We recently awarded a grant of $100,000 to the US Cochrane Center (USCC), based on a recommendation by GiveWell. USCC is the US arm of the Cochrane Collaboration, which publishes copious and high-quality systematic reviews of medical research.
This is our first grant in a field that we call “meta-research,” by which we mean improving incentives in academia to bring them more in line with producing research of maximal benefit to society — a cause we find promising. We’ve begun to investigate this cause in recent months, as part of a research agenda that we’re jointly pursuing with GiveWell in search of outstanding giving opportunities for Good Ventures as well as other donors. For more information, I highly recommend reading this post, in which GiveWell roughly outlines the research agenda that GiveWell and Good Ventures are pursuing, and this post, which explains why we find meta-research to be a particularly promising area to investigate.
GiveWell’s recommendation that Good Ventures make a “quick grant” to USCC is a notable departure from GiveWell’s usual M.O. — and demonstrates its thoughtfulness and adaptability, two of the qualities that make us so excited to be working with the GiveWell team.
The idea behind a quick grant is simple: sometimes circumstances arise in which there’s a strong case for making a grant relatively quickly. But it typically takes several months of investigation for GiveWell to feel confident enough to recommend a giving opportunity to donors. As GiveWell began to investigate the US Cochrane Center — which it's considering for a coveted “top charity” recommendation — it learned that USCC had an urgent need for funding to maintain uninterrupted, minimal staffing. Instead of passing up what appeared to be a strong opportunity to do good because that opportunity didn’t jibe well with GiveWell’s typical process, it reevaluated its process, devised a set of general principles for determining when a quick grant is worthwhile and assessed the USCC opportunity according to those principles.
GiveWell’s latest blog post explains those principles in more detail and why they — and we — felt USCC passed the bar. It's inspiring to see GiveWell evolve its process to capture the value of speed and flexibility while maintaining its trasparent and methodical approach to philanthropy.