New York University — Work on Fish Welfare (2020)

Grant investigator: Amanda Hungerford

This page was reviewed but not written by the grant investigator. NYU staff also reviewed this page prior to publication.

Open Philanthropy recommended a grant of $95,000 to New York University to support research scientist Becca Franks’s work on fish welfare. These funds will support research on curiosity in fish, and will enable Professor Franks to help commission articles that promote state-of-the-art fish welfare research as guest editor of Frontiers in Veterinary Science.

This follows our March 2019 support and falls within our focus area of farm animal welfare.

New York University — Work on Fish Welfare (2019)

Grant investigator: Lewis Bollard

This page was reviewed but not written by the grant investigator. NYU staff also reviewed this page prior to publication.

The Open Philanthropy Project recommended a gift of $125,840 to New York University to support research scientist Becca Franks’ work on fish welfare. These funds will support projects including systematic reviews of the literature on aquaculture (farmed fish) welfare and general fish welfare, as well as research on curiosity, play, and positive emotions in fish.

This is a discretionary grant and falls within our focus area of farm animal welfare.

New York University — Support for a Labor Mobility RCT

On behalf of the grantee, Suresh Naidu and Yaw Nyarko reviewed this page prior to publication.

Note: This page was created using content published by Good Ventures and GiveWell, the organizations that created the Open Philanthropy Project, before this website was launched. Uses of “we” and “our” on this page may therefore refer to Good Ventures or GiveWell, but they still represent the work of the Open Philanthropy Project.

As part of our work on international labor mobility, in August 2015 the Open Philanthropy Project recommended a $30,000 grant to New York University to support the collection of baseline data for the study, “Estimating the Comprehensive Returns to Indian Migration to the United Arab Emirates.”

This study, led by Yaw Nyarko (New York University), Suresh Naidu (Columbia University), and Shing-Yi Wang (Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania), is a randomized controlled trial (RCT) that will measure the impact of guest worker migration from India to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on migrants’ well-being, migrants’ earnings, and other outcomes.1

The project is currently in the participant recruitment and baseline survey phase. To recruit the target study population (2,800 qualified workers), the researchers are partnering with a global recruiting firm that matches workers in India with construction companies in the United Arab Emirates. Due to visa quotas, there is a limit on how many of the study participants will be able to migrate. A very large number of qualified workers apply for the jobs but not all are able to go due to visa quantity restrictions. It is a natural process among the companies to select a larger number of qualified workers than they have permits (visas) to hire because normal attrition reduces the number of workers who eventually leave. This usual over-selection of workers is a formalized process that enables the researchers to conduct randomization among qualified workers.2

The study had budgeted about $30,000, from the authors’ limited discretionary research budgets, for its baseline survey. Because the costs of collecting baseline data in rural areas have been greater than anticipated, the study expended its budget of $30,000 on recruitment and surveying for only half of the planned study population in May-July 2015. The study now has a time-sensitive need for an additional $30,000 to conduct baseline data collection for the second half of the study population, which will be recruited beginning in August 2015. Without additional funding, the authors expect that they would be able to finish recruiting participants for the study, but that they would be unable to collect baseline data for the full sample.

The study’s baseline survey measures subjective happiness, subjective locus of control, and pattern recognition ability (using Raven’s Progressive Matrices, a common intelligence test), and gathers extensive family contact information that will be needed to follow up on various outcomes. In follow-up surveys, Nyarko, Naidu, and Wang plan to measure subjective well-being outcomes in depth, as well as to collect data on income and remittances. The study may also measure the effects of migration on migrants’ families’ well-being if it receives sufficient funding.

We believe that this grant fills a time-sensitive need for funds and may lead us to a better understanding of the effects of international labor migration. The grant allows Nyarko, Naidu, and Wang to complete the recruitment and baseline survey of their study population, without which the power of the study would be seriously reduced. As far as we are aware, this is the first large-scale RCT measuring outcomes of temporary international labor migration on well-being. We have previously seen three randomized controlled trials studying the outcomes of international migration. Only one trial (Stillman et al. 2012, Tongan migration to New Zealand, n=101 migrating households) measured subjective well-being, finding mixed results. Nyarko, Naidu, and Wang previously (2015) conducted a study of the impact of UAE labor reform on earnings and retention of incumbent migrants.

The researchers intend to preregister a brief pre-analysis plan for the study at the American Economic Association’s registry for randomized controlled trials. The authors also plan to share study data and statistical analysis code publicly after the studies are published.

In order to fund extensive follow-up data collection, Nyarko, Naidu, and Wang have applied for a 100K GBP (~$156K) grant from the International Growth Center (IGC), and expect to receive a response in mid-September. We plan to follow the progress of the study in the coming years to see whether it is preregistered, whether it raises sufficient funds to collect follow-up data, and to observe its results.

Read more:


IGC Project Proposal Source


New York University — Work on Swift-and-Certain Sanctions

Professor Mark Kleiman gives a presentation at the University of Connecticut School of Law. (Photo courtesy of Mark Kleiman)

Note: This page was created using content published by Good Ventures and GiveWell, the organizations that created the Open Philanthropy Project, before this website was launched. Uses of “we” and “our” on this page may therefore refer to Good Ventures or GiveWell, but they still represent the work of the Open Philanthropy Project.

This page gives an update on the grant to the Washington Office on Latin America, which supported UCLA Professor Mark Kleiman and associated researchers at the BOTEC Analysis corporation. The lead researcher, Mark Kleiman (who is now a professor at NYU), had planned a study on the mechanisms by which swift-and-certain sanctions are effective, but reallocated funding due to a belief that the study was blocked by political headwinds. The study can now move forward, and we are providing funding for it.

The Open Philanthropy Project recommended this grant as part of its ongoing investigation into criminal justice reform.

1 Project Progress

At the start of the grant, Prof. Kleiman provided a prioritized list of potential projects,1 though we provided unrestricted funding and encouraged Prof. Kleiman to adjust his plans as he saw fit. Of the 8 projects on the original list, two have been completed and two are in progress; the others have been de-prioritized in favor of a set of projects that were not originally planned.

The following table summarizes the status of each project that was either originally planned or eventually carried out under the grant. We exclude projects that were on the original list, but prioritized low enough that they were not expected to happen without additional funding beyond the grant.

GiveWell’s summary of projects this grant funded

We feel that we have limited insight into the counterfactual impact our funding had. Our understanding is that the official budgets for activities under the grant added up to more than the grant, with the additional needed funds effectively coming from Prof. Kleiman personally via un-billed hours (effectively donated time) and/or reduced margins for BOTEC, his corporation. We don’t know how many of the above activities would have happened in the absence of our support, though we believe that at least some would not have.

We do not have the capacity to thoroughly assess the pieces and their relevance. From our informal review, the pieces that most stood out to us were the Washington Monthly pieces (which argue, to a lay audience, that there are multiple regulatory frameworks for marijuana that may be preferable to the “commercial” approach legalization advocates have tended to pursue) and the “Is All Medical Marijuana the Same?” paper (which argues, compellingly in our view, that previous approaches to assessing the impact of medical marijuana policy are flawed).

2 Miscommunication and lessons learned

The original list of projects consisted mostly of proposals to collect and analyze new data, pilot new programs, and/or produce detailed policy analysis (for example, determining the “optimal level and basis of cannabis taxation”). By contrast, the list of completed projects consists mostly of pieces that focus on persuasion (often with literature review as a major component) and propose fairly high-level principles for policymaking. This difference is material to us. We are fairly convinced of Dr. Kleiman’s ability to ask important questions, while we have little information about his ability to be persuasive. We have little sense for the value of many of the pieces that were completed, and we would have hesitated to fund them if we’d been asked in advance.

When we fund academics in the future, we still intend to give them broad discretion over how the money is spent, but will ask them to talk to us first if they plan to devote funding to projects not in the original grant submission.

3 Exit gift

Due to the communication challenges discussed above, as well as the fact that we don’t currently feel we understand BOTEC’s finances well enough to have a good sense for the impact of additional funding, we would want to be fairly closely involved with any further support for this sort of work. We don’t currently have the capacity to closely evaluate and engage with work of this type, though this may change if and when we hire a full-time employee to work on criminal justice reform. Therefore, we are not renewing a similar-sized grant. However, we are providing $80,000 to complete the “swift and certain mechanisms study.” We originally agreed to fund this study; at one point Prof. Kleiman reallocated the funding to other projects when it appeared that this study could not proceed for political reasons, but now it will be possible to move forward with this study, and we are providing the additional funds needed to do so.

4 Sources

Document Source
BOTEC 2013 Source