Some of the ones in this batch are pretty old, but anyway.
An interesting history of randomized controlled trials for neonatal interventions. Lots of good real-life examples of how doctors can end up believing something very strongly on the back of non-randomized evidence, only to see it completely reversed after an RCT.
Data Colada eviscerates the common academic trope: “facts X, Y and Z all have alternate explanations, but our theory T is the only one that can explain all of them!”
While the lay intuition is that human males are taller than their female counterparts, in this article we show this perception is erroneous, referring to it as “malevation bias.”
Tyler Cowen on anthropology: Are anthropologists better than you think?
A survey of World Bank officials finds that they have incredibly poor models of the poorest of the poor. E.g.: they expected 20% of the bottom third to agree that “What happens to me in the future mostly depends on me.” In reality? 80%. This might be a point in favor of development workers spending more time in developing countries (even if their presence there isn’t actually first-order beneficial to the country, as seems common for aid trips).
About 1/6 of papers submitted to a good political science journal have reproducible code results.
13 (54 percent) had results in the paper that differed from those generated by the author’s own code. Some of these issues were relatively small—likely arising from rounding errors during transcription—but in other cases they involved incorrectly signed or mis-labeled regression coefficients, large errors in observation counts, and incorrect summary statistics.
Trust in academia sinking further.
Josh Morrison makes a pretty good argument for altruistic kidney donation.
As an interesting side-note, the comments include some discussion of the famous application of “nudging” to organ donation. There’s a sort of folk science fact going around that changing from opt-out to opt-in organ donation would increase the organ supply a lot, but this is apparently not true. In fact, Sunstein and Thaler, the grandfathers of the idea of “nudging,” don’t even recommend opt-out organ donation, because there’s too much potential for disgruntled survivors.
GiveWell has new top charities. Their post includes some interesting tidbits about changes they’re having to make as they scale:
In past years, we’ve worked on an annual cycle, refreshing our recommendations each December. This year, because we anticipate closing (or nearly closing) the funding gaps of some of our top charities during giving season and moving a significant amount of money (~$5 million) after giving season before our next scheduled refresh, we plan to update our recommendations based solely on room for more funding in the middle of next year.
For the first time this year, our checkout form will ask donors to consider allocating 10% of their donation to our operating expenses. This option is not yet live on our website; we hope to implement this change in the next few weeks.
Another of GiveWell’s hurdles this year is more game-theoretic donation allocation problems (and part 2)—where multiple donors want a cause to be funded, but each one would prefer the other to do the actual funding. Most individual donors interested in effective giving are probably too small to have this exact problem, but it still has some relevance. For instance, is it okay to wait to donate until after all the December gifts have been given, so that you can see whose funding targets have been met? On the one hand, you should be allowed to do what you want with your money; on the other hand, donating “last in line” essentially steals agency from everyone before you in line, since they no longer have as much influence over the final totals.
Last GiveWell post, I promise: their staff members’ personal donations. Compared to last year, many more of them are donating instead of saving.
PSA, just because I’m extremely happy about this: there exist socks with lifetime warranties. They’re also way more comfortable than the crappy athletic socks I used to wear. I’m in the process of getting rid of all my non-lifetime-warrantied socks. Life is too short to wear uncomfortable socks (and it’s especially short for the socks).
The Big Truth. I probably shouldn’t summarize this one. The whole site is awesome, though.