Make CoI Policies Public

February 9th, 2023
ea, transparency
If I'm interviewing someone for a position my job is to assess their suitability as a potential employee, but if they're my cousin I might be tempted to give them an overly favorable review. Most organizations have Conflict of Interest (CoI) policies that describe how to handle this sort of situation: it's common that someone might have external relationships which lead to duties, interests, or desires that conflict with what's best for their organization.

It's reasonably common for non-profits to publish their CoI policies (Hewlett, Carnegie, Gates). Within effective altruism I do see some of this:

Historically people and organizations within the EA movement have prioritized transparency, and while there's been some shift away from the most enthusiastic versions of this as we've better understood the costs, there are still a lot of benefits. If you're already going to the effort of drafting a policy like this, making it public seems pretty useful:

  • EAs who are concerned about CoIs within the community and are thinking about what norms they might try to influence can see what's already formally in place.

  • Other organizations can reference it in trying to figure out what sort of policy they want.

  • People who are worried a situation can see what policy was (supposed to have been) followed.

On the other hand, many EA organizations don't seem to have public policies. This includes ones that work in community building or grant-making where they seem pretty important. Here are a few I checked:

I'll write asking for policies, and will update this post if I hear anything back.

Disclosure: my wife is a GiveWell board member, former president of GWWC, and works for CEA which is part of EVF. I haven't run this post by her and I don't know her views here. I work at an organization that has received funding from Open Philanthropy.

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