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Longlist of Causes

CEARCH keeps a running longlist of causes (link) that may merit further research to see if they are highly impactful causes worth supporting. The list, which covers the broad areas of global health & development, longtermism, as well as EA meta, is currently around 400 causes long.

In compiling this longlist, we have used a variety of methods, as detailed in this search methodology (link); core ones include:

  • Using Nuno’s excellent list as a starting point.
  • Conducting consultations and surveys (e.g. of both EA and non-EA organizations and individuals).
  • Performing outcome tracing (i.e. looking at good/bad outcomes and identifying the underlying causes): The Global Burden of Diseases database and the World Database of Happiness are especially useful in this regard.

Our hope is that this list is useful to the community, and not just our own research team.

Notes:

  • Classification of causes is fairly arbitrary, and each organization has their own approach. CEARCH find it useful to think of causes in three distinct levels, from broadest to narrowest:
    • (1) High-level cause domain, which are problems defined in the broadest way possible: (a) global well-being, which concerns human welfare in the near-term; (b) animal welfare, which is self-explanatory; (c) longtermism, which concerns human welfare in the long-term; and (d) EA meta, which involves doing good through improving or expanding effective altruism itself.
    • (2) Cause areas, which are significantly narrowed down from high-level cause domains, but are still fairly broad themselves. For example, within global well-being, we might have global health, economic & development, political reform etc
    • (3) Causes, which are problems defined in a fairly narrow way (e.g. malaria, vitamin A deficiency, childhood vaccination, hypertension, diabetes etc).
  • Of course, causes can always be broken down further (e.g. malaria in sub-Saharan Africa, or childhood vaccination for diphtheria), and going through our list, you can also see that causes may overlap (e.g. air pollution in a general sense, vs ambient/outdoor particulate matter pollution, vs indoor air quality, vs specifically indoor household air pollution from soot). The reason for such overlap is partly a lack of time on CEARCH's part to rationalize the whole list; but partly it also reflects our view that it can be valuable to look at problems at different levels of granularity (e.g. at higher levels, a single intervention may be able to solve multiple problems at the same time, such that a broader definition of a cause areas helps find more cost-effective solutions; conversely, at lower levels, you can focus on very targeted interventions that may be very cost-effective but not generally applicable).
  • Note that animal welfare causes are not in this longlist, as CEARCH has so far not focused on them, for want of good moral weights to do evaluations with. This should not be taken to imply that animal causes are unimportant, or that research into cost-effective animal causes is not valuable.

 

Cause Exploration Contest

Open Philanthropy had its excellent Cause Exploration Prize; here, we’ll like to do something similar but make the bar significantly lower.

  • We invite people to suggest potential cause areas, providing a short justification if you feel it useful (e.g. briefly covering why the issue is important/tractable/neglected), or not, if otherwise (e.g. the idea simply appears novel or interesting to you). All ideas are welcome, and even causes which do not appear intuitively impactful can be fairly cost-effective upon deeper research.
  • People are also welcome to suggest potential search methodologies for finding causes (e.g. consulting weird philosophy, or looking up death certificates).

Prizes will be awarded in the following way:

  • USD 300 for what the CEARCH team judges to be the most plausibly cost-effective and/or novel cause idea (and that is not already on our public longlist of causes).
  • USD 700 for what the CEARCH team judges to be the most useful and/or novel search methodology idea (and that is not already listed in our public search methodology document).

Entries may be made here. The contest will run for a month, until 31st July 2023 (23:59, GMT-12). Multiple entries are allowed (n.b. do make separate individual submissions). The detailed rules, for those who are interested, are available here.


 

Comments6
Sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 4:24 AM

My entry:
 

Modern slavery

(Disclaimer the following is my initial impressions based on 2 minutes of Googling, cannot promise accuracy)

Scale – 400k-1million people are in slavery in the DRC. They lead horrendous lives suffer a myriad of terrible health conditions and are not free. The number is huge, more than die of Malaria each year, more than die of AIDs each year. EAs have looked into US criminal justice but there might be nearly as many slaves in the DRC as there are prisoners in the US and ALL of them are being held unjustly and likely suffer in many more ways than US prisoners.

Tractability – the animal welfare movement has over the last decade, developing a host of evidence based tools that have lead to win after win for animal welfare. In particular we have a playbook for targeted corporate campaigns and have been immensely successful at driving corporates to commit to ethical practices. Most of the products of slavery in the Congo are used by Western companies that could be pressured to change. In many ways this should be even easier than the case for animals as people care more about humans than animals.

Neglectedness – No body seems to be doing this (based on my 1min of Googling). The anti-slavery space seems very very focused on a slavery in HICs (like trafficking to the US or the UK) and not on the Congo. It is talked about but I did not find any targeted campaigns.

30 second BOTEC – Number of years a corporate campaign program would need to run that could end 75% of slavery in the Congo x cost per year / 75% x number of slaves * a best guess DALY burden of life in slavery = ( 10 x $2,000,000 ) / ( 75% x 700,000 x 12.5 ) = $3/DALY
 

Cheers, Sam!

Hey Joel! Cool list you already have.

Is the 300 USD prize for "(2) Cause areas" and/or "(3) Causes"? You distinguish them at the start of your post but then refer to "potential cause areas", "causes", and "cause ideas" in describing the contest.

Also, its just one 300USD prize and one 700USD prize, right?

Thanks!

Hi Jamie. For both (causes broadly defined)! Yes, it's just one USD 300 prize (for causes), and one USD 700 prize (for methodologies).

What a wonderful project! I really think any attempts to expand effective altruism beyond its current four main cause areas (global health, animal welfare, global catastrophic risk and EA meta) should be strongly encouraged.

Thanks! It would be interesting if we could identify a genuinely new high-level cause domain outside GHD/animals/longtermism/meta - though given how broad these are, it's definitely easier finding new important/tractable/neglected ideas *within* these domains than without.