Stuart Buck


Sorted by New

Wiki Contributions


"Progress" alternative to GiveWell?

As of 2017, the Suzanne Wright Foundation, which has only two employees and makes only around $400k in grants a year, started publishing a series of articles on the idea of a DARPA for health (with amateurish graphics). It created a separate website (also with amateurish design and graphics), and a series of short videos (e.g., thisthis, and this, each of which had fewer than 2,300 views by 2022). 

All of that might seem like an inauspicious beginning, but the foundation also got the support of Geoff Ling (who had founded the DARPA Biological Technologies Office) and Mike Stebbins (who had just spent six years as Assistant Director for Biotechnology at the White House OSTP). 

Eventually, the idea made its way into the Biden campaign’s hands, and Biden started promoting the idea on the campaign trail (see this clip from an August 8, 2019 speech). Ling and Stebbins then wrote up their proposal in more detail for the Day One Project, sponsored by the Federation of American Scientists. 

"Progress" alternative to GiveWell?

On metascience policy and writings: it's really hard to judge impact! We do a lot of writing at the Good Science Project, and our newsletter is read throughout the White House, congressional staff, NIH leaders, etc. Sometimes people behind the scenes ask for ideas and input. But policy action is long, tortuous and unpredictable (e.g., ARPA-H took some 5 years to enact since the time that my board member Mike Stebbins and others started writing and talking about that idea).

How can we be objective?

Those are all fair points, and I might have phrased things a little too strongly in the original post. 

I do think the education example is interesting, though, because both "sides" (if you will) are convinced that they are the only ones who truly care about improving children's education. The problem is that they're confusing means and ends. 

To me, whether it's progress studies or education or whatever, there needs to be a significant number of academically-minded folks who agree with the end of improving progress or improving education, but who are resolutely agnostic about the means of doing that, and who are willing to follow the data wherever it leads (including being willing to admit when something doesn't work, or backfires, or has other unintended consequences or tradeoffs).