Cause prioritization refers to efforts to find the most important causes to work on and compare interventions across different areas, so that we can do as much good as possible with the resources available to us.
Governments and philanthropists spend considerable resources attempting to do good in the world. How those resources are used, however, can make an even bigger difference than how many resources are available. Some work has been done on prioritizing within areas, but the even more important question on how to prioritize between areas has received remarkably limited attention. The effective altruism community, given its emphasis on cause neutrality, is especially interested in answering the latter question.
Cause-neutral prioritization research seeks to identify new promising focus areas, and to compare their relative value (by considering, for instance, whether animal welfare is a higher priority than existential risk). Given its very high importance and neglectedness, and moderate tractability (see ITN framework), cause prioritization research is itself often regarded as a highly promising research area (Stafforini 2014).
80,000 Hours (2016) Global priorities research, April (updated July 2018).
Grace, Katja (2014) Conversation with Paul Christiano on cause prioritization research, 80,000 Hours, August 20.
Stafforini, Pablo (2014) Paul Christiano on cause prioritization, Effective Altruism Forum, March 23.