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"Progress notes": We will keep track of important developments here before we incorporate them into the official fortnightly "Update on recent progress." Members of the UJ team can add further updates here or in this linked Gdoc; we will incorporate changes.
- move forward in filling staff and contractor positions (see below); and
- increase evaluator compensation and incentives/rewards (see below).
Our "Pilot Phase," involving ten papers and roughly 20 evaluations, is almost complete. We just released the evaluation package for "The Governance Of Non-Profits And Their Social Impact: Evidence from a Randomized Program In Healthcare In DRC.” We are now waiting on one last evaluation, followed by author responses and then "publishing" the final two packages at https://unjournal.pubpub.org/. (Remember: we publish the evaluations, responses and synthesis; we link the research being evaluated.)
We will make decisions and award our Impactful Research Prize (and possible seminars) and evaluator prizes soon after. The winners will be determined by a consensus of our management team and advisory board (potentially consulting external expertise). The choices will be largely driven by the ratings and predictions given by Unjournal evaluators. After we make the choices, we will make our decision process public and transparent.
We continue to develop processes and policy around which research to prioritize. For example, we are considering whether we should set targets for different fields, for related outcome "cause categories," and for research sources. This discussion continues among our team and with stakeholders. We intend to open up the discussion further, making it public and bringing in a range of voices. The objective is to develop a framework and a systematic process to make these decisions. See our expanding notes and discussion on What is global-priorities relevant research?
In the meantime, we are moving forward with our post-pilot “pipeline” of research evaluation. Our management team is considering recent prominent and influential working papers from the National Bureau of Economics Research (NBER) and beyond, and we continue to solicit submissions, suggestions, and feedback. We are also reaching out to users of this research (such as NGOs, charity evaluators, and applied research think tanks), asking them to identify research they particularly rely on and are curious about. If you want to join this conversation, we welcome your input.
We are also considering hiring a small number of researchers to each do a one-off (~16 hours) project in “research scoping for evaluation management.” The project is sketched at Unjournal - standalone work task: Research scoping for evaluation management; essentially, summarizing a research theme and its relevance, identifying potentially high-value papers in this area, choosing one paper, and curating it for potential Unjournal evaluation.
We see a lot of value in this task and expect to actually use and credit this work.
Of course, we can't commission the evaluation of every piece of research under the sun (at least not until we get the next grant :) ). Thus, within each area, we need to find the right people to monitor and select the strongest work with the greatest potential for impact, and where Unjournal evaluations can add the most value.
This is a big task and there is a lot of ground to cover. To divide and conquer, we’re partitioning this space (looking at natural divisions between fields, outcomes/causes, and research sources) amongst our management team as well as among what we now call...
- focus on a particular area of research, policy, or impactful outcome;
- keep track of new or under-considered research with potential for impact;
- explain and assess the extent to which The Unjournal can add value by commissioning this research to be evaluated; and
- “curate” these research objects: adding them to our database, considering what sorts of evaluators might be needed, and what the evaluators might want to focus on; and
Field specialists will usually also be members of our Advisory Board, and we are encouraging expressions of interest for both together. (However, these don’t need to be linked in every case.) .
We are also considering how to set priorities for our evaluators. Should they prioritize:
- Giving feedback to authors?
- Helping policymakers assess and use the work?
- Providing a 'career-relevant benchmark' to improve research processes?
We want to attract the strongest researchers to evaluate work for The Unjournal, and we want to encourage them to do careful, in-depth, useful work. We've increased the base compensation for (on-time, complete) evaluations to $400, and we are setting aside $150 per evaluation for incentives, rewards, and prizes. Details on this to come.
As part of The Unjournal’s general approach, we keep track of (and keep in contact with) other initiatives in open science, open access, robustness and transparency, and encouraging impactful research. We want to be coordinated. We want to partner with other initiatives and tools where there is overlap, and clearly explain where (and why) we differentiate from other efforts. This Airtable view gives a preliminary breakdown of similar and partially-overlapping initiatives, and tries to catalog the similarities and differences to give a picture of who is doing what, and in what fields.
We're working with PubPub to improve our process and interfaces. We plan to take on a KFG membership to help us work with them closely as they build their platform to be more attractive and useful for The Unjournal and other users.
- Our next hiring focus: Communications. We are looking for a strong writer who is comfortable communicating with academics and researchers (particularly in economics, social science, and policy), journalists, policymakers, and philanthropists. Project-based.
- We've chosen (and are in the process of contracting) a strong quantitative meta-scientist and open science advocate for the project: “Aggregation of expert opinion, forecasting, incentives, meta-science.” (Announcement coming soon.)
Update from David Reinstein, Founder and Co-Director
With the recent news, we now have the opportunity to move forward and really make a difference. I think The Unjournal, along with related initiatives in other fields, should become the place policymakers, grant-makers, and researchers go to consider whether research is reliable and useful. It should be a serious option for researchers looking to get their work evaluated. But how can we start to have a real impact?
Over the next 18 months, we aim to:
- 1.Build awareness: (Relevant) people and organizations should know what The Unjournal is.
- 2.Build credibility: The Unjournal must consistently produce insightful, well-informed, and meaningful evaluations and perform effective curation and aggregation of these. The quality of our work should be substantiated and recognized.
- 3.Expand our scale and scope: We aim to grow significantly while maintaining the highest standards of quality and credibility. Our loose target is to evaluate around 70 papers and projects over the next 18 months while also producing other valuable outputs and metrics.
With three more evaluations already in progress, this will yield a total of 10 evaluated papers. Once these are completed, we will decide, announce, and award the recipients for the Impactful Research Prize and the prizes for evaluators, and organize online presentations/discussions (maybe linked to an "award ceremony"?).
No official announcements yet. However, we expect to be hiring (on a part-time contract basis) soon. This may include roles for:
- Researchers/meta-scientists: to help find and characterize research to be evaluated, identify and communicate with expert evaluators, and synthesize our "evaluation output"
- Communications specialists
- Administrative and Operations personnel
- Tech support/software developers
We are committed to enhancing our platforms as well as our evaluation and communication templates. We're also exploring strategies to nurture more beneficial evaluations and predictions, potentially in tandem with replication initiatives. A small win: our Mailchimp signup should now be working, and this update should be automatically integrated.
- Dworkin's work centers on "improving scientific research, funding, institutions, and incentive structures through experimentation."
- Treich's current research agenda largely focuses on the intersection of animal welfare and economics.
The Unjournal was recommended/approved for a substantial grant through the 'S-Process' of the Survival and Flourishing Fund. More details and plans to come. This grant will help enable The Unjournal to expand, innovate, and professionalize. We aim to build the awareness, credibility, scale, and scope of The Unjournal, and the communication, benchmarking, and useful outputs of our work. We want to have a substantial impact, building towards our mission and goals...
To make rigorous research more impactful, and impactful research more rigorous. To foster substantial, credible public evaluation and rating of impactful research, driving change in research in academia and beyond, and informing and influencing policy and philanthropic decisions.
Innovations: We are considering other initiatives and refinements (1) to our evaluation ratings, metrics, and predictions, and how these are aggregated, (2) to foster open science and robustness-replication, and (3) to provide inputs to evidence-based policy decision-making under uncertainty. Stay tuned, and please join the conversation.
Opportunities: We plan to expand our management and advisory board, increase incentives for evaluators and authors, and build our pool of evaluators and participating authors and institutions. Our previous call-to-action (see HERE) is still relevant if you want to sign up to be part of our evaluation (referee) pool, submit your work for evaluation, etc. (We are likely to put out a further call soon, but all responses will be integrated.)
We have published a total of 12 evaluations and ratings of five papers and projects, as well as three author responses. Four can be found on our PubPub page (most concise list here), and one on our Sciety page here (we aim to mirror all content on both pages). All the PubPub content has a DOI, and we are working to get these indexed on Google Scholar and beyond.
Both papers consider randomized controlled trials (RCTs) involving cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for low-income households in two African countries (Kenya and Ghana). These papers come to very different conclusions as to the efficacy of this intervention.
We are now up to twelve total evaluations of five papers. Most of these are on our PubPub page (we are currently aiming to have all of the work hosted both at PubPub and on Sciety, and gaining DOIs and entering the bibliometric ecosystem). The latest two are on an interesting theme, as noted in a recent EA Forum Post:
Two more Unjournal Evaluation sets are out. Both papers consider randomized controlled trials (RCTs) involving cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for low-income households in two African countries (Kenya and Ghana). These papers come to very different conclusions as to the efficacy of this intervention.
More evaluations coming out soon on themes including global health and development, the environment, governance, and social media.
To round out our initial pilot: We're particularly looking to evaluate papers and projects relevant to animal welfare and animal agriculture. Please reach out if you have suggestions.
You can now 'chat' with this page, ask questions, and get answers with links to other parts of the page. To try it out, go to "Search" and choose "Lens."
See our latest post on the EA Forum
- 3.More evaluations soon
- 3.Two more evaluations 'will be posted soon' (waiting for final author responses.
- Developing and discussing tools for aggregating and presenting the evaluators' quantitative judgments
- Building our platforms, and considering ways to better format and integrate evaluations
- with the original research (e.g., through Hypothes.is collaborative annotation)
- into the bibliometric record (through DOI's etc)
- and with each other.
We're considering collaborations with other compatible initiatives, including...
- replication/reproducibility/robustness-checking initiatives,
- prediction and replication markets,
- and projects involving the elicitation and 'aggregation of expert and stakeholder beliefs' (about both replication and outcomes themselves).
- We are now under the Open Collective Foundation 'fiscal sponsorship' (this does not entail funding, only a legal and administrative home). We are postponing the deadline for judging the Impactful Research Prize and the prizes for evaluators. Submission of papers and the processing of these has been somewhat slower than expected.
- EA Forum: "Unjournal's 1st eval is up: Resilient foods paper (Denkenberger et al) & AMA": recent post and AMA (answering questions about the Unjournal's progress, plans, and relation to effective-altruism-relevant research
- 1.Evaluators: We have a strong pool of evaluators.
- with quantitative backgrounds, especially in economics, policy, and social-science
- comfortable with statistics, cost-effectiveness, impact evaluation, and or Fermi Montecarlo models,
- willing to dig into details, identify a paper's key claims, and consider the credibility of the research methodology and its execution.
- 2.Research to evaluate/prizes: We continue to be interested in submitted and suggested work. One area we would like to engage with more: quantitative social science and economics work relevant to animal welfare.
Hope these updates are helpful. Let me know if you have suggestions.