Good question! And thanks for your point, we should have linked to definitions of terms.
I think that we were able to conduct effective technical research in this space largely because we spoke to a ton of founders of companies and thoroughly read the published scientific literature. Additionally, we split up tasks to maximize specialization/expertise within each domain that we cared about. Those would be my two primary pieces of advice. We did not have a strong background in these subjects before beginning, so I would not let that deter you from diving in.
Companies obviously don’t want to share their trade secrets, so you can’t expect to learn everything about the field but a dedicated EA, especially with a strong science background, can develop a strong enough understanding to make a career-relevant decision about the state of the field.
Hey, Jamie, thanks for your thoughts! I’ll speak for myself, as our entire team hasn’t had time to review your comment yet.
Your comparison to CE’s approach is fair, although there are a number of differences. We did consider opportunities outside of plant-based/clean meat but I was not involved with the research at that point. Our decision criteria within this space was informed primarily by our judgment as EAs and as a team with experience in business/consulting of the factors likely to matter most for impact and success of the company.
I definitely agree that the broader conceptualization of impact is a critical framework to consider. However, I don’t necessarily think that our two approaches are mutually exclusive. For example, a high-quality chicken/fish substitute could do just as much to advance the field of plant-based products as a high-quality burger (or perhaps even more, given the large number of beef products on the market now). We considered the factor you’re highlighting to some extent in our decision-making, as you can see in our selection of developing a product in an Asian economy, which could spur the creation of new products/companies in this area if done successfully. Our approach in clean meat—to focus on intermediary technologies, e.g. cell lines, media formulations, etc. is also informed by your approach, as this likely would do more good by advancing the field as a whole than by having direct impact.
Great to see such a strong focus on farmed animal welfare from a research organization! This list of prioritized questions looks strong to me. A few others worth considering:
Developing a stronger method of estimation for the number of broiler chickens and layer hens in corporate supply chains. I’d also like to see this done for fish. There is already a working group at animal groups focusing on this and I’m happy to put you in touch.
Estimating the rate of displacement of animal products from plant-based startups, e.g. Just (formerly Hampton Creek), Impossible Foods, MorningStar Farms, etc. This could have large implications on the degree to which EAs should focus on for-profit entrepreneurship.
Developing a prioritized list of states (or other countries) that would be most open to ballot initiatives to improve the lives of farmed animals, based on the wordings you test in surveys. I would particularly be interested in ballot initiatives that expand the Overton Window for what is possible in farmed animal welfare.
Identification of new tactics and strategies that mainstream advocacy organizations could implement beyond corporate campaigns (or variations thereof).
Estimation of the impact of “whole carcass utilization” by animal protein source. Theoretically, encouraging food companies to use the entire body of an animal (e.g. a chicken back or neck, as opposed to breast) could reduce their harm without changing the overall amount of meat they purchase. However, it could also be the case that the industry is so efficient at using the entire body of an animal that this would have no impact. I wouldn’t prioritize this question high on your list, but the answer would be useful for my current work.
I hope this is useful! Let me know if you have any questions—happy to discuss further.
Shoot me an email! We aren’t at the stage to use many volunteers right now but we’d love to hear from you.
Excellent to hear! Please get in touch! :)
Thanks! We started there and are definitely considering several ideas on that list.
Totally agree, it’s very random. I would warn folks who pitch against trying to read the tea leaves of why any individual editor didn’t respond to your email, because you’re probably wrong. It’s also tough on your sanity!
If the piece is time-sensitive, I can see the value of the strategy you’re suggesting, but it carries a fair amount of risk if you’re trying to pitch op-eds in multiple places. If you’re placing regular news articles, as opposed to op-eds, that strategy would probably be OK (so long as you say that you’ve pitched other journalists if they ask).
Thanks! I agree with the value of warm intros, given that this can be in tension with brevity.
I also think the email could’ve been improved in the ways you suggest, thanks!
Great point! We are uncertain about the “obligation” part, absolutely. We would love it if other folks would think about the exact nature of the responsibility/obligation/etc. to organize. While I agree that there may not be any obligation to organize, specifically, I think there is decent evidence that it is among the most high-impact activities we can take. Given that I do believe in an obligation to high-impact things, I think we should strongly consider it.
Love that you do this, Gleb!
This past month, I finalized my internship at the WHO. I’ll also be traveling to the World Health Assembly this May for my current job. Over the summer, I’ll be working on cost-effectiveness research at the WHO, alongside my current job.
Gleb interviewed me for his “Everyday Heroes of Effective Giving” series, which is a really awesome thing that makes me sound way more badass than I really am! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rFCWuRB-pYA
I’ve also been doing a lot of the Humane League’s “Fast Action Network” items—these are things like emailing / tweeting at major companies to go cage-free. I think these are very small things that have extremely high expected value. I’d encourage anyone interested in animal welfare to sign up and participate! http://www.thehumaneleague.com/fast-action-network/
Finally, I took a much needed vacation to Panama. Rest is important!
Hey, Eric! This is a great project. I’m most likely headed to Harvard next year for a Masters degree—let’s stay in touch, I’d love to help out.
This is really excellent work, Joey! It seems like replicating your research / providing feedback on interventions is fairly high in expected value terms. If there are any EAs that have helpful knowledge on this, I’d encourage them to do so.
I have several ideas in mind but wouldn’t feel confident submitting right now, because I don’t know the norms of philosophy publication. I’d love to have someone who’s written for philosophy journals (preferably an EA) provide a guide to EAs who might want to submit articles. Is there anyone who might be able to address these kinds of questions?
Again, I love this, Gleb!
1) I wrote a response piece in openDemocracy defending EA that got 218 shares on Facebook. I also reached out to Lisa, who wrote the original article, and we had a good chat—definitely friendly and I think the debate helped both of us advance our goals/interests.
2) I finally published an article on the EA forum covering the “meat eater problem” that I’ve been trying to publish for ages. This represents a ton of hard work and thinking that I’ve done over the last several months. I intend to follow it up with another blog post on many of the questions that I still don’t have answers to.
3) The Reach Every Mother and Child Act, the bill I’m working on, just reached 100 co-sponsors! This is a major achievement—many of the co-sponsors were added on after I met with representatives’ staffers.
4) I was accepted into global health masters programs at Harvard and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine! I haven’t decided which program to do yet, but that’s probably what I’ll be doing next year :)
This is an excellent article, Joey. Every single non-profit could learn a ton about transparency, measurement, and estimating impact from the approach you’ve taken. I’m impressed by Charity Science’s impact, but far more impressed by your approach to figuring out the marginal value your organization adds. I’m going to send this article to organizations in the future.
Full disclosure, I’m an advisor to Charity Entrepreneurship’s project and have been very impressed by the approach they’re taking on that project as well.