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We, the Effective Altruism group at UC Irvine (EA UCI), have trialled a new activity which we call "1 Question, 90 Minutes". It involves taking 90 minutes (adjustable) to research a HAPIIE (highly and positively impactful in expectation) question. 


Questions we’ve researched so far

  1. How viable are high-protein sources that avoid suffering?
  2. What are the low-hanging fruit with respect to reducing greenhouse gas emissions?
  3. What are the biggest problems with EA?


Questions we plan to research

  1. What are the most cost-effective ways to increase global healthspan?
  2. What are the most cost-effective ways to improve the living conditions of the poorest people in the world?



  1. Decide which question to research
  2. Give a short introduction to the topic and explain why the question is HAPIIE (or show a short video or read a short article to the same effect)
  3. Break down the question into sub-questions
  4. Ask who wants to work on which sub-questions and assign participants into groups on that basis
  5. Set around 30 minutes for group research
  6. Ask each group to summarise their findings to the rest of the participants (maybe even write these down in a shared document)



  1. Prepare a list of potential research questions (and corresponding introductions) in advance and have participants vote on which one they want to research
  2. Invite everyone to the same Google doc with the question broken down into sub-questions so that everyone can edit their own sub-question simultaneously 
  3. Have one device projecting to a screen that everyone can see for the introduction and summary of findings
  4. Alternatively, turn this into a debate



  1. Practise collective truth-seeking
  2. Develop a better understanding of how to improve the world



Thanks to @Sergi at EA Bristol for persuading me to trial this activity!




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This seems awesome! Thanks for sharing.

We’ve tried to do research-based meetings in the past, but we’ve found that people tend to just focus on debating abstract or shallow topics and we haven’t been able to sufficiently incentivize diving in to the more nitty-gritty details or really digging for cruxes. This might not have worked for us because we tried to have too much control over the research process, or because we presented the activity as a debate, or maybe because of the makeup of our group.

Some questions: Did all of the meetings go well? Did you notice any of the issues I mentioned (if not, any idea why)? How many people did you do this with? Were they all post-Intro fellows or selected for in some other way? How much progress did you make on the questions?

Thanks! And no problem.

We did this with 6-8 people. Having a small group like this probably helps. Only around half have completed the EA Intro Programme. In terms of progress, I think we learnt a lot but not enough to become experts. I think we would see diminishing returns by spending more than 90 minutes on a research question.

All 3 of our meetings went well. Maybe the problem you encountered can be avoided by breaking down the question and getting groups to focus first on these sub-questions before bringing everyone together to look at the big picture. Providing autonomy to the groups works well when there's a more experienced researcher in each group who can help the others.

I think presenting the activity as a debate could be done well, but I think the question should still first be broken down into sub-questions and then there should be quiet group research. There could then be a short debate on each sub-question, e.g. How viable are cultured protein sources? How viable are fungi-based protein sources?

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