Free research help, editing and article downloads for LessWrong

Update: Please use the most recent thread.

The LW Public Goods Team wants to encourage useful research projects (as well other kinds of projects) for the LW community. If you're interested in doing this kind of work, you might run into a problem that is best solved by good outside assistance. Without assistance you might get discouraged and stop working on the project or never even start it. We want to help you avoid that. Do you

  • Not know how to interpret a finding and want help figuring it out?
  • Need access to a particular paper and need someone with a library subscription to download it for you?
  • Need someone to edit your writing?
  • Not even know what you're having trouble with, but you know is that you're stuck and need someone to troubleshoot you?

Then, we want to help!

How do you request such help? For now, I think the best way is to post to the discussion section about your problem. That way other interested people can also provide help and be interested in your research. If you feel uncomfortable doing this, you may post to the public goods team mailing list (lw-public-goods-team@googlegroups.com) or if it's not too long after this was posted, post in the comments.

I personally commit to doing at least 3 hours a week of tasks like these for people doing LessWrong related projects (assuming demand for it; I'll be keeping a log) for at least the next month. Morendil has committed to doing at least an hour of this and atucker has promised to some as well.

Our goal is to find out whether this kind of help is effective and encourages people. If this kind of assistance turns out to be valuable, we'll continue to offer it.

If you would like to volunteer some time (a little or a lot), say so in the comments!

439 comments, sorted by
magical algorithm
Highlighting new comments since Today at 11:26 AM
Select new highlight date
Moderation Guidelinesexpand_more

This has turned out to be an incredibly useful page. Thanks again, John! I wish I could upvote the article again.

This post is, I think, an excellent demonstration of what I keep telling people: if you can commit even a little bit of time over a long period doing something that people aren't voluntarily doing already, you can do something pretty useful.

For this patience claim, I usually use examples like Wikipedia articles or FAQs or self-experiments, but this page is also a good example: for a bit of menial annoying (but otherwise undemanding) work, John has materially assisted me in multiple articles (sunk costs, iodine, and lithium among others).

And now others are helping and asking for help! It warms my heart.

You made me smile lots. Thanks :)

I'm glad I could help!

The thing that really turned out to be useful, I think, is the inter library loan and the ease with which the university of washington lets you use it (no fees and just a simple web form). I wonder if we could get you and gwern direct access to it somehow. If it were my account, I'd just give you my login, but it's a borrowed account itself.

I wonder if we could get you and gwern direct access to it somehow.

That might be a little dangerous. When I was using SUNY SBU's ILL for my own projects and filling occasional requests, I eventually got cut off for over-use...

Okay, so we need to find someone who doesn't use ILL for their own materials. I've now made quite a few requests, and I haven't been cut off, how long did it take you to get cut off?

It was during the second semester, towards the end, so I think it was March or May.

Request for comments from others who frequent this page:

I have been feeling that the academic literature is severely underused outside academia, including here on LW. Every now and then, I see a discussion that I think of interrupting to say, "Why don't you guys go on Google Scholar to learn more about this from people who have already thought about this? [As opposed to trying to come up with the same ideas by yourselves.]" (Access isn't a problem: abstracts often provide the information that one is looking for, and besides, free access to the vast majority of cited articles is available within hours from, e.g., here and Reddit's r/scholar.)

I'm hesitant about making this sort of comment because there is a clear potential for signaling: "I read journal articles that smart people read; I'm so smart. [You don't read these articles; you're not smart.]" From an outside view, I can imagine people making this sort of comment to signal intelligence (related), so I'm worried that my belief that the academic literature is underused is coming from a rationalization of a desire to use this signal.

If the literature is indeed underused, one possible explanation is that online journal access and search is a very recent innovation. If I'm not mistaken, it was very difficult for the general public to access any journal article ten years ago (and searching for specific information would have been a daunting task even for specialists).

Any thoughts?

'Discussion is not about Information'? If I saw people using Google routinely, I would wonder if maybe there's some sort of recentness issue; but I see even sophisticated young techies who literally grew up using Google failing to do so. I can't count how many times on LessWrong, Reddit, Wikipedia, or IRC I have spent 5 seconds in Google and refuted or confirmed someone's speculation. There's a reason LMGIFY is an acronym.

Huh, this was actually the first explanation that came to mind. I wanted to check if I was being too cynical (or too caught up in my own signaling), so I avoided mentioning it.

This is certainly true, I often do this myself and notice I could Google something and still don't do it. It's usually when I'm hanging out with friends and we're speculating about something because it's fun to speculate rather than because we want to figure something out.

(Access isn't a problem: abstracts often provide the information that one is looking for, and besides, free access to the vast majority of cited articles is available within hours from, e.g., here and Reddit's r/scholar.)

Beware trivial inconveniences!

I do agree with your main point, though. I've had experiences like gwern's of being able to dredge up information to check guesses (or comments that just trigger my BS detector generally) in 5 minutes with Google, Wikipedia, or even my PDF folder.

I see a discussion that I think of interrupting to say, "Why don't you guys go on Google Scholar to learn more about this from people who have already thought about this?

A former coworker of mine used to say in such circumstances: " Shall we make it up or look it up?"

There is a website called ezproxy dot blogspot dot com which posts occasionally working password to library sites and universities' online resources. It might prove useful to some people here.

password2password dot eamped dot com also offers the same feature as well as a subforum specifically for article requests. It makes sense to have an account there. 55face dot blogspot dot com too posts occasional passwords to library sites. It makes sense to bookmark it too. Of course, the best option would be to use your local library itself..

I'm starting to think it may be time to start a new article; besides being more manageable, one could go through the old one, identify any remaining outstanding requests, and copy them over. As it is, probably no one is going through the old ones because it's too hard to work out which ones haven't been filled...

Also a good excuse to tote up some statistics like '300 papers provided' etc!

I haven't noticed this being unmanageable recently, but I can see it becoming so. I wonder if there is a better solution than another thread though. Bug tracking software (perhaps github) might work well because people can open a request and then once it's found, the thread is hidden.

People don't want to use a separate site; if they did, no one would be using this page because they'd be using the subreddit devoted to this, or the equivalent Wikipedia reference request desk, etc.

This service has mostly turned out to be used by a couple of people. Do you prefer to use LW proper? I was under the impression that this service was mostly valuable because we have access to ILL requests and because we're more interested in helping than elsewhere.

I do, yeah. And it is easier to keep up here.

Hmm, okay. Have you noticed this thread being unwieldy in some way? What is your main concern?

As comments increase, more of the page gets buried in click-to-continue wrappers, so any kind of navigation gets harder. It gets harder for me to refind old requests I might need. It gets harder for anyone to look through for unfilled requests. And so on.

I also don't like pages with too many comments on pure aesthetic grounds. As good a time as any to pull the plug and inaugurate a second article. (Would be good for your karma too, which you deserve!)

I am interested in obtaining the manuals and test booklets for the following psychometric inventories:

NEO Personality Inventory-Revised (NEO-PI-R)

Publisher's product page.

The NEO-PI-3 and NEO-FFI-3 would also be useful. (The manuals for these three inventories seem to be identical.)

Raven's Advanced Progressive Matrices (APM)

Publisher's product page.

The SPM(+) and CPM would also be useful. (The manuals for these tests are split into several sections/volumes.)


I am not able to buy these inventories from the publishers: the NEO PI-R requires an S-level qualification (certificate, license, or relevant undergraduate degree), while the APM requires a B-level qualification (certification/membership in professional organization or relevant master's degree).

Furthermore, I cannot find any copies of the manuals or test booklets online, so I assume the publishers are serious in suppressing distribution; if you get hold of a copy, PMing me is probably a better idea than posting it publicly.

I would be happy to obtain either the manual or test booklet for any of the aforementioned inventories. (I'd also like to know how I might be able to get these materials, free or otherwise.)

Have you tried interlibrary loan? Lots of university libraries have them.

This sounds like a good idea, thanks for committing the time for it! On reading I had two thoughts:

  • While I'm assuming that you're willing to try helping with anything, people with more technical problems will appreciate a summary of what skills you can provide in particular.
  • I'm also wondering if there is demand for this in a format more like HN office hours.

1 - Good idea!

  • I pride myself in giving actually useful editing, not just trivial things. I will,
    • tell you when things don't make sense
    • tell you you have to rewrite or add sections
    • cross out chunks with abandon
    • give you organizational advice.
  • I have access to the University of Washington's library system, so I can download most papers.
  • I know quite a bit of Bayesian stats
  • I have an engineering background.
  • I have Lots of programming experience.
  • I like having something explained to me and then repeating back my understanding

I'll have to ask the others to post what they think their strong points are.

2 - I'm not actually familiar with HN office hours, so I will have to take a look. Thanks for the link!

Can you elaborate on what kind of setup you're thinking of in terms of HN office hours?

Let people make appointments. Everyone involved would agree to meet somewhere online and depending on exactly what was needed: have a conversation or use a session sharing tool for some collaborative work.

Sent to your email. I am a little nervous about posting them somewhere public. I'd appreciate advice on this topic.

Thanks; it's interesting so far. (The SAT and ACT series seem to, if anything, contradict the thesis - everything but math scores have stagnated or actually fallen.)

As far as posting goes publicly, I host a lot of PDFs (for the DNB FAQ, mostly), and lukeprog (one of his selling points) hosts what must be hundreds* of PDFs so far. Neither of us has had any trouble so far, and in one case, The Notenki Memoirs, I believe the publisher has even been contacted by someone wanting to turn my ebook** into a legitimate one - no takedowns so far (somewhat to my surprise).

* My local mirror of commonsenseatheism.com lists 573 PDFs

** I not merely host TNM, but I made the ebook single-handedly from my scans

I've made a new thread with the intent that new requests should go there. I'll probably still fill requests there, but please monitor requests at the new thread if you're helping out.