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Research areas

What are we looking for?

 

At Flourish, we're looking for change-driven work that considers the route to positive impact in every step of the research process, from selecting a research question to writing concluding remarks. This research is challenging, so we’ve compiled some resources to serve as inspiration for research questions.


We think that the most impactful research addresses questions within the most pressing problems/cause areas. Choosing which cause area to focus on will likely significantly influence how impactful your paper will be, and we broadly agree with the Effective Altruist approach of using an evidence-based framework to work out which are the most pressing problems to work on. Whilst the resources listed on this page recommend focusing on certain problems, we also welcome submissions that argue for priorities outside these research areas and challenge our assumptions about existing problems.

Our topic suggestions

 

  • AI Ethics, Governance, and Safety

    • How can AI be developed, used, and governed in a way that aligns with human values?

  • Altruistic Decision-Making

    • How can decision making help public institutions, individuals and organisations avoid mistakes and achieve their altruistic goals? 

  • Animal Welfare (Farmed and Wild)

    • How can we improve the well-being of farmed and wild animals?

  • Bio-risk

    • How can we mitigate the risks of natural and man-made pathogens, infectious agents, and toxins?

  • Cause Prioritisation

    • How should altruistic organisations, individuals and funders prioritise between different causes, and why?

  • Climate Change and Climate Disasters

    • How can we develop resilient prevention, adaptation and mitigation solutions for various climate change scenarios? 

  • Improving Effective Altruism

    • How can we improve the structural, philosophical, and practical frameworks of Effective Altruism?

  • Forecasting and Nowcasting Actions

    • How can anticipatory tools help understand the value and potential of events now and in the future?

  • Global Health and Development

    • How can the negative impacts of poverty and ill-health best be reduced? 

  • Global Priorities Research

    • What should individuals, organisations and funders prioritise when trying to do good, and why?

  • Positive Historical and Social Trends

    • How has progress been made in the past, and what might this tell us about the future?

  • Long-Termism (Broadly Construed)

    • Is the long-term future a major moral priority of our time? If so, what should we do about it?

  • Mental Wellbeing

    • What are the most effective ways to improve mental well-being, and how does this compare to other attempts to improve wellbeing? 

  • Nuclear Weapons

    • How much of a risk are nuclear weapons and what actions can individuals, institutions and funders take to prevent nuclear use?

  • Peace and Conflict Resolution

    • How might conflicts be prevented or defanged? 

  • Philanthropy and Corporate Social Responsibility

    • How successful are private donors, philanthropic organisations and corporations at achieving their altruistic aims? What are these actors trying to achieve with their philanthropy? 

Choosing a research area: Effective Thesis' recommendations

 

 

Effective Thesis (a research org also championing socially impactful academia) has a comprehensive database of high-impact cause areas. The database of topics includes arguments for why each research area is important, summaries of existing research, recommended research questions, and further reading.

Effective Thesis also offers guidance and coaching for students who aim to achieve social impact with their thesis or dissertation.

 

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80,000 Hours, a fellow org in the Effective Altruism space, has also published research on: 

They have also published an insightful review of careers in academia, which we recommend for any aspiring academics and a host a lively podcast focused on Effective Altruism and improving the world as much as possible.

Tips on writing a change-driven paper

For guidance and suggestions on impact-oriented research, we like this article by Karolina Sarek. Aimed at professional researchers, it highlights the importance of reaching an accurate, action-relevant and formulated conclusion. Her three main guidelines are to: 

  • Reach conclusions through your research

  • Compare alternatives with equal rigour.

  • Design research questions to affect decision-making.

Students Sitting on Staircase
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