Open Philanthropy donations made to Harvard University

This is an online portal with information on donations that were announced publicly (or have been shared with permission) that were of interest to Vipul Naik. The git repository with the code for this portal, as well as all the underlying data, is available on GitHub. All payment amounts are in current United States dollars (USD). The repository of donations is being seeded with an initial collation by Issa Rice as well as continued contributions from him (see his commits and the contract work page listing all financially compensated contributions to the site) but all responsibility for errors and inaccuracies belongs to Vipul Naik. Current data is preliminary and has not been completely vetted and normalized; if sharing a link to this site or any page on this site, please include the caveat that the data is preliminary (if you want to share without including caveats, please check with Vipul Naik). We expect to have completed the first round of development by the end of July 2024. See the about page for more details. Also of interest: pageview data on analytics.vipulnaik.com, tutorial in README, request for feedback to EA Forum.

Table of contents

Basic donor information

ItemValue
Country United States
Affiliated organizations (current or former; restricted to potential donees or others relevant to donation decisions)GiveWell Good Ventures
Best overview URLhttps://causeprioritization.org/Open%20Philanthropy%20Project
Facebook username openphilanthropy
Websitehttps://www.openphilanthropy.org/
Donations URLhttps://www.openphilanthropy.org/giving/grants
Twitter usernameopen_phil
PredictionBook usernameOpenPhilUnofficial
Page on philosophy informing donationshttps://www.openphilanthropy.org/about/vision-and-values
Grant application process pagehttps://www.openphilanthropy.org/giving/guide-for-grant-seekers
Regularity with which donor updates donations datacontinuous updates
Regularity with which Donations List Website updates donations data (after donor update)continuous updates
Lag with which donor updates donations datamonths
Lag with which Donations List Website updates donations data (after donor update)days
Data entry method on Donations List WebsiteManual (no scripts used)
Org Watch pagehttps://orgwatch.issarice.com/?organization=Open+Philanthropy

Brief history: Open Philanthropy (Open Phil for short) spun off from GiveWell, starting as GiveWell Labs in 2011, beginning to make strong progress in 2013, and formally separating from GiveWell as the "Open Philanthropy Project" in June 2017. In 2020, it started going by "Open Philanthropy" dropping the "Project" word.

Brief notes on broad donor philosophy and major focus areas: Open Philanthropy is focused on openness in two ways: open to ideas about cause selection, and open in explaining what they are doing. It has endorsed "hits-based giving" and is working on areas of AI risk, biosecurity and pandemic preparedness, and other global catastrophic risks, criminal justice reform (United States), animal welfare, and some other areas.

Notes on grant decision logistics: See https://www.openphilanthropy.org/blog/our-grantmaking-so-far-approach-and-process for the general grantmaking process and https://www.openphilanthropy.org/blog/questions-we-ask-ourselves-making-grant for more questions that grant investigators are encouraged to consider. Every grant has a grant investigator that we call the influencer here on Donations List Website; for focus areas that have Program Officers, the grant investigator is usually the Program Officer. The grant investigator has been included in grants published since around July 2017. Grants usually need approval from an executive; however, some grant investigators have leeway to make "discretionary grants" where the approval process is short-circuited; see https://www.openphilanthropy.org/giving/grants/discretionary-grants for more. Note that the term "discretionary grant" means something different for them compared to government agencies, see https://www.facebook.com/vipulnaik.r/posts/10213483361534364 for more.

Notes on grant publication logistics: Every publicly disclosed grant has a writeup published at the time of public disclosure, but the writeups vary significantly in length. Grant writeups are usually written by somebody other than the grant investigator, but approved by the grant investigator as well as the grantee. Grants have three dates associated with them: an internal grant decision date (that is not publicly revealed but is used in some statistics on total grant amounts decided by year), a grant date (which we call donation date; this is the date of the formal grant commitment, which is the published grant date), and a grant announcement date (which we call donation announcement date; the date the grant is announced to the mailing list and the grant page made publicly visible). Lags are a few months between decision and grant, and a few months between grant and announcement, due to time spent with grant writeup approval.

Notes on grant financing: See https://www.openphilanthropy.org/giving/guide-for-grant-seekers or https://www.openphilanthropy.org/about/who-we-are for more information. Grants generally come from the Open Philanthropy Fund, a donor-advised fund managed by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, with most of its money coming from Good Ventures. Some grants are made directly by Good Ventures, and political grants may be made by the Open Philanthropy Action Fund. At least one grant https://www.openphilanthropy.org/focus/us-policy/criminal-justice-reform/working-families-party-prosecutor-reforms-new-york was made by Cari Tuna personally. The majority of grants are financed by the Open Philanthropy Project Fund; however, the source of financing of a grant is not always explicitly specified, so it cannot be confidently assumed that a grant with no explicit listed financing is financed through the Open Philanthropy Project Fund; see the comment https://www.openphilanthropy.org/blog/october-2017-open-thread?page=2#comment-462 for more information. Funding for multi-year grants is usually disbursed annually, and the amounts are often equal across years, but not always. The fact that a grant is multi-year, or the distribution of the grant amount across years, are not always explicitly stated on the grant page; see https://www.openphilanthropy.org/blog/october-2017-open-thread?page=2#comment-462 for more information. Some grants to universities are labeled "gifts" but this is a donee classification, based on different levels of bureaucratic overhead and funder control between grants and gifts; see https://www.openphilanthropy.org/blog/october-2017-open-thread?page=2#comment-462 for more information.

Miscellaneous notes: Most GiveWell-recommended grants made by Good Ventures and listed in the Open Philanthropy database are not listed on Donations List Website as being under Open Philanthropy. Specifically, GiveWell Incubation Grants are not included (these are listed at https://donations.vipulnaik.com/donor.php?donor=GiveWell+Incubation+Grants with donor GiveWell Incubation Grants), and grants made by Good Ventures to GiveWell top and standout charities are also not included (these are listed at https://donations.vipulnaik.com/donor.php?donor=Good+Ventures%2FGiveWell+top+and+standout+charities with donor Good Ventures/GiveWell top and standout charities). Grants to support GiveWell operations are not included here; they can be found at https://donations.vipulnaik.com/donor.php?donor=Good+Ventures%2FGiveWell+support with donor "Good Ventures/GiveWell support".The investment https://www.openphilanthropy.org/focus/us-policy/farm-animal-welfare/impossible-foods in Impossible Foods is not included because it does not fit our criteria for a donation, and also because no amount was included. All other grants publicly disclosed by open philanthropy that are not GiveWell Incubation Grants or GiveWell top and standout charity grants should be included. Grants disclosed by grantees but not yet disclosed by Open Philanthropy are not included; some of them may be listed at https://issarice.com/open-philanthropy-project-non-grant-funding

Full donor page for donor Open Philanthropy

Basic donee information

ItemValue
Country
Facebook page harvard
Websitehttp://www.harvard.edu/
Twitter usernameBOSCityCouncil
Wikipedia pagehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harvard_University
Instagram usernameharvard
Org Watch pagehttps://orgwatch.issarice.com/?organization=Harvard+University

Full donee page for donee Harvard University

Donor–donee relationship

Item Value

Donor–donee donation statistics

Cause areaCountMedianMeanMinimum10th percentile 20th percentile 30th percentile 40th percentile 50th percentile 60th percentile 70th percentile 80th percentile 90th percentile Maximum
Overall 2 21,200 1,260,600 21,200 21,200 21,200 21,200 21,200 21,200 2,500,000 2,500,000 2,500,000 2,500,000 2,500,000
Animal welfare 1 21,200 21,200 21,200 21,200 21,200 21,200 21,200 21,200 21,200 21,200 21,200 21,200 21,200
Climate change 1 2,500,000 2,500,000 2,500,000 2,500,000 2,500,000 2,500,000 2,500,000 2,500,000 2,500,000 2,500,000 2,500,000 2,500,000 2,500,000

Donation amounts by cause area and year

If you hover over a cell for a given cause area and year, you will get a tooltip with the number of donees and the number of donations.

Note: Cause area classification used here may not match that used by donor for all cases.

Cause area Number of donations Total 2017 2016
Climate change (filter this donor) 1 2,500,000.00 0.00 2,500,000.00
Animal welfare (filter this donor) 1 21,200.00 21,200.00 0.00
Total 2 2,521,200.00 21,200.00 2,500,000.00

Graph of spending by cause area and year (incremental, not cumulative)

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Graph of spending by cause area and year (cumulative)

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Full list of documents in reverse chronological order (1 documents)

Title (URL linked)Publication dateAuthorPublisherAffected donorsAffected doneesAffected influencersDocument scopeCause areaNotes
How Life Sciences Actually Work: Findings of a Year-Long Investigation (GW, IR)2019-08-16Alexey Guzey Effective Altruism ForumNational Institutes of Health Howard Hughes Medical Institute Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Open Philanthropy Amgen Life Sciences Research Foundation Harvard University Massachusetts Institute of Technology Stanford University Review of current state of cause areaBiomedical researchGuzey surveys the current state of biomedical research, primarily in academia in the United States. His work is the result of interviewing about 60 people. Emergent Ventures provided financial support. His takeaways: (1) Life science is not slowing down (2) Nothing works the way you would naively think it does (for better or for worse) (3) If you're smart and driven, you'll find a way in (4) Nobody cares if you're a genius (5) Almost all biologists are solo founders. This is probably suboptimal (6) There's insufficient space for people who just want to be researchers and not managers (7) Peer review is a disaster (8) Nobody agrees on whether big labs are good or bad (9) Senior scientists are bound by their students' incentives (10) Universities seem to maximize their profits, with good research being a side-effect (11) Large parts of modern scientific literature are wrong (12) Raising money is very difficult even for famous scientists. Final conclusion: "academia has a lot of problems but it's less broken than it seems from the outside."

Full list of donations in reverse chronological order (2 donations)

Graph of all donations (with known year of donation), showing the timeframe of donations

Graph of donations and their timeframes
Amount (current USD)Amount rank (out of 2)Donation dateCause areaURLInfluencerNotes
21,200.0022017-10Animal welfare/legislative change/researchhttps://www.openphilanthropy.org/focus/us-policy/farm-animal-welfare/harvard-university-animal-law-and-policy-programLewis Bollard Donation process: Discretionary grant

Intended use of funds (category): Direct project expenses

Intended use of funds: Grant "to support the Animal Law & Policy program at Harvard Law School. The program plans to use these funds to research the policy consequences of the Protect Interstate Commerce Act, also known as the King Amendment, in key states and jurisdictions."

Other notes: Affected countries: United States.
2,500,000.0012016-12Climate change/geoengineering/solar radiation managementhttps://www.openphilanthropy.org/focus/global-catastrophic-risks/miscellaneous/harvard-university-solar-geoengineering-research-programClaire Zabel Donation process: https://www.openphilanthropy.org/focus/global-catastrophic-risks/miscellaneous/harvard-university-solar-geoengineering-research-program#Our_process says: "Claire Zabel, a Research Analyst for the Open Philanthropy Project, spoke and exchanged emails with Professor [David] Keith and Dr. [Gernot] Wagner."

Intended use of funds (category): Direct project expenses

Intended use of funds: Grant "to support the founding of the Solar Geoengineering Research Program (SGRP) as part of the Harvard University Center for the Environment. This program will be a coordinated research effort focusing on solar geoengineering research, governance, and advocacy led by Professor David Keith and Dr. Gernot Wagner (formerly the Environmental Defense Fund’s lead senior economist)." https://www.openphilanthropy.org/focus/global-catastrophic-risks/miscellaneous/harvard-university-solar-geoengineering-research-program#Budget_and_proposed_activities lists the kinds of expenses: executive director's salary, creation of a comprehensive blueprint, outreach and convening, advancing science and technology, assessing efficacy and risks, governance and social implications, and Harvard-wide faculty grants.

Donor reason for selecting the donee: https://www.openphilanthropy.org/focus/global-catastrophic-risks/miscellaneous/harvard-university-solar-geoengineering-research-program#Case_for_the_grant says: "We see this grant as a good opportunity to build and advance the field of solar geoengineering, especially given SGRP’s emphasis on cooperation and collaboration between researchers and on developing solar geoengineering technology in the manner that is most likely to affect the world positively. [...] we consider Professor Keith to be a top scientist who is relatively aligned with us in terms of being pragmatic, cognizant of tradeoffs, and focused on global rather than national interests. It seems to us that earlier and more research on solar geoengineering will make it more likely that the global community will have an in-depth understanding of technological options and risks in the event that climate engineering is seriously considered as an approach to reducing harms from climate change at some point in the future.

Donor reason for donating at this time (rather than earlier or later): Timing determined by the timing of the founding of the institute. The founding is not solely funded by Open Philanthropy, so Open Philanthropy didn't determine the timing. The grant page says: "Other founding funders include Bill Gates, the Hewlett Foundation, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation."
Intended funding timeframe in months: 60

Other notes: The grant page says: "Other founding funders include Bill Gates, the Hewlett Foundation, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation." https://www.openphilanthropy.org/focus/global-catastrophic-risks/miscellaneous/harvard-university-solar-geoengineering-research-program#Risks_and_reservations lists risks and reservations, both specific to the grant and general to geoengineering. Announced: 2017-04-14.