The GiveWell Blog

March 2024 open thread

Our goal with hosting quarterly open threads is to give blog readers an opportunity to publicly raise comments or questions about GiveWell or related topics (in the comments section below). As always, you’re also welcome to email us at info@givewell.org or to request a call with GiveWell staff if you have feedback or questions you’d prefer to discuss privately. We’ll try to respond promptly to questions or comments.

You can view previous open threads here.

Comments

  • Oscar Delaney on March 31, 2024 at 12:37 am said:

    What did you make of the critique of GiveWell in this article? https://www.wired.com/story/deaths-of-effective-altruism/
    As I understand you are already intending to improve your representations and communications of uncertainty. I think the deworming criticism was mostly unfounded but would be happy for your thoughts.

    • David Mathers on April 2, 2024 at 6:18 am said:

      Why do you think it was mostly unfounded?

    • Chandler Brotak on April 3, 2024 at 12:06 pm said:

      Hi Oscar,

      Thanks for your question! We welcome criticism of GiveWell, both on an ongoing basis and via dedicated red-teaming activities such as our Change Our Mind contest.

      Our research incorporates potential downsides or unintended consequences, such that our recommendations take into account factors like potential side effects. Most (if not all) of the information in the WIRED article is something that anyone could find on our website. However, we believe some of what is published in the piece is misleading or inaccurate. Here is a lightly edited version of the material that GiveWell sent to WIRED in response to a request for comment on Leif Wenar’s piece.

      Regarding the deworming criticism, the conversation referenced in the article was specifically about whether the Deworm the World Initiative improved the quality of programs, but this is not the only or even the primary way that Deworm the World achieves its impact. We emphasize that the impact of Deworm the World may also be achieved via the increase in likelihood of governments implementing deworming at all, for which there’s additional evidence.

      For example, India is the only location that Deworm the World works in where there have been substantial government financial resources available to support deworming. In the parts of Kenya, Pakistan, and Nigeria that Deworm the World works, Deworm the World provides funding for the direct costs of delivering deworming. In these locations, we believe it’s likely that deworming would not happen or would happen much less consistently without external funding.

      Additionally, GiveWell has reviewed detailed information and results from Deworm the World’s extensive monitoring and evaluation efforts tracking work leading up to deworming provision and measuring coverage after campaigns. Finally, GiveWell has spoken to government officials in Nigeria, Kenya, and India.

      I hope this is helpful.

  • Tom Delaney on April 6, 2024 at 6:21 am said:

    I am interested in your research on the cost-efficacy of different measures to prevent and/or treat tuberculosis.
    This post estimates about $6000 per life saved, for a mass screen-and-treat program in India.
    https://www.givewell.org/international/technical/programs/mass-screen-and-treatment-programs-tuberculosis
    This estimate differs somewhat from the Copenhagen Consensus report, which gave a figure of $2000 per life saved, for a broad package of activities (including improving diagnosis & treatment, giving preventative medication, etc – not just mass case finding). If they are correct, this would be a GiveWell top charity recommendation.
    https://copenhagenconsensus.com/publication/halftime-sdgs-tuberculosis
    That report itself draws from the Global Plan to End TB, with a modified model that reduces spending and increases the time period under consideration from 2030 to 2050, substantially increasing the cost-efficacy.
    I did not look at their methodology in detail but would appreciate it if you could highlight any major points of disagreement.

    • Chandler Brotak on April 9, 2024 at 12:36 pm said:

      Hi Tom,

      Thanks for your question! We haven’t reviewed the Copenhagen Consensus report in depth, but the estimated difference seems to reflect how GiveWell approaches our cost-effective analyses differently than other organizations. Two main differences we spotted upon quick review from one of our researchers:
      1. Our intervention report makes subjective guesses for how the counterfactual treatment and general healthcare improvements over time could mitigate the impact.
      2. We also assume some downward effect due to migration. However, the Copenhagen Consensus report assumes very comprehensive and broad program activities, so this is likely less of a concern.

      We are continuing to consider tuberculosis programs, and we expect our intervention report on household contact management of tuberculosis to be forthcoming. Hope this helps clarify!

  • Katriel on April 9, 2024 at 5:19 pm said:

    What is the best way to contact GiveWell staff about specific pieces of research? For example, I’d like to suggest the intervention report on breastfeeding promotion look separately at early initiation of breastfeeding vs sustaining exclusive breastfeeding, since these may be operationally quite different. Early initiation can be a focus of facility-based activities. But I’m not sure who is the best person to write to about something like this.

    • Chandler Brotak on April 11, 2024 at 1:24 pm said:

      Hi Katriel,

      Thanks for reaching out! Please send your questions/comments to info@givewell.org, and we will route it to the appropriate research team member. We appreciate you engaging with our research and sharing your thoughts!

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