[self plagiarism notice: this is mostly copied from last year’s contest announcement]
1. Announcing the second annual Adversarial Collaboration Contest
An adversarial collaboration is an effort by two people with opposing opinions on a topic to collaborate on a summary of the evidence. Just as we hope that a trial with both prosecutor and defense will give the jury a balanced view of the evidence for and against a suspect, so we hope an adversarial collaboration will give readers a balanced view of evidence for and against some thesis. It’s typically done for scientific papers, but I’m excited about the possibility of people applying the concept to to less formal writeups as well.
For example, a pro-gun activist might collaborate with an anti-gun activist to write a joint article on the evidence for whether gun control saves lives. We trust each person to make sure the best evidence for their respective side is included. We also trust that they’ll fact-check each other and make sure there aren’t any errors or falsehoods in the final document. There might be a lot of debating, but it will happen on high-bandwidth informal channels behind the scenes and nobody will feel like they have tailor their debating to sounding good for an audience.
Last year, SSC held an adversarial collaboration contest. You can see the entries here:
I want to repeat the contest this year. Prize money depends how many people enter (see terms below) but will probably be around $2500 (thanks to people who support this blog on Patreon). All entries that meet a minimum level of quality will also be published on SSC.
2. How To Form A Team
Setting up teams was chaotic last year, so I’m going to try to be more organized about it. If you want to participate, please post a top-level comment on this post saying the topic you’re interested in, your position on it, any other relevant information, and an email that would-be-partners can contact you at. Make the comment in bold so that it stands out against the background of people idly discussing things. For example:
Hi, I want a partner for a collaboration on whether the moon is made of green cheese (I think yes). I am an astrogastronomy PhD student and would prefer to work with someone else who has at least degree-level knowledge in the field. Email me at fake[at]example[dot]com
If you’re interested in someone else’s topic, please send them an email. Don’t reply to their comment, since a) the person might not see it, b) it might discourage other people from replying, and the proposer might want to get contacted by more prospective partners so they can see who would be the best. Once two people have agreed to be a team, the person with the top-level comment can edit it to clarify they’re not interested in taking more offers.
Once two people have agreed to be a team, please email me, scott[at]slatestarcodex[dot]com, with your names and the topic you’re working on.
3. Terms And Conditions
1. You should write an essay summarizing your joint summary of the evidence regarding a controversial topic you disagree on. Strongly recommend that this be a single factual issue, like “Does gun control save lives on net?”, rather than a vaguer moral question like “Guns – good or bad?”, though it can still be a pretty broad topic – I would love to see people write about Caplan’s case against education, for example. Even though most of the examples here are political, this doesn’t have to be; it could involve controversial topics in medicine, history, religion, et cetera.
2. You will write the essay as a united front. Please don’t write “Alice says this study proves guns save lives, but Bob says it’s wrong and this other study proves guns are bad.” Instead you are going to have to come to an agreement on how to describe each study. For example “Here is a study purporting to show that guns save lives. It seems to accurately describe what is going on in rural areas, but it might be of limited applicability elsewhere.”
3. You will come to at least some sort of unified conclusion, even if that conclusion is “There’s not enough evidence in this field to be sure either way and we should default to our priors/biases”.
5. By entering the contest, you are giving me permission to publish your essay on SSC (with full attribution to you, of course). You can also publish it wherever else you want. I will probably publish the winning essay, and I might or might not publish the others depending on how good they are.
6. Because of (5), please don’t research any topic that I would not be able to publish on SSC if you came to a taboo conclusion. If you want to do an adversarial collaboration on taboo topics, you can feel free to arrange it in the comments, but it won’t be considered an official entry, it won’t be eligible for prizes, and I probably won’t post it (I might link it if it’s posted somewhere else). If you’re wondering whether a specific topic is taboo, you can ask.
7. Due date is November 1.
8. I won’t hold the contest if fewer than five teams sign up. That’s “sign up”, not “complete their collaboration”; I realize many teams will drop out. I’ll let you know if I’m holding the contest or not within a week or two, before you waste too much time on it.
9. If I hold the contest at all, I’ll disburse $1000 in prize money. If there are at least four complete eligible entries, I’ll disburse $2500 in prize money. If there are at least ten, $5000. More then ten, I don’t know, but I’ll try to make it worth your time.
10. I’ll give the winning entry somewhere between 50-100% of the total prize money. If I don’t give it 100%, the rest will go to second place, third place, etc. I haven’t decided how/whether I will do this and it depends on how good the individual entries are.
11. If you win, I will pay through PayPal or online donations to the charity of your choice.
12. Winner will be determined by poll of SSC readers, plus my vote counting for 10 percentage points in the poll.
13. I reserve the right to change these conditions in minor ways that don’t significantly inconvenience contest participants.
14. I’ll give an update on the next visible Open Thread.