Early-career funding for individuals interested in improving the long-term future

This program aims to provide support - primarily in the form of funding for graduate study, but also for other types of one-off career capital-building activities - for early-career individuals who want to pursue careers that help improve the long-term future1 and who don’t qualify for our existing program focused on careers related to biosecurity and pandemic preparedness.

Apply here by January 21st, 2022 at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time.

We will review applications and make decisions on a rolling basis, so we encourage early applications. Generally speaking, we aim to review proposals within at most 6 weeks of receiving them, although this may not prove possible for all applications. Candidates who require more timely decisions can indicate this in their application forms, and we may be able to expedite the decision process in such cases.

Context

  • We believe that for people motivated by the goal of improving the long-term future, careers related to mitigating potential risks posed by future advances in artificial intelligence and global catastrophic biological risks are especially promising.
  • We also think there are a number of other career tracks which are potentially highly promising from the perspective of improving the long-term future and which may offer a better fit for some people’s skills and interests. In addition, some of these career tracks currently seem relatively underexplored by people focused on improving the long-term future.
  • This program seeks to provide support - primarily in the form of funding for graduate study, but also for other types of one-off career capital-building activities - for people who want to pursue these other career tracks with the aim of improving the long-term future, and for people who want to help reduce potential risks from advanced AI (see the next section).
  • This is the second iteration of this program.

How this program relates to previous/existing Open Philanthropy programs

  • We have previously run (and are hoping to continue running) a number of other programs to support individuals working on issues relevant to improving the long-term future.
  • If you meet the application criteria for our program for people looking to pursue careers related to global catastrophic biological risks, please apply only to that program. Our plans for that program are currently somewhat in flux, but we expect to start accepting applications sometime in the fall of 2021.
  • If you are a prospective or current PhD student in artificial intelligence or machine learning and are motivated by the goal of improving the long-term future, you should consider applying to our AI Fellowship. Applicants to the AI Fellowship will also automatically be considered for this program (early-career funding), i.e. you only have to complete the application form for the AI Fellowship. If you are seeking funding for graduate study in these areas but you for whatever reason don’t meet the AI Fellowship’s eligibility criteria (e.g. because you are seeking funding for a Master’s degree rather than a PhD), we encourage you to apply to this program instead.
  • If you are someone who is interested in a US policy fellowship placement at a think tank, executive branch office, or congressional office in Washington, DC focused on high-priority emerging technologies, you should take a look at our Technology Policy Fellowship (application deadline: September 15th 2021), which - in addition to providing selected applicants with funding - also offers them policy-focused training and mentorship and supports them in matching them with host organizations. We may also able to offer funding for policy fellowship placements via this program (early-career funding), but we generally suggest that applicants apply to the Technology Policy Fellowship first, unless there is a specific reason why it this isn’t a good fit for them (e.g. because their timeline doesn’t line up with that of the Technology Policy Fellowship). Note that in contrast to the Technology Policy Fellowship, we don’t plan to provide training or mentorship as part of this program.
  • We currently do not have plans to run another iteration of our program for AI Policy career support, so those who would otherwise have applied to that program are invited to apply to this program instead.

Examples of the types of applications we would like to see

We think there is a wide range of career tracks which are potentially promising from the perspective of improving the long-term future (including many of the ones in this list by 80,000 Hours), and there is therefore a correspondingly wide range of proposals we would consider funding.

Our main focus is on providing funding for graduate study, including for applicants already enrolled in a graduate program who would be able to spend more time on their core research interests with additional funding. In addition, we are accepting applications from candidates seeking support for a range of other career capital-building activities, including post-docs, unpaid internships, online courses, and self-study.

To name a few concrete examples of the kinds of applicants we’re open to funding, in no particular order:

  • Someone who wants to attend journalism school, with the aim of covering topics relevant to the long-term future (potentially among other important topics).
  • Someone with a strong background in computer science who wants to spend the next three months self-studying in order to gain relevant certifications for a career in information security, with the longer-term aim of working for an organization focused on reducing global catastrophic risk.
  • Someone who wants to spend a year working or studying in a foreign country, with the aim of becoming a foreign policy expert focused on helping reduce the risk of great power conflict that would adversely impact the long-term future.
  • Someone who wants to pursue a master’s or a PhD program in machine learning, with the aim of contributing to technical research that helps mitigate potential risks from advanced artificial intelligence. (We recommend that those interested in technical research that helps mitigate potential risks from advanced AI apply for our AI Fellowship as well, assuming they meet the Fellowship’s application criteria, i.e. they are a prospective or current PhD student in artificial intelligence or machine learning.)
  • Someone who wants to attend law school or obtain an MPP, with the aim of working in government while focusing on improving the long-term future.
  • Someone who wants to do an unpaid internship at a nuclear policy think tank, with the aim of becoming an expert on nuclear security with a particular focus on averting worst-case outcomes.
  • Someone who wants to pursue a PhD in history or economics, with the aim of becoming a “macrohistorian” focused on big-picture questions relevant to forecasting humanity’s long-term trajectory.

Funding criteria

  • This program aims to provide support for individuals interested in improving the long-term future. We are particularly interested in funding people with evidence of deep engagement with questions about the long-term future and of having skills and abilities that could allow them to make substantial contributions in the relevant areas.
  • We ask that candidates describe how the degree program or other activity for which they are seeking funding will help them enter a career path that plausibly allows them to contribute to this aim. We appreciate that candidates’ plans may be uncertain and/or may inherently involve a high probability of not working out, but we are looking for evidence that candidates have thought in a critical and reasonably detailed manner not just about what career path(s) the proposed activity might open up for them, but also about how entering this/these career path(s) could allow them to positively impact the long-term future.
  • We are looking to fund applications where our funding would make a difference, i.e. where the candidate is otherwise unable to find sufficient funding or the funding they were able to secure imposes significant restrictions or requirements on them (for example, in the case of graduate study, restrictions on their research focus or teaching requirements). We may therefore turn down promising applicants who were able to secure equivalent support from other sources.
  • The program is open to applicants in any country.2

Other information

  • There is neither a maximum nor a minimum number of applications we intend to fund; rather, we intend to fund the applications that seem highly promising to us and where we think our funding will make a difference..
  • The scope of this program overlaps substantially with that of the Long-Term Future Fund and Survival and Flourishing. If you are interested in this program, you may want to consider applying to these alternative funding sources as well (although, assuming you don’t face significant time-sensitivity, you may obviously want to save yourself time by applying to your preferred program first and seeing whether you we/they decide to award you a grant before writing and submitting applications to the other programs).
  • In some cases, we may ask outside advisors to 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.
  • We encourage individuals with diverse backgrounds and experiences to apply, especially self-identified women and people of color.
  • We are planning to respond to all applications.
  • We may make changes to this program from time to time. Any such changes will be reflected on this page.

Application process

Applications are due January 21, 2022 at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time. The application form can be found here.

Required application materials:

  • Proposal, no longer than 500 words.
  • Personal statement, no longer than 500 words.
  • Approximate budget, no longer than half a page.
  • CV or resume, no longer than 2 pages.
  • Academic transcript (undergrad and graduate, if applicable).
  • Answers to a few other questions (see application form).
  • We may contact you to request additional information.

In some cases, the assessment may also involve a brief interview, via phone or video teleconference.


We are aware that if you are applying for graduate school or internships, you will typically not know at this point which specific programs will admit you. If you are applying to several different but related programs and are doing so with a similar career trajectory in mind (e.g. different law schools and MPP programs to pursue a career in public policy), please just specify this in your proposal and budget and submit a single application. To the extent that you are applying to several rather different programs with clearly distinct career trajectories in mind (e.g. journalism schools and history PhD programs), please submit separate applications.

Questions? Please contact [email protected].

  • 1. By “improving the long-term future”, we specifically mean actions that could positively affect the very long-run trajectory of civilization over the next millions of years or even longer timeframes, as discussed for example by Bostrom (2013), Beckstead (2013), and Greaves & MacAskill (2019). One way to affect the long-term future is to mitigate the risk of human extinction (see “The Precipice” for a recent discussion), but there may be other ways to improve the long-run trajectory of civilization (see this post by 80,000 Hours for some potential ideas).
  • 2. However, we may decline to make an award if we are not able to comply with local laws.