Thanks, Ben! :)
This was really cool! Thanks a bunch for writing it up :)
For those interested, it somewhat reminded me of Some Case Studies in Early Field Growth and Establishing a research field in the natural sciences.
One quick observation that is probably a small thing or not right:
For the 8 fields that reached establishment, the median time between a field’s origin year and establishment year was 18 years, with the quickest field (Genetic Circuits) becoming established after 5 years, and the slowest (Clean Meat) becoming established after 63 years (the full list of times to establishment for the 8 fields, in years, is: 5, 16, 16, 17, 19, 26, 26, 63).
For Clean meat it looks like you use something like the date of postulation as the initial time point to measure the length of time to field establishment.
I don’t have a great understanding but have a feeling that for Genetic Circuits something like the date of postulation point maybe isn’t the initial time point used when measuring the length of time to field establishment?
If so, that might be doing most of the work in setting Genetic Circuits as the quickest and Clean Meat as the slowest.
This round, we report five anonymous grants after receiving advice from internal and external advisors, and further weighing the pros and cons of public reporting. We consider these grants to have a high expected impact, and report that there were no conflicts of interest in evaluating them.
Thanks for this post! I believe this is the first time that the Animal Welfare Fund is giving anonymous grants, but someone can correct me if I’m wrong. I was aware that the EAIF and LTFF are now able to do this, but I wasn’t aware that the AWF is now able to do this too.
Thanks! Yeah, that is right, this is the first time.
Anyway, maybe EA Funds should indicate in their Apply for Funding page and the application form that the AWF will consider funding applications from grantseekers who wish to remain anonymous in public reporting? It currently says that only the EAIF and LTFF do this.
Good point! Thanks for pointing it out :)
We should have those updated shortly.
Somewhat building on one that is currently mentioned on the page. Advocates have secured thousands of corporate pledges for cage-free eggs globally since 2015. That’s built global pressure for legislation, e.g. the European Commission, UK governments, and various US states have cited corporate progress as a major motivator for them to act. (I think as of latest figures about ~100M (?) US hens were cage-free vs. about 20M in 2015, when the campaigns started ramping up.) In the US, the cage-free flock size has dramatically increased in size these past few years. See, e.g., p.4.
Right. So I still might not be fully understanding.
I guess it seems hard for me to understand thinking both:
A) Diet change has more negative effects on wild animals than positive effects on farmed animals.
And B) Diet changes’ negative effects on wild animals are in expectation greater than the positive effects from further work on wild animal welfare (e.g., of the sort WAI completes).
But maybe I am misunderstanding. Do you think both of those?
Separately, and another quick thought, it could be helpful to more formally model it, as that could help with intuitions here.
Part of what seems to be going on in my head is very roughly something like, some diet change CEE gives say a 95% CI [60,140] utils/$, excluding impacts on wild animals. So say mu=100, sigma=20(?)
Then impacts specifically on wild animals cause the estimate to shift somewhat downward. Impacts on wild animals may be, say, [-1000, 900]. Say, mu=-50, sigma=~450
In my head that additional consideration on wild animals just doesn’t shift the mean util/$ estimate much. That is because the variance on that estimate is so large compared to the variance on the original.
I think what may end up mattering a lot for this type of thing is the ratio of the variance on the cee for utils/$ of diet change intervention for farmed animals, compared to the variance on the impact of diet change on wild animals.
How does that all sound to you?:)
Very quickly, here are a few ideas/interventions that seem interesting to me:
Helping scope whether large and respected enviro groups may lobby on this if funding was available
Helping establish additional university-affiliated research centers that focus on research into pb alts
Helping establish trade associations in important places that don’t really have them right now
Honestly, I think there’s just a lot of underexplored territory in the area. To some extent it is now about us diversifying somewhat, trying a number of different approaches, and then re-evaluating as to what has traction. The value of information from exploring some different interventions feels like it could be pretty high to me.
Yeah, I think I would be interested in a variety of scoping projects.
Briefly, some ideas that seem top of mind for me now are:
Someone thinking more about some very preliminary things that could be done in the policy space
Or more about an organization that might focus on wild animal welfare within cities
Or even more about a generalist group that may be to wild animals what GFI is to alt-proteins (some variety of programs and decent emphasis on movement-building)
However, I think the bottleneck here may be more about finding talented people to do this type of work, rather than the outlining of specific ideas.
Honestly, if readers have an idea for something that they would like to explore with regards to wild animal welfare, I expect I would probably be interested in hearing about it!
Yes, definitely helps! :)
Fairly sure it was the ACE Research Fund. :)
Yeah, I think your impression of the ratio is correct.
Briefly, as Michael St Jules notes, AWF interfaces with a much bigger community/movement than the LTFF currently does. I think that goes some of the way to explaining the difference in the ratio. Within the respective remits of each fund, it seems the AWF just generally has a more developed movement that it can grant to. The total FAW movement is > $100M per year. My guess is the total EA-aligned LTF movement is now just a pretty small fraction compared to that total.
I think the research point is also important. My impression is that they tend to have a higher % of grantees focused on research than we do, and that in general, a higher number of research projects tend to be by individuals.
Thanks for all your questions! :)
>What processes do you have for monitoring the outcome/impact of grants?
We have a ~10 question questionnaire that we send grantees. We send these out 6 months after the grant’s starting date—which coincides with the payment date usually. We then send them out every six months and then a final report at the grant’s end date. E.g., if the grant was for an 18-month project, we would send the progress report to that grantee at the 6-month mark, 12 months, and then 18 months.
I feel like I am also just fairly regularly in touch with a lot of grantees in addition to that. Or across all of us we usually have a pretty good sense of where things are at.
> Relatedly, do the AWF fund managers make forecasts about potential outcomes of grants?
Not as of now. I would like us to use forecasts more often and think there might be some low effort ways where we could get most of the value out of them.
>And/or do you write down in advance what sort of proxies you’d want to see from this grant after x amount of time?
We haven’t historically done this. But again, I am interested in possibly adopting in future rounds.
I think (and hope) that 5 years from now the AWF will allocate more than $10M in a single year.
Here are some plausible priority areas that come to my mind for the fund on a 2-5 year timeline:
Seeding some groups in the Middle-East and further seeding groups in Africa.
Field building on wild animal welfare
In terms of challenges, quick thoughts:
Navigating funding weirder/speculative stuff if our donor base has a lot of relatively new EA’s
Maintaining a high level of expertise across some pretty disparate areas (geographies, farmed animals, alt-proteins, wild animals, etc.)
Balancing my time on the fund vs my full-time job! :)
Unfortunately, not yet. Pandemic certainly makes it harder. I would be keen for an in-person meet up at some point!
Also, I whole-heartedly blame Jonas for not enough fun. Readers are generally encouraged to please aggressively contact and petition him on our behalf about making things more fun :)
Hmm… on first-pass, two main points I would make:
1) I think that trying to take into account the flow-through effects of just about everything will make you more skeptical of just about everything. Stated differently, I am not sure there is much in particular about diet change and flow effects from it which leads to this being a particular problem for it.
So I think that if you apply that lens elsewhere you’ll run into similar issues. Reality is just really complicated and it’s nigh on impossible to truly know how our actions reverberate throughout. Fwiw, I often find myself identifying with some sort of clueless skeptic position.
2) I feel one solution to this line of analysis was put forward in this comment several years ago. That solution seems appealing to me. Basically, for farmed animal welfare work, focus on the primary impacts, which would be for farmed animals. For wild-animal welfare work, focus on the primary impacts on wild animals.
So I guess I don’t think this is a strong factor in decisions about interventions that impact diet, and I probably wouldn’t prioritize it. But if you do look into it, I would be pretty interested to see what you come up with. :)