Research Priorities

At this critical time in human history, dangerous decisions could lead to the extinction of humanity, whereas good choices can pave the way toward a much brighter future. Putting and keeping society on a good trajectory is one of the biggest challenges of our time. We believe that high-quality behavioral science research on crucial topics can generate insights and tools humanity will need to navigate this challenge successfully. This is a formidable scientific challenge that many more people should be working on. Just imagine how much better the world could be and how much faster we could solve global problems if we had more effective, theoretically sound, and evidence-based approaches! We believe that the best way to get there is to unite researchers from various basic and applied disciplines behind common goals. We aim to find out what those goals should be and inspire more people to work on them. To achieve this, we facilitate an open, collaborative effort to brainstorm, discuss, and rigorously assess which behavioral science research topics are most crucial for improving the future of humanity and non-human animals.

What have we accomplished so far?

  1. We compiled a short-list of impactful behavioral science research questions.

  2. We developed a quantitative method for estimating the cost-effectiveness of scientific research and written a report about it. [Report]

  3. We have applied this method to estimate the cost-effectiveness of research on promoting prosocial behavior in hours of happiness per dollar invested. Our estimate suggests that such research is about 100 times as cost-effective as psychotherapy. [Report]

  4. We have conducted large-scale computer simulations suggesting that funding agencies should spend at least as much money on scientific research and R&D projects as they spent on the application of existing interventions. [Report]

How can I get involved?

There are several easy ways to get involved now:

  1. Propose potential research goals and questions, by entering them in this spreadsheet.

  2. Comment on other people's proposals in the Comment columns of that spreadsheet.

  3. Email falk.lieder@tuebingen.mpg.de to inquiry for opportunities to get involved in estimating the impact of research on one or more of the identified topics.