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Research Agenda

Our research agenda for legal priorities research is divided into three parts. In the first part, we argue that cause prioritization in legal research is both important and neglected, provide an overview of our philosophical foundations, and describe our methodological approach. In the second part, we present four focus areas (namely, artificial intelligence, biosecurity & pandemic preparedness, institutional design, and meta-research), identify promising research projects, and provide an overview of relevant literature. In the final part, we discuss two cause areas for further engagement (namely, space governance and animal law).

An updated edition of this research agenda will be published in 2023.

Legal Priorities Project research agenda cover
Download our research agenda

Focus Areas

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Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) could significantly shape the long-term future. It could pose existential risks for humanity, or produce benefits of astronomical scale. We believe that positively shaping the development of advanced AI is one of the world’s most pressing problems. Even though the law could play an important role in shaping the risks and and potential realized, there is surprisingly little legal research addressing the long-term implications of AI.

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Biosecurity & Pandemic Preparedness

Synthetic biology – for example, in the form of engineered pathogens – might be one of the highest existential risks this century. Even though the current COVID-19 crisis has significantly increased the resources and attention dedicated to natural pandemics, risks due to engineered pandemics and other biotechnology remain relatively neglected – especially within legal research.

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Institutional Design

While other focus areas directly address specific fields, there are promising measures to tackle a wide range of problems indirectly. Since we may be unaware of some future threats or unable to address them now, it is desirable to improve our institutional capacity and capability to tackle many different future threats. This includes improving institutional design, judicial decision-making, and the impact, evaluation, and uncertainty of laws – especially with future generations in mind.

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Since choosing the right research project is one of the most important factors that determines the positive impact of a legal researcher’s work, we are also engaging in a number of meta-research projects. Instead of competing with the existing organizations, our research in this area is significantly more specific as we identify and tackle problems that legal researchers encounter when prioritizing causes and specific projects, such as whether to focus on international, comparative, or national law.


Recent Highlights

Ordinary meaning of existential risk

This paper investigates the ordinary meaning of legally relevant concepts in the existential risk literature. It aims to provide crucial insights for those tasked with drafting and interpreting existential risk laws, and for the coherence of ordinary meaning analysis more generally.

Protecting future generations: A global survey of legal academics

What do legal experts believe about the protection of future generations? In this paper, we surveyed law professors (n=516) from leading universities around the English-speaking world regarding their views on the feasibility and desirability of protecting future generations and influencing the long-term future via the legal system.

All Publications



Extreme climate change (upcoming new chapter of LPP research agenda)


See all our working papers on SSRN

Ongoing Research Projects

States must mitigate existential risk under international law

Experimental studies on the effectiveness of legal norms to reduce catastrophic risk

Legal longtermism (encyclopedia entry)

Legal priorities research (encyclopedia entry)

The robust case for legal longtermism

An empirical study of how law students perceive existential risk and concerns for future generations

The prospects of longterm impact litigation

Power to the future people: Designing longtermist political institutions

Longtermist institutional design and policy

Suggest a Research Project

We are compiling a list of research questions and projects that we or researchers in our network can work on. We welcome topics in any area of law as long as the project has a clear connection to existential risk. We are currently particularly interested in suggestions related to artificial intelligence. You can also refer to this document, which has examples of questions we can help answer. Anyone is welcome to submit suggestions.

We will evaluate each submission briefly and decide who—if anyone—could carry out the project. We will let you know if we decide to investigate your idea but might not always follow up otherwise.

We look forward to your ideas!

Suggest a project

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