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Frameworks for selecting focus areas are guides that people in the effective altruism community can use to narrow their focus before deciding on interventions to pursue.

In contrast to informal frameworks, formal frameworks tend to specify exactly how they should be used. Formal frameworks are typically quantitative, generally using a process of estimation and calculation to give numerical scores to potential focus areas. For instance, 80,000 Hours’ three-factor framework for focus area selection gives a rough way to calculate the value of work on different potential focus areas. These values can then be compared to construct a ranking.

This approach has the advantage of precision, which makes it easier to critique and improve upon existing work. However, formal frameworks can be slow to use, since they tend to involve estimation and research on a variety of sub-questions. Moreover, it can be hard to incorporate extra considerations, or track the uncertainty related to estimating the values of areas.