JW

Julia_Wise

11691 karmaJoined Aug 2014Boston, MA, USAjuliawise.net

Bio

I'm a contact person for the effective altruism community: https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/hYh6jKBsKXH8mWwtc/a-contact-person-for-the-ea-community

Please feel free to contact me at julia.wise@centreforeffectivealtruism.org.

I work at CEA as a community liaison, trying to make the EA community stronger and more welcoming. I also serve on the board of GiveWell.

Besides effective altruism, I'm interested in folk dance and trying to keep up with my three children.

Sequences
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2023 project on reforms in EA

Comments
441

Topic contributions
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Does "before/after" mean the kids came before the Nobel, or the Nobel came before the kids? (probably what you want is the work that earned the Nobel, which is harder to time.)

I'd also guess it's confounded by more intense careers and people who are more dedicated to spending a lot of time at work. I doubt you change outcomes much by taking a shorter leave, once your personality and career are already a given.

I did laugh at this — it's a helpful strategy for your career if you'd by default be doing more than half, and anti-helpful if not!

I could imagine benefits to overall productivity across the couple by allocating to whoever can most spare the time. When our childcare falls through, my husband and I work out who will handle what based on the timing of our meetings, who's done more lately, etc, rather than it defaulting to the mother.

I keep thinking about this post. Thank you for the work you're doing, and for writing up this effort and your learnings.

I hadn't read this at the time I wrote the post, but an excerpt from Ricki Heicklen's piece in the "Mistakes" issue of Asterisk Magazine:
 

In January 2022, I decided to leave my job at Jane Street Capital to move to the Bahamas and take a job as a generalist at a new crypto firm funded by Sam Bankman-Fried. In the weeks that followed, I had three strokes of good luck:

a) I talked to a family friend, a lawyer familiar with financial fraud, who expressed alarm about various details of my new job. From our conversations, I made a list of a few dozen questions to investigate before committing.

b) I shared those questions with my new employers, believing they would be appreciated as valuable for our firm.

c) A few hours after sharing the questions, I was told not to come into work the next day

A thought on joy in righteousness:
I haven't read anything by Benjamin Lay, and have no idea how he felt about his actions. But during my more intensely Quaker stage I read the writings of John Woolman, another weirdo vegetarian Quaker who was ardently abolitionist before it was cool. I went in thinking, "It's one thing for someone who kind of enjoys being disruptive, but I'm not like that, I find it really embarrassing and uncomfortable." But in his diary he's clear that he also found it embarrassing and uncomfortable, would have liked to lead a more normal life, and pushed through because of his convictions.

Thanks for your question, Tiresias. We appreciate people coming to us with concerns, and we absolutely don't want to disincentive people from doing so. And we know that people usually aren’t at their best when they’re in the midst of stressful situations.

However, we don't think it’s a workable policy to promise never to take action against people who come to us. Many concerns we get involve two or more people who each have complaints about the other's actions. In those cases, we don't want to unfairly advantage the side of the person who raises the topic with us first. Or there could be a concern separate from the problem the person reported. So we have to balance these two considerations.

As we got more caseworkers, practices like getting input / sanity-checking from other caseworkers and managers on important cases have been helpful in a variety of situations.

Thanks — yes, we've done this in some cases.

I’m sorry I didn’t handle this better in the first place. My original comments are here, but to reiterate some of the mistakes I think I made in handling the concerns about Owen:

  • I wish I had asked the various women for permission to get a second opinion from a colleague or to hand the case over to a colleague. 
  • In the case where Owen told me he believed he’d made someone uncomfortable, I wish I had reached out to the woman to get her side of the story (if she was willing to share that). This would have given me a clearer picture of some of his actions that I didn’t know about until after the investigation.
  • I wish I had been clearer to Owen about specific changes he should make.
  • I wish I had flagged my concerns earlier and more clearly to people at CEA and EV. Two of the people I told about some of my concerns were on the boards of EV US or EV UK (then called CEA US and CEA UK), but I didn’t properly think through Owen’s role on the board or flag that to them.

Some things that are different now, related to the changes that Chana describes:

  • The community health team has spent months going through lessons learned both from this situation and from other cases we’ve handled. Based on reflecting independently and together, and now with the input from the HSF investigation, we drew up a list of practices to change and additional steps to add.
  • Each month the casework team goes through cases we’re handling, and checks whether we’re implementing the practices we agreed on.
  • To me, the most important change is getting more advice and support from other caseworkers when handling difficult cases, especially if the case involves someone with influence or power in EA. I think this helps correct for an earlier pattern where there was too much deferral to individual judgment. We had started this change before 2023, and now I feel it’s much better-established. For example, when working on a recent difficult case, two of us went over the information and wrote up our questions and proposals independently, then discussed together and came to a joint set of proposed actions. This takes more time, but I think it’s a more robust process.
  • Over time our team has grown, and it’s more viable than it once was to hand off cases when one of us has some entanglement or conflict of interest.
  • As Chana describes, we’re developing a process for getting independent opinions when a concern relates to EV leadership or someone else who has power over the community health team.
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