Open Philanthropy Technology Policy Fellowship

Open Philanthropy is seeking applicants for a US policy fellowship program focused on high-priority emerging technologies, especially AI and biotechnology. Selected applicants will receive policy-focused training and mentorship and be supported in matching with a host organization for a full-time, fully-funded fellowship based in the Washington, DC area. Potential host organizations include executive branch offices, Congressional offices, and think tank programs.

Fellowship placements are expected to begin in early or mid-2022 and to last 6 or 12 months (depending on the fellowship category), with potential renewal for a second term. Fellowship opportunities are available for both entry-level and mid-career applicants, and for people both with and without prior policy experience.

The application deadline has now passed.

Purpose

Open Philanthropy believes that emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and biotechnology can profoundly shape society. Managing the long-term societal impacts from such technologies is one of our top priorities.

We also believe that US government policy will shape the trajectory and impact of these technologies. We are therefore excited to help individuals interested in our priority areas gain experience with, and test their fit for, US policy work. Fellowship programs have proven to be a great way to do this.1

This program is designed to support people who (1) have an interest in, experience with, or expertise relevant to the long-term societal impacts of AI, biosecurity, and related emerging technologies; and who (2) are interested in exploring or building a career working on US policy. We expect that most fellows won’t have prior policy experience, so the program is structured specifically to help participants develop policy-related knowledge and skills.2 We welcome applications from people who are not yet sure what type(s) of policy work they are best suited for.

Fellowship categories

Participants will receive tailored training and support in finding placements to one of three types of organizations: (1) executive branch offices, (2) Congressional offices, and (3) think tank programs.

  • Executive branch offices: Executive branch organizations implement and enforce laws and regulations; relevant examples include the Office of Science and Technology Policy (White House) and offices within the Department of Defense and the National Science Foundation. Executive branch fellows will support their host office through assistance with technology-related research and analysis, writing and editing policy documents, interagency coordination, and briefing and staffing colleagues and leaders. Executive branch fellows are expected to have strong expertise, but will also need strong communications skills and an ability to manage social and bureaucratic dynamics within and between federal offices.
  • Congressional offices: Congress passes laws and oversees the executive branch. Congressional fellows may work in the personal office of a Member or on the staff of a committee. They will be involved in activities such as researching technology-related policy topics, educating members and colleagues on technology issues, drafting legislation, preparing for meetings and hearings, and building coalitions. We expect successful Congressional fellows to be drawn to working in a fast-paced, collaborative, and politically complex environment, and to be happy working on a relatively broad portfolio of policy issues.
  • Think tank programs: Think tanks support US policymakers through research and analysis. Think tank fellows will support technology-related work within existing think tank programs, such as those at the Brookings Institution or the Center for Security and Emerging Technology. Junior fellows’ work will likely involve a combination of research assistance on existing projects, writing short-form content, organizing events and workshops, and other project and communications support. More experienced fellows could lead policy research projects, brief policymakers, and publish articles and reports. Successful think tank fellows are likely to have strong research, writing, and project management skills.

Applicants will eventually be asked to select a single placement category, but may initially indicate interest in multiple categories.

Successful applicants will receive training in policy work and extensive assistance in matching with a host organization. Matched fellows will work as fully-funded, full-time staff at their chosen host organization in Washington, DC. The training, matching, and placement stages of the program are explained in more detail below.

Eligibility and application process

Expected profiles for our four fellowship categories are listed below. Note that there are two categories for think tank placements: one for entry-level candidates (“junior fellows”) and one for more experienced candidates (“fellows”).

Applicants are not required to have prior policy experience, though applicants with prior policy experience are welcome to apply. We strongly encourage individuals with backgrounds and experiences underrepresented in science and technology policy to apply, especially women and people of color.

The eligibility guidelines below are loose and somewhat flexible. If you’re not sure whether you are eligible, we still encourage you to apply.

  • Executive Branch Fellow:
    • Several years of professional experience
    • A graduate degree (strongly preferred but not required)
    • Demonstrated expertise in AI, biosecurity, or related emerging technology areas
    • Strong interpersonal, writing, and verbal communication skills
    • Experience working in or leading teams and building consensus
  • Congressional Fellow:
    • Several years of professional experience
    • A graduate degree (preferred but not required)
    • Demonstrated expertise in AI, biosecurity, or related emerging technology areas
    • Strong interpersonal, writing, and verbal communication skills
    • Experience working in collaborative and fast-paced environments
    • Interest in coalition-building, working on multiple issues simultaneously, and navigating social and political complexity
  • Think Tank Fellow:
    • Several years of research and writing experience (academic or professional)
    • A PhD or other terminal degree (strongly preferred but not required)
    • Demonstrated expertise in AI, biosecurity, or related emerging technology areas
    • Strong analytic and writing skills, and a demonstrated ability to bring projects to completion independently
    • Interest in communicating complex ideas to non-technical policy audiences (both in writing and verbally)
    • Skills in critical languages (e.g. Chinese, Russian) and/or data analysis preferred
  • Think Tank Junior Fellow:
    • Recently obtained a bachelor’s or master’s degree (including Spring 2022 graduates)
    • Demonstrated interest in AI, biosecurity, or related emerging technology areas
    • Strong analytic, writing, operations, and communications skills
    • Prior experience with research and/or program support strongly preferred
    • Skills in critical languages (e.g. Chinese, Russian) and/or data analysis preferred

All participants must be eligible to work in the United States and willing to live in Washington, DC, for the duration of their fellowship. We are not able to sponsor US employment visas for participants; US permanent residents (green card holders) are eligible to apply, but fellows who are not US citizens may be ineligible for placements that require a security clearance.3

The application deadline has now passed. The application form asked for the following items:

  • A CV or resume (no longer than 2 pages)
  • Most recent college or university transcript (optional for applicants with 5+ years of work experience)
  • Personal statement (≤700 words, see application form for prompt)
  • Short essay (≤500 words, see application form for prompt)
  • Statement of motivation (≤200 words, see application form for prompt)
  • Writing sample (≤5 pages) (required for think tank fellowships, optional for congressional and executive branch fellowships)

Some outside advisors will help us review and evaluate applications. By submitting your application, you agree that we may share your application with our outside advisors for evaluation purposes. Your application materials will be used for selection purposes only; if selected, you will be able to review and update any material that is shared with prospective host organizations.

Fellowship program details

Selected applicants will be invited to go through a three-step process: (1) First, they will receive intensive policy training; (2) Second, they will go through a matching process and select a host organization to work at; (3) Third, conditional on having successfully found a host organization, they will start their full-time fellowship placements.

Policy training curriculum

Successful applicants will be invited to go through a training curriculum, which will prepare them to succeed in the matching process and to perform high-quality work during their fellowship placements. Training will focus on (a) improving policy-relevant skills such as writing, communication, and analysis; (b) providing background on relevant government institutions and policy stakeholders; and (c) helping finalists identify promising potential host organizations and offices.

Participants in the think tank and executive branch tracks will go through eight weeks of part-time training. Participation will involve around 7 hours of remote work per week (including readings, virtual talks, and interactive sessions) and an immersive in-person weekend in Washington, DC. We currently anticipate the training program to take place in the first few months of 2022. The training program is designed to allow participants to continue a full-time job or degree program while participating in the training.

Congressional track participants will be trained in collaboration with an institutional partner and follow a slightly different training and placement schedule. Applicants selected for Congressional placements will participate in three weeks of full-time training in Washington, DC, in January of 2022. As they have to be available full-time and relocate in order to participate in the training program, they will receive compensation starting during the training period. While we cannot guarantee a placement, our institutional partner has historically placed every one of the dozens of people that have gone through their training process. (Some Congressional fellows might instead receive their training in June of 2022; however, preference will be given to applicants who can start in January.)

Matching with a host organization

After participants complete their training, they will receive extensive one-on-one support in matching with a host organization. The ultimate responsibility for finding, and being accepted by, a host organization rests with the finalist; if finalists fail to secure a placement within the matching period, they will exit the program. However, we expect an overwhelming majority of the finalists to be able to secure fellowship placements.4

Participants in the think tank and executive branch tracks will be required to find a host organization within two months of completing the training stage. This search process can be done remotely, allowing participants to continue their jobs or degree programs until they have secured a placement. While we will require participants to be accepted by a host organization within two months, their actual start date is determined on a case-by-case basis and may fall outside of this window (see below).

The matching period for participants in the Congressional track will last three weeks, meaning fellows who trained in January will choose their placements in February. As participants were already required to relocate for training, matching activities and prospective host office interviews will take place in person (circumstances permitting). Congressional fellows are compensated during the matching period and expected to start their placement as soon as possible after finding a host office.

Matching support provided will include a series of one-on-one conversations to identify potential host organizations that fit applicants’ skills and interests, introductions to current and former employees of prospective host organizations for exploratory conversations, and feedback on application materials (e.g. writing samples) and interview coaching. Once applicants have created their shortlist of potential host organizations, we will facilitate introductions to the relevant hiring managers. We will also support applicants in navigating host organizations’ administrative requirements.

Fellowship placement

Once they have secured a host organization, applicants officially become “fellows” and will work full-time at their host organization in the Washington, DC area for the duration of their fellowship.

During their placement period, fellows will also receive tailored professional development content and extensive one-on-one mentorship and career support. The fellowship cohort will meet regularly, both with each other and with senior policy leaders, in order to build community and learn about different aspects of policy work.

  • Start dates. As noted above, Congressional fellows are expected to start their placements as soon as possible after they have found a host office. Exact start dates for executive branch and think tank fellowship placements will be determined on a case-by-case basis in consultation with each fellow and host organization, but are expected to be in spring or summer of 2022.
  • Duration. Initial placement duration will be 6 months for junior fellows at think tanks and 12 months for the other three fellowship categories. Renewal of the fellowship may be possible by mutual agreement between Open Philanthropy, the fellow, and a host organization; total fellowship duration could therefore be up to 12 months for junior fellows and 24 months for the other fellows.
  • Compensation. Fellow compensation will be competitive and include dedicated funds to support the fellow’s health care expenses, relocation to Washington DC, and professional development activities. Exact salary levels may vary by fellowship category and level of experience, but will be a minimum of $100,000/year for fellows and $65,000/year equivalent for junior fellows.5

Program timeline summary

The table below summarizes the intended timeline for the program (some dates are subject to change).

Program stage

Executive branch and think tank tracks

Congressional track

Application deadline

September 15th, 2021

Cohort selected

November - December 2021

Policy training

January - March 2022

(remote and part-time, one in-person weekend)

January 2022*

(full-time in Washington, DC)

Matching with host organization / office

March - April 2022

(remote and part-time)

February 2022 *

(full-time in Washington, DC)

Expected start dates of fellowship placements

Spring or summer 2022

(exact dates will vary by fellow; relocate to Washington, DC)

February 2022 *

Fellowship placement period

6 or 12 months initially (with potential for renewal)

12 months initially (with potential for renewal)

* As noted above, Congressional fellows could also start their training in June and match in July, but preference will be given to applicants available in January.

Further information

For more information, please refer to this FAQ document. For any questions which are not addressed in the document, please contact [email protected].6

Resources that may be helpful for prospective applicants who are thinking through whether they are a good fit for policy work and this fellowship program:

  • 1. Partly analogous successful fellowship programs include the AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowship, TechCongress, and the Scoville Fellowship.

  • 2. This program has some overlap with prior OP funding opportunities in biosecurity, AI policy, and related areas. The main differences between this program and past programs is that this program funds a narrower range of activities and includes a tailored professional development component.
  • 3. Security clearance requirements are most common for executive branch placements, for example those at national security-focused departments and agencies. Permanent residents are able to work in most Congressional offices and think tanks, and may also be eligible for certain executive branch placements.
  • 4. This expectation is based on conversations we have had with prospective placement organizations and the successful track record of analogous fellowship programs. For example, TechCongress received 7 placement offers for each selected fellow in 2020, and AAAS had 100 offices interested in 30 Congressional fellows in 2019.
  • 5. Some fellows will be paid directly by Open Philanthropy through a scholarship grant, while others will be paid via a think tank or partner organization. This will depend primarily on the requirements and preferences of the host organization.
  • 6. We might make changes to this program over time. Any such changes will be reflected on this page.