Open Philanthropy is looking for a Lead Researcher to manage researchers on our Global Health and Wellbeing (GHW) cause prioritization team. Research management is becoming a bottleneck for the GHW cause prioritization team and we think the right person in this role will accelerate our progress and make sure that we are getting to the right answers on what program areas Open Philanthropy should invest hundreds of millions of dollars in over the next several years. Over time, the right manager would also be able to shape our evaluation process for existing areas to make sure that we are maintaining high marginal returns across the portfolio and allocating more money to the causes that can use it best.
Please apply by 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time on November 27, 2022 to be considered.
About the Global Health & Wellbeing cause prioritization team
The Global Health & Wellbeing cause prioritization team investigates potential new cause areas, prioritizes across causes, and recommends new grants. Much of the team’s work focuses on policy, scientific research, and global development work aimed at improving lives as much as possible by reducing premature deaths and increasing incomes, particularly for the world’s poorest people. Open Philanthropy’s initial cause areas were the result of extensive research, weighing different evidence to arrive at the areas where we believed we could have the greatest impact per dollar spent. Our ongoing expansion will take a similarly open-minded and quantitative approach while incorporating lessons learned from our first causes.
Earlier this year, we announced hires to lead grantmaking in global aid advocacy, South Asian air quality and supporting the effective altruism community around Global Health and Wellbeing, three new cause areas we added as a result of the team’s research. We are continuing to work to identify new giving areas that can beat our ambitious social ROI bar. Over the coming years, the team will directly (through grantmaking) and indirectly (through hiring new program officers) decide how to distribute hundreds of millions in new giving.
About the Role
You would report to Senior Program Officer Otis Reid, and manage a small group of Research Fellows and/or Strategy Fellows focused on cause prioritization research aimed at identifying the best new areas for Open Philanthropy to expand its giving. Your highest priority would be managing our research pipeline, and prioritizing, providing feedback on, and evaluating the research of 3-4 other team members. Our research pipeline consists of:
- Quick investigations of potential cause areas called “shallows,” which last ~3 weeks and include talking with 3-5 experts and reviewing a handful of key papers or reports. (e.g. our recent shallow on telecommunications in low and middle income countries).
- More in-depth investigations called “mediums,” which can take up to a few months and usually include talking to 10-20 experts and going deeper on relevant literature, including sometimes commissioning a re-analysis of key work (e.g. our medium on South Asian Air Quality).
- Searches to hire new program officers (e.g. the process to hire Santosh Harish, who is working on South Asian Air Quality).
At each of these steps, we decide what is promising enough to advance to the next phase to ensure that we’re allocating our research capacity to have the most impact.
Your direct reports would work to distill complex literatures and cause areas into concrete recommendations. We generally approach this work by:
- Evaluating different types of (social) scientific evidence (e.g. reading an academic paper and evaluating the evidence and methodology presented in it) and going “beyond the paper” to try and extract our true best estimate (accounting for other factors like publication bias, how much we trust the paper’s methodology, and whether the paper is able to fully measure all of the effects we care about).
- Building models of our reasoning, including approaching a problem from multiple angles and using data to inform our views and assumptions, as well as quantifying difficult tradeoffs.
- Reviewing reports and landscapes about a field to understand current major funders and their strategies, including whether there are neglected sub-areas within the larger cause.
- Making “outside view” assessments, such as drawing analogies between one cause area and similar areas that we’ve previously researched.
- Connecting with experts in the field to dig deeper on key points, and engaging deeply with academics and practitioners about their work to decide if a potential cause area is important, neglected, and tractable and whether there are specific approaches or grants within the field that seem unusually promising.
In addition to managing the core research pipeline, the right person would grow into helping shape and lead other key strategic research projects, including our approach to evaluation of existing programs. As Open Philanthropy gets bigger, with more mature programs, questions about how to allocate resources across existing program areas and how to measure our track record are more important. We will need to develop a measurement approach and implement it, including piloting different ways of evaluating outcomes and how to infer marginal returns from those evaluations. The right person in this role could add additional responsibilities in this area or in other Open Philanthropy research priorities.
Who might be a good fit
We’re looking for someone with deep expertise in analyzing academic social science, and a track record of managing other researchers (this could be in the context of an academic institution, think tank, financial services, tech, or other institutions engaged in research relevant to our work). A strong candidate will be able to demonstrate:
- Strong analytical abilities, such that you would be able to critically engage with and assess others’ work, particularly in the social sciences (the strongest candidates most likely have a PhD in a quantitative social science or deep experience with social science research).
- A strong track record of effective management, particularly in managing researchers.
- The ability to write clearly and well, with strong reasoning transparency.
- Ability to model and enforce a pragmatic approach to research — we’re looking to move quickly, and not get bogged down in considerations unlikely to impact our bottom line (i.e. whether a cause is worth investing in).
- Comfort making decisions under uncertainty or with incomplete data.
- A working style consistent with our operating values of ownership, openness, calibration and inclusiveness (and the ability to model those values for others on their team).
- Some existing background in areas relevant to our work (especially development economics, public health, or other policy work with a focus on LMICs).
Above all, we are looking for people motivated to contribute to our mission of helping others as much as we can with the resources available to us. If you are excited to engage with some of the world’s most pressing problems — and put substantial resources into making progress on them — we hope you will apply to this role.
Role details & benefits
- Location & Time Zone: This is a full-time, permanent position with flexible work hours and location. The team currently is primarily remote, with members based in California and Europe, so this position would require flexibility to be able to overlap with those time zones for a portion of the work day.
- Visa Sponsorship: We are happy to consider candidates based outside of the U.S., and to consider sponsoring U.S. work authorization. However, we don’t control who is and isn’t eligible for a visa and can’t guarantee visa approval.
- Compensation: The total compensation for this role is $181,409.33 which includes a base salary of $161,409.33 and an unconditional 401(k) grant of $20,000.
- This compensation assumes a remote work location; there will be upwards adjustments for candidates based in Washington D.C. and the San Francisco Bay Area
- We aim to pay competitively enough to make salary unlikely to be a major consideration for candidates who would otherwise be interested in taking this role. If concern about compensation is keeping you from applying, we encourage you to reach out to [email protected].
- Start Date: We would ideally like a candidate to begin as soon as possible after receiving an offer (likely in February 2023), but we are willing to wait if the best candidate can only start later.
- Benefits: Our benefits package includes
- Excellent health insurance (we cover 100% of premiums within the US for you and any dependents)
- Dental, vision and life insurance for you and your family
- Four weeks of PTO recommended per year
- Four months of fully paid family leave
- A generous and flexible expense policy — we encourage staff to expense the ergonomic equipment, software and other services that they need to stay healthy and productive
- Support for remote work — we’ll cover a remote workspace outside your home if you need one, or connect you with an Open Phil co-working hub in your city
- We can’t always provide every benefit we offer US staff to international hires, but we’re working on it (and will usually provide cash equivalents of any benefits we can’t offer in your country)We aim to employ people with many different experiences, perspectives and backgrounds who share our passion for accomplishing as much good as we can. We are committed to creating an environment where all employees have the opportunity to succeed, and we do not discriminate based on race, religion, color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or any other legally protected status.
If you need assistance or an accommodation due to a disability, or have any other questions about applying, please contact [email protected].