History of Philanthropy Literature Review: Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs

In this post, “we” refers to Good Ventures and the Open Philanthropy Project, who work as partners.

We're now supporting History of Philanthropy work via a grant to the Urban Institute. One output of this project is a literature review on the social impact of - and role of philanthropic funding in - the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs (sometimes abbreviated as "Pugwash"), which "brought together notable scientists from both sides of the iron curtain in order to discuss nuclear disarmament in an informal but serious atmosphere" starting in 1957. This case is particularly interesting from the perspective of global catastrophic risk reduction, as Pugwash and its founder won the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize "for their efforts to diminish the part played by nuclear arms in international politics and, in the longer run, to eliminate such arms."

I thought this literature review made a fairly strong case for two propositions which, taken together, establish Pugwash as a seeming case of strong philanthropic impact via global catastrophic risk reduction:

Since this was a literature review rather than a case study, I haven't reviewed a highly detailed case for Pugwash's impact, and am interested in learning more. Still, if one takes the above points at face value, I'm struck by the following:

The full literature review is available here: Pugwash Literature Review

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    I used this calculator to get this approximate figure; it has $50,000 in 1963 as equivalent to $410,511.44 in 2019.