Related: EA/global priorities seminar series

Organization/discussion following a thread in...

Some conversation highlights:

Kris Gulati: Recently I've been talking to more global priorities-aligned researchers to get to know what people are working on. I noticed they're somewhat scattered around (Stanford, PSE, Chicago, Oxford etc.). Additionally, sometimes established academics don't always entirely grasp global priorities-focused work and so it can be tough to get feedback on ideas from supervisors or peers when it's pretty different to the more orthodox research many academics focus on. One way of remedying this is to have an informal seminar series where people interested in GP work present early stages ideas and can receive feedback on their ideas, etc.

David Mannheim: Yes, this seems very promising. And I think that it would be pretty easy to get a weekly seminar series together on this on Zoom.

Robin Hanson: Why limit it to PhD students? All researchers can gain from feedback, and can offer it.

Eva Vivalt: Sounds great. GPI also has seminars on global priorities research in philosophy and economics that might be of interest. . . . [followed by some notes of caution] I'm just worried about stretching the senior people too thin. I've been attending the econ ones remotely for a while, and only this semester did I finally feel like it was really mature; a senior person less would be a setback. I fully think there should be many groups even within econ, and at different institutions; that would be a healthy ecosystem.

Kris, responding to Dave Rhys-Bernard: If GPI's seminar series is meant to be private, then it's worth running something additional, given we can get a decent critical mass of attendance and some senior people are happy to attend.

The proposal: EA/global priorities research seminar

DR: I think a focus on empirical economics, social science, and program evaluation would be most promising (and I could help with this). We could also incorporate "applications of economic theory and decision theory." Maybe I would lean away from philosophy and "fundamental theory," as GPI's seminar seems to concentrate on that.

Rethink Priorities would probably (my guess) be willing to attach our name to it and a decent number of our research staff would attend. I think GPI might be interested, hopefully Open Philanthropy and other organizations. Robin Hanson and other academics have expressed interest.

  • We could try to get a MWE/PoC online seminar 1x per month, for example

  • Start with...

    • Presentations of strong, solid working papers and research projects from reputable authors

    • EA-adjacent and -aligned academics and academically connected EA-org researchers (at RP, Open Phil, GPI, etc.)

    • "Job-markety PhD students"

  • Make it desirable to present

    • Selective choices, "awards" with small stipends? Or "choose a donation"?

    • Guarantee of strong feedback and expertise

    • Communication/coverage of work

  • Encourage experts to attend and give concrete feedback

    • Open and saved chat window

    • Write up feedback; consider drawing future presenters from the attending crowd

Work-in-progress "brown-bag" talks

DR: I would not publicize this until we get The "featured research" seminar series off the ground . . . just do it informally, perhaps.

Key issues and considerations

  • Such a seminar needs association with credible people and orgs to get participation.

  • Do we need any funding for small honorariums or some such?

  • Do we want to organize "writeups" and publicity? Should we gain support for this?

  • Economic theory and empirics are different groups . . . . I think a focus on empirical and applied work would have a critical mass.

Implementation plans

See draft above

Other features

Collaborative annotated feedback

I think a really neat feature, as a companion to the seminar, could be that the author would (ideally) post a working paper or project website and everyone would leave collaborative annotation comments on it.

This kind of feedback could be golden for the author.

Other existing relevant seminars

GPI lunchtime seminar (not public)

EA Global talks

RP has internal talks; hope to expand this

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