nailed down, but as an example, I’m likely to work on things related to risk mitigation. E.g. coordinating advice on how to give a talk to foreign government officials. Another consideration that’s related to staff capacity and is an input into this decision, is the importance of narrowing down CEA’s scope to allow more focus for the organization.

Comment by Nicole_Ross on Update on CEA's EA Grants Program · 2019-12-20T19:00:18.718Z · EA · GW

I believe this has been fixed, but please let us know if you see any more issues.

Comment by Nicole_Ross on Update on CEA's EA Grants Program · 2019-12-20T19:00:00.251Z · EA · GW

Thanks for the comment! I agree. I think that whether this iteration makes sense will depend on what Funds can handle and what it looks like in the future. I do like this general idea of thinking creatively about how to best integrate EA Grants into EA Funds, and would be keen to hear more ideas if you have them.

Comment by Nicole_Ross on Update on CEA's EA Grants Program · 2019-12-20T18:59:34.189Z · EA · GW

Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I agree with most of your points, (though am a bit confused on your first one and would like to understand it better if you’d have the time to elaborate. EA Grants didn’t, when I was involved, have an overlapping funding mandate with CBGs, although I think that the distinction was a bit blurrier in the past). I am keen to work with others in the funding ecosystem so it can adapt in a good, healthy way. If you have more specific thoughts on how to make this happen, would love to hear them here or in a call.

Comment by Nicole_Ross on Update on CEA's EA Grants Program · 2019-12-20T18:58:56.670Z · EA · GW

As mentioned in another response, where the freed up resources go is dependent on donors. EA Grants never had (to my knowledge) multi-year commitments. For example, since I've started, it's been ~entirely funded by 1 anonymous donor. On funding, if the Meta Fund sees funding shortages, I hope that they will make that known to donors, so that donors can fund the Meta Fund accordingly. To my knowledge, this has not been the case to date, even though EA Grants has been somewhat limited in its disbursements this year.

Comment by Nicole_Ross on Update on CEA's EA Grants Program · 2019-12-20T18:58:21.187Z · EA · GW

Thanks for this thoughtful comment! I agree with many of the points you raise. A few responses/clarifications:

  1. On the role of EA Grants in the grantmaking ecosystem: While I agree with you that EA Grants projected it would disburse more money than it actually did, when I said that "the role of EA Grants in the grantmaking ecosystem was unclear" I primarily meant that there was ambiguity about which type of projects were likely to be accepted for EA Grants, and it was unclear to applicants whether they should apply to Funds or EA Grants. I also think that the hopes and plans for EA Grants were articulated but not clarified or updated, which they should have been as things evolved and EA Grants was failing to take the position in the grantmaking ecosystem it had originally claimed it would take (e.g. how much money it would disburse).
  2. I agree that CEA’s communications have likely led to inaccurate perceptions of how much funding was available for early stage projects. It’s unclear to me how much of a shortage of funding there actually is, though, given what people expressed interest in doing this year. I think that a more important constraint in the ecosystem is not funding, but likely support and feedback for grantees and applicants. I think that it is very hard and time costly to give good feedback and support, but very important for individuals and early stage projects. This is part of why I’m excited about Charity Entrepreneurship’s incubation program. I am also exploring how the funding ecosystem may be able to provide more support to grantees to try to address this problem somewhat, though I expect this to be a hard problem to solve. On funding, if the Meta Fund sees funding shortages, I hope that they will make that known to donors, so that donors can fund the Meta Fund accordingly. To my knowledge, this has not been the case to date.
  3. Where the freed up resources go is dependent on donors. EA Grants never had (to my knowledge) multi-year commitments. For example, since I've started, it's been ~entirely funded by 1 anonymous donor.
  4. EA Funds is already leveraging the improvements made for EA Grants. The work was not for nothing :)
  5. I agree with this: “to fix things going forward, I think it’s important to have an accurate understanding of how they worked in the past. With respect to EA Grants, the past has involved a lot of overpromising and underdelivering, which seems to be a recurring theme in feedback.”
Comment by Nicole_Ross on Update on CEA's EA Grants Program · 2019-11-23T19:13:26.291Z · EA · GW

Hi all - just a quick note to thank everyone who has commented. I've been out on leave for personal reasons and will respond when I'm back. Apologies for the delay!

Comment by Nicole_Ross on Update on CEA's EA Grants Program · 2019-11-13T22:46:26.091Z · EA · GW

This is a bit hard to go into detail without investing a lot of time. On a general level, I think some grants led to people starting projects with good, impactful output on areas EA cares about (including “meta”). This only describes some of the grants, but I think this is appropriate given the hits-based approach of this style of grantmaking. There were also some grants that I think created or deepened some risks without having much positive benefit. This is not specific to the particular grants made, but some of the general types of risks I would investigate if I did a more thorough review would be: impacts on the EA ecosystem/incentives (e.g. how does funding/not funding a particular project incentivize others), impacts on nascent fields (e.g. AI safety), and infohazards.

Comment by Nicole_Ross on Update on CEA's EA Grants Program · 2019-11-13T22:45:32.825Z · EA · GW

Thanks for raising this! I agree with this concern, and more broadly think it’s important to do work to mitigate grantmaker biases and make the grantmaking ecosystem more robust. In this particular case I think the trade-offs are too high, the biggest ones being the ability to narrow CEA’s focus (which has historically been too broad) and our staff capacity.

Comment by Nicole_Ross on EA Hotel Fundraiser 5: Out of runway! · 2019-11-07T16:20:48.564Z · EA · GW

Hey all,

I'm the EA Grants evaluator. We don't usually comment publicly on reasons for not granting to something, but Greg gave us permission and encouragement in this case given the community interest. At this point I'm not excited to fund the EA Hotel's general costs. My concerns are:


- Hotel management generally (including selection of guests/projects)
- Potential for community health issues, and concern about handling of a staffing issue
- Some concern about the handling of past PR situations; I think these were very difficult situations, but I think an excellent version of the hotel would have handled these better


I'm still happy to help with finding an excellent Project and Community Manager, and to consider topping up/extending funding for the right candidate, should the EA Hotel find general operating funding elsewhere.

Comment by Nicole_Ross on English as a dominant language in the movement: challenges and solutions · 2019-09-04T20:43:19.148Z · EA · GW

Thanks so much for writing this! This is something I think about in my work, but I'm sure still need to improve on.

Comment by Nicole_Ross on Raemon's EA Shortform Feed · 2019-06-27T17:51:18.710Z · EA · GW

Hey Raemon - I run the EA Grants program at CEA. I'd be happy to chat! Email me at nicole.ross@centreforeffectivealtruism.org if you want to arrange a time.

Comment by Nicole_Ross on EA Grants applications are now open · 2019-04-23T23:50:15.178Z · EA · GW

Hi Khorton,

Apologies! I missed your question. Most of the decisions have been made and funds disbursed, although there are a few decisions and fund disbursals that have been very delayed. This delay has been due to staff changes, an internal audit of our legal processes, and some more complex situations with a few of the applications. I'm in touch with those still waiting.

We have also discovered a number of other issues with the way grants were tracked and funded in 2017 and 2018. I'm working to resolve these issues, and intend to publicly follow up with more information later in the year.

If you have any more questions or concerns in the interim, please let me know: nicole.ross@centreforeffectivealtruism.org. I'm always open to feedback and suggestions.

Comment by Nicole_Ross on Suggestions for EA wedding vows? · 2019-03-23T15:52:04.128Z · EA · GW

This is so sweet and made me really happy to read <3

Comment by Nicole_Ross on EA grants available to individuals (crosspost from LessWrong) · 2019-02-07T20:49:58.748Z · EA · GW

(x-posting my comment)

Hi Jameson,

I lead the EA Grants program at CEA and anyone should feel free to contact me (nicole.ross@centreforeffectivealtruism.org) if they have any questions or if a time sensitive opportunity comes up before the next grant round opens. Please feel very free to reach out!

Also, in case it's helpful: I looked at your other post briefly, and I don't think the topic automatically excludes it from EA Grants.

More generally, I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts about the types of projects that might be falling through the cracks. I only recently started at CEA and am still thinking through what EA Grants should look like in the future (e.g. what niche it should fill within the funding space, how it can be better and more efficient). If you (or others) have thoughts on this topic, please email me: nicole.ross@centreforeffectivealtruism.org.

Comment by Nicole_Ross on EA Grants applications are now open · 2019-01-09T19:54:54.591Z · EA · GW

Hi Jon! This is certainly something I've thought about. I think there are lots of pros and cons, and currently I'm leaning towards no until I've had a chance to explore the cons more thoroughly. If we publicly share applications we reject, it's especially important to give a thorough explanation so the applicant, other potential funders, and future applicants can understand our reasoning. These things involve a lot of nuance and complexity, and it would take a lot of time to do it at an adequate level. If you have any more thoughts, feel free to reach out to me directly: nicole.ross@centreforeffectivealtruism.org. Thanks for putting thought into this!

Comment by Nicole_Ross on EA Grants applications are now open · 2019-01-07T23:56:24.456Z · EA · GW

Thanks!! :)

Comment by Nicole_Ross on EA Grants applications are now open · 2019-01-01T21:52:00.218Z · EA · GW

Hi Sanjay -- apologies! It looks like we missed your question. We asked applicants if they were comfortable with us sharing their applications with other potential funders and we sometimes pass along promising projects. If you have more questions happy to follow-up via email: nicole.ross@centreforeffectivealtruism.org. If you'd like to be alerted when the next open round is, please fill out the form here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeM4_1Um3qWI-s-DhE_LsV4YUGoh0KONvv452qeLXIxvsqYaw/viewform.