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.

Submit your stage 1 application here before January 1, 2021, at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time. (For details about the different application stages, see below.)

We will review applications and make decisions on a rolling basis, so we encourage early applications.

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. For this reason, we have previously run programs to support early-career individuals working on AI research, AI policy, and global catastrophic biological risks, and are hoping to continue running iterations of these programs in coming years.
  • 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).

How this program relates to previous/existing Open Philanthropy programs

  • Since the launch of the next iteration of our program for AI Policy career support is likely going to be delayed until Spring 2021, those who would otherwise have applied to that program but who are looking to secure funding at an earlier date are invited to apply to this program instead.
  • If you meet the application criteria for our AI Fellowship - i.e. you are a prospective or current PhD student in artificial intelligence or machine learning - and are also strongly motivated by the goal of improving the long-term future, we recommend that you apply both to this program and to the AI Fellowship.
  • 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.

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 will be 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.
  • This program aims to complement our existing program for individuals looking to pursue careers related to global catastrophic biological risks. If your application meets the relevant funding criteria, please apply to that program instead.
  • 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. This is the first time that we are running this program and we are therefore quite uncertain how many scholarships we will end up awarding, but we would be surprised if we ended up funding fewer than 3 or more than 30 applications.
  • We will review applications and make decisions on a rolling basis. Candidates who require a decision by a significantly earlier date than the acceptance deadline for US graduate schools (i.e. mid-April) should specify this in their applications and we may be able to expedite the decision process. Especially in such cases, we recommend that candidates apply as early as possible.
  • We are planning to respond to all applications.
  • Funding for upcoming graduate programs will begin when the program begins.
  • 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 may make changes to this program from time to time. Any such changes will be reflected on this page.
  • We encourage individuals with diverse backgrounds and experiences to apply, especially self-identified women and people of color.

Application process

The application process has two or three stages, depending on the amount of funding for which candidates are applying.

We have deliberately designed stage 1 (see below) to require little effort on the applicant’s part, so if you are unsure whether or not your proposed career capital-building activity is the sort of thing we would in principle consider funding, we’d still encourage you to submit an application.

We plan to process stage 1 applications quickly, and will typically aim to get back to you about whether we are inviting you to stage 2 within 10 working days.

Stage 1 applications are due January 1, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time. The application form can be found here.

Required application materials for stage 1:

  • A proposal sketch, no longer than 300 words. This should briefly describe the proposed career capital-building activity for which you are seeking funding, what type(s) of career track(s) your proposed activity would help you pursue, and how this/these career track(s) would allow you to do work that helps improve the long-term future.
  • A CV or resume, no longer than two pages.
  • Answers to a few other questions (see application form).

Stage 2 applications will be due January 22, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time. The corresponding application form will be sent to you if we invite you to stage 2.

For context, the following materials will be required at stage 2:

  • A proposal, no longer than 800 words.
  • A personal statement, no longer than 500 words.
  • An approximate budget, no longer than half a page.
  • Academic transcript (undergrad and graduate, if applicable).
  • We may contact you to request additional information.

Stage 3 (for candidates applying for more than $20,000 of funding only) consists of 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 sketch, 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.

If you are a prospective applicant and have questions about this program, please contact longtermfuturescholarship@openphilanthropy.org.

  • 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.