Now that EA Ventures has announced it, I’m excited to publicly disclose my donation to Effective Altruism Policy Analytics!
EAPA is essentially a scaling-up of the DC Effective Altruism policy comment project, plus more attempts to get feedback and engage with relevant experts. My funding is 1/3 of what will take the two founders to the end of the summer, which we hope will be enough time for them to get feedback on whether their comments are working and, if so, raise additional funding.
Here are some considerations that led me to give there instead of elsewhere:
Developing more EA policy expertise seems super useful. GiveWell is currently working on some stuff related to this through Open Phil, but it seems good to have an independent angle of attack.
“Influencing regulation” seems to be a highly general skill set
It’s a relatively cheap experiment with high value of information.
It was fairly clear that my funding made a large difference to the project.
I based my decision on a combination of EA Ventures’ evaluation, and a couple calls with Matthew Gentzel, a co-founder of EAPA. As one would expect for EA Ventures’ first recommendation, they covered most of the basics, but their evaluation had some gaps that I wanted to understand better before funding EAPA:
One of my concerns was that they wouldn’t get very fast feedback on whether their comments on regulations were actually influencing regulators. I still think that this is the primary failure mode for EAPA—that they simply won’t know by the end of the summer whether their comments have accomplished anything—but Gentzel pointed me to a couple previous regulations where the regulator clearly explained and pointed to the influence of many individual comments. It turns out it’s also sometimes possible to speak to the regulators directly over the phone, which may provide faster feedback.
I also worried that, if there was any really important cost-benefit analysis to do for these regulations, surely the regulators would do it themselves. But again, Gentzel and his team pointed to several cases in the past where knowledgeable outsiders had found important things that the regulators missed. For instance, they sometimes only have capacity to do partial cost-benefit analyses, or overlook or misunderstand the burden of their regulations.
Fortunately, by talking directly to the EAPA folks I was able to resolve these concerns to my satisfaction, so I agreed to help fund them. I’m excited to see what they come up with this summer!