Founder and Co-Director @ The Unjournal
3469 karmaJoined May 2017Working (15+ years)Monson, MA, USA


See davidreinstein.org

I'm the Founder and Co-director of The Unjournal;. W  organize and fund public journal-independent feedback, rating, and evaluation of hosted papers and dynamically-presented research projects. We will focus on work that is highly relevant to global priorities (especially in economics, social science, and impact evaluation). We will encourage better research by making it easier for researchers to get feedback and credible ratings on their work.

Previously I was a Senior Economist at Rethink Priorities, and before that n Economics lecturer/professor for 15 years.

I'm  working to impact EA fundraising and marketing; see https://bit.ly/eamtt

And projects bridging EA, academia, and open science.. see bit.ly/eaprojects

My previous and ongoing research focuses on determinants and motivators of charitable giving (propensity, amounts, and 'to which cause?'), and drivers of/barriers to effective giving, as well as the impact of pro-social behavior and social preferences on market contexts.

Podcasts: "Found in the Struce" https://anchor.fm/david-reinstein

and the EA Forum podcast: https://anchor.fm/ea-forum-podcast (co-founder, regular reader)

Twitter: @givingtools


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Topic contributions

Project Idea: 'Cost to save a life' interactive calculator promotion

What about making and promoting a ‘how much does it cost to save a life’ quiz and calculator.

 This could be adjustable/customizable (in my country, around the world, of an infant/child/adult, counting ‘value added life years’ etc.) … and trying to make it go viral (or at least bacterial) as in the ‘how rich am I’ calculator? 

The case 

  1. People might really be interested in this… it’s super-compelling (a bit click-baity, maybe, but the payoff is not click bait)!
  2. May make some news headlines too (it’s an “easy story” for media people, asks a question people can engage with, etc. … ’how much does it cost to save a life? find out after the break!)
  3. if people do think it’s much cheaper than it is, as some studies suggest, it would probably be good to change this conception… to help us build a reality-based impact-based evidence-based community and society of donors
  4. similarly, it could get people thinking about ‘how to really measure impact’ --> consider EA-aligned evaluations more seriously

While GiveWell has a page with a lot of tech details, but it’s not compelling or interactive  in the way I suggest above, and I doubt  they market it heavily.

GWWC probably doesn't have the design/engineering time for this (not to mention refining this for accuracy and communication).  But if someone else (UX design, research support, IT) could do the legwork I think they might be very happy to host it. 

It could also mesh well with academic-linked research so I may have  some ‘Meta academic support ads’ funds that could work with this.

Tags/backlinks (~testing out this new feature) 
@GiveWell  @Giving What We Can
Projects I'd like to see 

EA Projects I'd Like to See 
 Idea: Curated database of quick-win tangible, attributable projects 

Could this could be made even close to cost-effective and scaleable? If so, I think it has strong potential appeal. Perhaps not so much to hard-core rationalists and EAs, but as a bridge to making mainstream donation more effective. From this perspective, I'm more optimistic about your 'hands on charity' proposal. 

I discussed this concept in a 2021 post a while back (see especially 'my proposal sketch'). Wonder what you think.

Curious about the "rescue meat" thing.

My take is that buying "about-to-expire meat on discount when in the grocery store" incentivizes meat production less than buying expensive super-fresh premium meat.

On the other hand, stores that visibly see meat rotting on the shelves may be (emotionally?) inclined to reduce their meat orders in the future.

Yes to that footnote but the original abbreviation is confusing. It should be something like “disease adjustments to life years” .. not “disease adjusted life years”. Bc life years are good in general.

Ideally, someone who is an expert both in economic growth theory and existential risk would do a really deep analysis of the model presented in the paper, but in the absence of this we feel that giving our thoughts on this is useful.


Do you still believe this is the case? Any updates on the relevance etc?

I think this would be challenging, but might be worth pursuing, or at least trying, for the learning value. It involves the project of social change, changing attitudes and engaging the non-EA community, learning about their attitudes towards widening moral circles, the ways they are misinformed about the effectiveness of GH&D charities in LMICs (and maybe about farmed animals, etc.; although that could be a stretch) and whether this drives their attitudes or the other way around (see my project here on 'barriers to effective giving'.

This sort of project that could be attempted by students/student groups or part-time volunteers, and it might be motivating and fun.  E.g., I thought, "in UK university towns, where students often come from around the world, why do the local coops almost always only have a box for 'local charities'"

Ideally, they would do so in a coordinated to  organize and their efforts, collect and share their insights, etc.

Somewhat relevant to the EA Market Testing project, which is not currently very active. (However, Lucas Moore at GWWC is coordinating some efforts and collaboration and this might be relevant to him/them.)

A pretty good AI generated summary of my largely AI generated post.

I mostly agree with you on the 2nd order consequences. But also, I think a bit of feedback is usually justified even considering the first-order consequences, as I mainly argued in the comment here to Linch's post, and others had similar comments.

Another perspective: many grant applicants and potentially impactful entrepreneurial EAs may waste a lot of time exploring a very dark space. They may spend a lot of time writing and rewriting proposals. 

They do not know whether they are 'close to being fundable' or very far from it, so they don't know:

- When to give up
- How much to make backup/fallback plans
- How to change their plans/proposal
- How much to 'jump' in adjusting their proposal in this dark space ... whether to make small or large adjustment
- In what direction to adjust


Thanks, this is relevant for researchers and people funding research and prioritizing/evaluating it. This includes Unjournal.org; we are looking to prioritize the evaluation of research relevant to animal welfare, and we have built/are building a 'field specialist' team focusing on this. 

 Some expansion on the theory of change/paths to impact/logic model for some of the leading cases could be particularly helpful. (You mention we should reach out to Martin Gould on this -- I plan to do so.)

While some of these might be amenable to simpler 'desk research' (literature reviews, simple BOTECs, coalescing information), I think many of the more interesting ones could require some heavier lifting in terms of research depth and methodological expertise. I'm not saying the '80% of the 80/20 research' would not necessarily have value here, but it is my sense is that more in=depth rigorous work may be warranted, and potentially worth funding.

For example:

 By how many years do animal welfare corporate commitmets speed up reforms that might eventually happen anyway due to factors like government policy, individual consumer choices, or broad moral change?

This is a challenging causal inference question; while case studies and 'plausible inference' from qualitative approaches could have value. It could also potentially be addressed quantitatively with methods like difference-in-differences, synthetic panels, and natural experiments. This might also require some expertise in dynamic/time-series models. It seems high-value, given that funding corporate campaigns have been claimed to be among the highest-impact animal welfare opportunities.

What percentage of people will be veg*n in 20, 50, or 100 years?

I guess the ToC here is that this informs the priority one should give to interventions to improve farmed-animal welfare conditions ... because 'if most people are vegan anyways, it matters less. Or perhaps this is about the cost side of increasing global prosperity (meat-eaters dilemma) or supporting pro vs anti-natal policies?

I suspect predicting this out 100 years will be extremely difficult, in the sense that quantitative models and expertise might have little value. But for 10 or 20 years out, I think social science modeling expertise could be meaningful. 

But some of the other questions seem more straightforwardly amenable to quantitative social science work, including careful and feasible RCTs, and sometimes non-RCT causal inference methods, and Bayesian statistical inference and presentation. E.g.,  

How impactful would it be to get already sympathetic celebrities to speak up more on animal welfare?

Looking at simple before/after comparisons, or aggregating casual media reporting on this could be misleading. An RCT here seems feasible.

...What is the impact on sales of labeling laws that restrict the terms that can be used to describe/sell PBMAs and other plant-based products?   

This seems like something mainstream academic/professional economists might consider or already be considering, perhaps in conjunction with legislative testimony or court cases. It seems amenable to formal empirical analysis, perhaps in the 'empirical industrial organization/quantitative marketing' literatures. But it is by no means simple... to estimate impact on quantities sold, considering competitive price responses, responses of substitute products, time trends and seasonality, etc. 

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