A central directory for open research questions
Quite wonderfully, there has been a proliferation of research questions EAs have identified as potentially worth pursuing, and now even a proliferation of collections of such questions. So like a good little EA, I’ve gone meta: this post is a collection of all such collections I’m aware of. I hope this can serve as a central directory to all of those other useful resources, and thereby help interested EAs find questions they can investigate to help inform our whole community’s efforts to do good better.
Please also leave a comment if you know of any research question collections that aren’t yet included in this post!
Some things to note:
It may be best to just engage with one set of questions that are relevant to your skills, interests, or plans, and ignore the rest of this post.
It’s possible that some of these questions are no longer “open”.
I’ve included some things that aren’t explicitly written as collections of research questions, as long as research questions could very easily be inferred from them (e.g., from the problems people identify, or the posts people want written).
Various EA-related topics
List of EA-related thesis topics—Effective Thesis, no date
You can also contact Effective Thesis for discussion, help, or coaching.
Some research questions that you may want to tackle—Aaron Bergman, 2022
What are the highest impact questions in the behavioral sciences? - Abby Hoskin, 2021
What are the key ongoing debates in EA? - various, 2020
What posts do you want someone to write? - various, 2020
What questions could COVID-19 provide evidence on that would help guide future EA decisions? - Michael Aird (i.e., me) and others, 2020
Some history topics it might be very valuable to investigate—Michael Aird, 2020
A collection of researchy projects for Aspiring EAs—EdoArad, 2019
What are some lists of open questions in effective altruism? - Aaron Gertler and others, 2019
This and the following list are roughly the same sort of “meta collection” as this post, and I think I took everything relevant from them already.
Technical and Philosophical Questions That Might Affect Our Grantmaking—Open Philanthropy Project, 2017
2018 list of half-baked volunteer research ideas and its comments—Jacy Reese and others, 2018
EA Summit Project Ideas (specifically the “Research Projects”) - various, no date
The most important questions and problems—Pablo Stafforini
EA Research to be done in Philosophy—I don’t know who created this list
Mostly focused on longtermism, existential risks, or GCRs
Psychology for Effectively Improving the Future — A Research Agenda—Effective Altruism Psychology Lab, 2022
Nuclear risk research ideas—Michael Aird (me), 2022
Legal Priorities Research: A Research Agenda—Legal Priorities Project, 2021
Project Ideas in Biosecurity for EAs—David Manheim (“In conjunction with a group of other EA biosecurity folk”), 2021
Politics, Policy, and Security from a Broad Longtermist Perspective: A Preliminary Research Agenda—Michael Aird for Rethink Priorities, 2021
Humanities Research Ideas for Longtermists—Lizka for Rethink Priorities, 2021
80 Questions for UK Biological Security—Luke Kemp et al., 2021
The Precipice, Appendix F: Policy and research recommendations—Toby Ord, 2020
Research questions that could have a big social impact, organised by discipline - Arden Koehler & Howie Lempel (80,000 Hours), 2020
Crucial questions for longtermists—Michael Aird for Convergence Analysis, 2020
Some history topics it might be very valuable to investigate—Michael Aird, 2020
Michael Aird_Research statement [FHI RSP] - Michael Aird, 2020
Open Research Questions—Center on Long-Term Risk, no date
Open Research Questions—Center for Reducing Suffering, no date
Mostly focused on AI
Fairly technical (I think)
Some conceptual alignment research projects—Richard Ngo, 2022
AI Safety Research Project Ideas—Evans and Armstrong, 2021
“clusters of ideas that we believe warrant further attention and research”—Center for Human-Compatible AI (CHAI), no date
Research Agenda v0.9: Synthesising a human’s preferences into a utility function—Stuart Armstrong, 2019
Related talk here
The Learning-Theoretic AI Alignment Research Agenda—Vanessa Kosoy, 2019
FLI AI Safety Research Landscape—Future of Life Institute, 2018
Associated paper here
Agent Foundations for Aligning Machine Intelligence with Human Interests: A Technical Research Agenda—Nate Soares and Benya Fallenstein (MIRI), published originally in 2014, and in 2017 in The Technological Singularity
Alignment for Advanced Machine Learning Systems—Jessica Taylor et al. (MIRI), 2016
Concrete Problems in AI Safety—Amodei et al., 2016
Some things by or related to Paul Christiano that some people have indicated serve as research agendas, collections of questions, or supporting materials:
There may be other research agendas listed here
Less technical / AI strategy / AI governance
Some AI Governance Research Ideas—the Centre for the Governance of AI, 2021
Problems in AI risk that economists could potentially contribute to—Michael Aird, 2021
(AI × social science) Research Questions—Vael Gates, 2021
Open Problems in Cooperative AI—Dafoe et al., 2020
Longtermist AI policy projects for economists—Risto Uuk (this doc was originally just made for Risto’s own use, so the ideas shouldn’t be taken as high-confidence recommendations to anyone else)
Cooperation, Conflict, and Transformative Artificial Intelligence (the Center on Long-Term Risk’s research agenda) - Jesse Clifton, 2019
Technical AGI safety research outside AI—Richard Ngo, 2019
A shift in arguments for AI risk—Tom Sittler, 2019
Promising research projects—AI Impacts, 2018
They also made a list in 2015; I haven’t checked how much they overlap
Artificial Intelligence and Global Security Initiative Research Agenda—Centre for a New American Security, 2017
A survey of research questions for robust and beneficial AI—Future of Life Institute, no date
Cognitive Science/Psychology As a Neglected Approach to AI Safety—Kaj Sotala, 2017
“studies which could illuminate our strategic situation with regard to superintelligence”—Luke Muehlhauser, 2014 (he also made a list in 2012)
A mix of technical and non-technical
Important, actionable research questions for the most important century—Holden Karnofsky, 2022
Mostly focused on biorisk or coronavirus
Coronavirus Research Ideas for EAs—Peter Wildeford, 2020
LessWrong Coronavirus Agenda—Elizabeth, 2020
Cause prioritisation/global priorities
The most important unsolved problems in ethics—Will MacAskill, 2012
I’m guessing this is mostly superseded by GPI’s agenda, but I haven’t checked.
Alternative Protein Solutions Database—Good Food Institute, 2020
Animal Advocacy Research Fund’s Focus Areas—Animal Charity Evaluators, no date
“Less explored” foundational questions in effective animal advocacy—Sentience Institute, 2019
Alternative Proteins: 2020 Consumer Research Priorities—Good Food Institute, 2019
(Perhaps Charity Entrepreneurship and Rethink Priorities have relevant collections or research agendas?)
Global health and development
Important unresolved research questions relevant to macroeconomic policy—Open Philanthropy Project, 2014
(Perhaps Charity Entrepreneurship and GiveWell have relevant collections or research agendas?)
Other areas many EAs are interested in
Improving institutional decision-making & forecasting
Research Directions on Improving Policymaking—EA Geneva, probably 2020
What are the open problems in Human Rationality? - Raemon, 2019
Note: I haven’t read this and don’t know how well it fits here.
Mental health, happiness, etc.
Happier Lives Institute’s research agenda—Michael Plant, 2019
Health and happiness: some open research topics—Derek Foster, 2019
I’d guess there are other relevant areas for which research questions have been collected somewhere.
Potential lists of lists which I haven’t properly taken the lists from yet
What are EA project ideas you have? - Mati_Roy and others, 2020
What new EA project or org would you like to see created in the next 3 years? - Ozzie Gooen and others, 2019
Concrete project lists—Richard Batty, 2017
Thanks to all the people who created all the lists I’ve shown and/or taken from here. And thanks to Aaron Gertler for his above-quoted thoughts, to David Kristoffersson for helpful feedback and additions, and to Remmelt Ellen for helpful comments.
This post is related to my work with Convergence Analysis.