I want to note that I built openbook.fyi, which is basically just a UI on top of Vipul’s data a few months ago. I probably would not have done the project if I’d had to collect the data myself, so I am extra grateful for his work on this.
Main points in favor of this grant
For one, people in EA have asked for a compilation of donation data, and some have done it for their own specific purposes, and when I built a UI on top of it that made the data easier to comb through, I got a positive response on the EA forum. Putting aside for a moment what people actually want to do with the data, just them asking for it is a decent signal that it’s useful.
In practice, easier access to data about where funding is going in EA (and in some cases, why) makes people’s beliefs more accurate which makes their actions more effective (e.g. Vipul donated to the Animal Welfare because the data indicated it was most neglected, OpenBook caused Eliezer Yudkowsky to publicly change his mind about Slime Mold Time Mold). Plus sometimes people don’t know where to apply for funding, and this data helps people figure out how similar projects have gotten funded. Finally, it might be useful to grant makers because they can see how projects they’re considering giving a grant to have been funded in the past.
Since this is providing retroactive funding, it’s not directly causing work to happen that would not have happened otherwise. Still, I think it would be a good community norm if people were rewarded for doing cool projects after the fact, because it creates better future incentives and lets people know concretely that their contribution was valued.
I’m impressed and grateful for their time gathering the data, but I think almost all of the value is left on the table if the data isn’t made easier to interact with and analyzed and aggregated. That remaining work could be done by Vipul or by someone else, I just think it would be a loss if the project ended here.
Reason for amount
Since this is retro funding, it’s less anchored on the precise costs of the project. It feels like a reasonable amount: it’s probably under-compensation in terms of hourly rate, but it’s enough to feel like a significant reward for work well done.