The Herbert Scoville Jr. Peace Fellowship is a prestigious opportunity for early-career bachelor’s or master’s graduates to gain hands-on experience working at a think tank or NGO in Washington, DC, for 6-9 months. Fellows can work on EA-relevant topics such as AI, biosecurity, and nuclear security and gain valuable career capital, including a very welcoming and invested network, relevant skills, and knowledge about policymaking processes and the work of think tanks and NGOs.
Applications open twice a year: Applications for the Fall 2023 fellowship deadline are due January 29th, 2023. The Spring 2024 cohort applications close October 2nd, 2023.
If you are interested in applying for the Scoville Fellowship—including if you are still unsure or plan to apply in future years—we encourage you to fill in this form so that we can support your application and potentially connect you with others who have gone through the program.
Who is eligible?
The Scoville Fellowship is open to early-career bachelor graduates who are either US citizens or non-citizens with work authorization living in the US. The fellowship does not sponsor individuals to obtain work visas (beyond Scoville, see this post for general information on how non-US citizens may work in US policy).
Preference is given to candidates without substantial prior policy or government experience beyond internships in Washington, DC (though some experience with “public-interest activism or advocacy” is positive). The fellowship aims to provide an initial work opportunity for promising entry-level individuals or those seeking a career change who wish to break into the DC policy world.
Generally, applicants are about to complete an undergraduate degree or have graduated within a few years. There are no strict requirements in terms of applicants' backgrounds or college majors, though most fellows have majored in government, history, international studies, or related fields. If you are a STEM major, it could still be worth applying if you have some minimal “peace and security”-related experience (an extracurricular, minor, etc.).
The Scoville experience
When does the fellowship take place?
There are two cohorts each year during the spring and fall semesters. The spring cohort deadline is in October, and the fall cohort deadline is in January.
Fellows have leeway to determine their start and end dates—for example, spring fellows can begin working any time from January 15th to April 1st of that year and decide exactly how long they would like to work, from six to nine months.
What types of work do you do during your placement?
The type of work depends on your host organization. Regardless of the organization, however, you can expect to work in an entry-level Research Assistant/Program Manager role. This work may entail:
- Research: writing literature reviews, developing methods to answer difficult questions quickly, creating datasets, and using research methods such as interviews with experts.
- Writing: writing op-eds, articles, letters to the editor, blog posts, fact sheets, reports, official minutes, and memos to higher leadership. A collection of current and former fellows’ published writings can be found here.
- Presenting: providing briefings to higher leadership, presenting work in public seminars.
- Advocacy: generating awareness of issues, promoting policy positions to relevant stakeholders, educating audiences of various types, and supporting communications strategies.
- Administrative: note taking for meetings, seminars, and interviews, and helping organize travel, seminars, and other events.
- Analysis: fielding Requests for Information from your organization’s higher leadership or outside organizations, analyzing current events to inform an organizational response, and analyzing data.
Each Scoville Fellow writes a blog post about their journey to the fellowship and their work at their host organization. To learn more about the backgrounds and experiences of Fellows, read some of their blog posts here.
Which causes can fellows work on?
Your work at any host organization must relate to one of the five Scoville “Policy Issues” listed below—you could not, for example, decide to carry out your fellowship at Brookings to work on economic or education policy. Additionally, Scoville Fellows can’t directly lobby Congress or write grant proposals.
While the fellowship began with a focus on nuclear arms control, it has since expanded to cover several other EA-related issues. The current list of five issues is:
- Emerging Technology Threats: the development, deployment, and use of drones, artificial intelligence, cyber warfare, satellites and space in a security context.
- Global Health Security: biosecurity and pandemic preparedness.
- Nuclear Nonproliferation and WMD: nuclear nonproliferation and security; prevention of the spread of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons; defense spending and procurement; US interactions with current, de facto, or potential nuclear powers; protection of nuclear and radiological materials.
- Climate and Security Nexus: environmental concerns with security implications; disaster response with military personnel; international tensions arising from the changing Arctic region; regional and ethnic tensions exacerbated by resource competition.
- Peacebuilding and Conflict Resolution: current and potential incursions within or between neighboring countries; conventional weapons and arms trade; cross-border refugee movements; ethnic tensions with security implications; atrocity prevention; building international and regional institutions to resolve conflicts; development and implementation of novel conflict resolutions strategies; counterterrorism and terrorism reduction strategies; supporting international agreements that can lead to peace, prosperity, and sustainability.
Which organizations host Scoville Fellows?
Scoville Fellows can work at >20 participating think tanks and nonprofits in the security and arms control space. Several Scoville host organizations do EA-relevant work, including:
- Federation of American Scientists (FAS) – a small but mighty organization with projects on Science, Technology & Innovation, and National Security. Fellows would have ample opportunity to work on strategic competition, AI, or nuclear security issues.
- Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) – work streams include: Global Biological Policy and Programs, Science & Technological Affairs, Global Nuclear Policy Program, and Nuclear Materials Security.
- Brookings Institution and Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) – large think tanks with AI, biosecurity, and nuclear security programs.
What are the salary and benefits?
Fellows receive a salary of $3,600 per month and basic health insurance compensation, plus travel expenses to Washington, DC. The program also provides $1,000 per fellow for professional development to attend relevant conferences or meetings that could cover travel, accommodation, and registration fees, or to take a language or policy course.
The fellowship does not have an employer-sponsored health insurance plan for fellows. Instead, fellows get an additional $82.50 per pay period to cover the cost of health insurance. This money will be taxed and may net fellows approximately $150 monthly after taxes, depending on deductions. That amount may be used to reimburse your parents for the extra cost of having you covered under their plan if you are under 26 years of age, or you may purchase individual short-term insurance for the duration of your fellowship.
Some lenders may permit Scoville Fellows to defer college loan payments during their fellowship, so check with your lenders.
If the salary and benefits of the fellowship would be insufficient to cover your living costs in DC and present a barrier to your participation, consider applying for a top-up grant from the Long-Term Future Fund, the EA Infrastructure Fund, or Open Philanthropy’s early-career program and biosecurity scholarship.
What do Fellows go on to do after their fellowship? Can you stay at the host organization?
The fellowship and its accompanying salary cannot be extended beyond nine months. Staying at your host organization would separately require securing a permanent position there.
However, the fellowship is highly respected among all partnering organizations, so it increases your chances of getting an interview at any partner organization for any permanent positions that may be open toward the end of your fellowship.
Former fellows commonly work on international peace and security issues with domestic and international NGOs, the federal government, academia, and the media. Former fellows also often attend graduate school in international relations and related disciplines. As Scoville host organizations are generally well connected in the DC policymaking ecosystem, the fellowship provides good references for fellows pursuing any DC-based track after their fellowship. The Scoville Fellowship website has a comprehensive list of fellows’ post-fellowship careers.
What activities besides work are part of the fellowship?
Other activities and benefits associated with Scoville include:
- Network and mentorship: The contact information of board members and former fellows is made available to all Scoville Fellows for professional development and career assistance. Fellows select one board member and one former fellow to act as formal mentors throughout their fellowship to make the most of their experience. Having produced fellows since the late ‘80s, former fellows work at all levels across various organizations both in and out of government, providing a valuable network beyond your host organization colleagues.
- Seminars with policy experts: The Executive Director of the Scoville Fellowship organizes discussions with experts in the peace and security field by asking current and recent fellows who they would like to meet with. These discussions generally last an hour, beginning with the speaker discussing their work and their career path, followed by any questions the fellows and former fellows may wish to ask. Experts often offer their contact information for fellows to follow up, expanding fellows’ networks beyond the fellowship itself.
- Reception, meals, and happy hours: The fellowship hosts an annual reception for all current and former fellows and individuals associated with the fellowship. Recently, this event has taken place online due to COVID-19, but it may eventually resume in person. Additionally, the fellowship president has a meal with the current fellows, and there are occasional happy hours, lunches, and dinners for current and former fellows.
Why you might not want to apply
The Scoville Fellowship is a useful entry-level temporary job for those transitioning from another location to DC or from another field to peace and security issues. You may not want to apply if you are looking for a permanent position or already have a few years of work experience in the fellowship’s “Policy Issues”.
The fellowship does not provide a very competitive salary for DC, so those with higher salary requirements may not want to apply without securing additional income streams (see the salary and benefits section for suggestions).
How the Scoville Fellowship compares with other opportunities
The Scoville Fellowship provides a broader network of high-caliber individuals to tap into than applying directly for think tank jobs. For instance, working directly as a Research Assistant at a host organization would allow regular interaction with your team members. Still, as a Scoville Fellow, you also have access to the board and alumni—who are spread out across all types of organizations and levels of seniority, each with the understanding that anyone in the Scoville network may reach out to them. The experts with which you have discussions as part of the fellowship programming all provide their contact information, and the fellowship director often arranges follow-ups.
Applying to the Scoville Fellowship avoids the regular hiring process by think tanks and NGOs. Whereas the Scoville host organizations may not have any openings for regular positions, they are almost always willing to accept fellows as free labor. Scoville application cycles happen every six months, and you can reapply if initially unsuccessful.
Compared to other policy fellowships like the Open Philanthropy Technology Policy Fellowship (OPTPF), the Scoville Fellowship is truly entry-level, providing an entryway for those with little to no familiarity with the Washington, DC, NGO scene. Judging by the bios of OPTPF fellows, for example, they have more experience than the average Scoville Fellow.
A short appendix lists some other policy fellowships that readers of this post might be interested in.
Becoming a Scoville Fellow
How selective is the Scoville Fellowship
Over the past several years, fewer than 3% of applicants were selected to be Scoville Fellows. In each application cycle, up to around 8-9 applicants may be selected for final interviews out of more than 100 applications, and a maximum of 4-5 are selected to be fellows.
See also the section on What qualities does the Scoville Fellowship look for?
What does the application process involve?
The written application is fairly standard and straightforward, including the following:
- A CV of no more than two pages
- A personal statement of no more than 750 words discussing the candidate’s qualifications, interests, fellowship objectives, and career goals. The essay should address the candidate’s experience and interest in and passion for the area of international peace and security, particularly in public advocacy.
- A policy/opinion essay of no more than 750 words answering the following question: “What is the greatest emerging threat to international peace and security and why?” Applicants should refer to one or more of the Policy Issues the fellowship addresses and recommend solutions to the problem they cite.
- Official transcripts
- Two reference letters (these can be professional and academic references)
Candidates selected for interviews are given the contact information of former fellows who have consented to be contacted. Candidates are free to ask them whatever advice they might need regarding their upcoming interview or about selecting a host organization.
Candidates then participate in a final interview with the fellowship’s Board of Directors. Before the pandemic, finalists were flown out to Washington, DC, for a marathon weekend consisting of the final interview with the board and informational interviews with potential host organizations at their offices. This also included a group dinner the night before the final interview. However, since the COVID-19 pandemic, this entire process has been carried out remotely, and there are currently no plans to return to an in-person format.
Host organization selection
Fellows who successfully pass the interview are then given time to select a host organization, being guaranteed work at one of the available organizations. Fellows can continue discussions with potential host organizations, former fellows, and board members to decide. Organizations are not permitted to host fellows two semesters in a row, so that a few organizations will be unavailable in any given application cycle.
In the rare event that multiple fellows select the same organization as their first choice, the organization will choose which fellow to accept, and the remaining fellow(s) will select a different organization.
What qualities does the Scoville Fellowship look for?
The fellowship is designed to be a pipeline to develop the next generation of leaders in the field of peace and security. It provides a pathway to the Washington, DC, think tank and NGO world for individuals seeking to enter it generally for the first time—preference is given to those without substantial prior public sector or government experience in Washington, DC. However, having internships in DC does not count as “substantial”.
The website highlights “recent graduates” of undergraduate or graduate programs. Still, there is no required time frame in which you must apply after earning a degree (unlike most federal government fellowships). Applicants must have at least a bachelor’s degree by the time they begin the fellowship. Due to the entry-level nature of the work, applicants are often finishing up or already holding a bachelor’s degree.
The fellowship also makes sense for graduate students seeking to pivot from another field into one of the Scoville Policy Issues while relocating to DC. During the past five years (Fall 2017 – Spring 2022), almost 28% of incoming Scoville Fellows (10/36) had a graduate (usually master's) degree or were enrolled in a graduate program when beginning their fellowship.
Applicants ought to be committed to working in peace and security—which they should emphasize in their application—as the fellowship prefers not to invest in individuals who will work in an unrelated sector afterwards.
The board prefers candidates with a demonstrated background in advocacy, preferably in the fellowship’s policy issues. Board members differ in how important this factor is in selecting candidates, and lack of advocacy experience should not deter potential applicants. Other activities making you more attractive as a candidate include conducting research for professors, studying abroad, or being involved with student government, Model United Nations, or activist groups.
The Scoville Fellowship is a great opportunity for early-career bachelor’s or master’s graduates to gain hands-on experience exploring the think tank and NGO world in Washington, DC. Fellows can work on EA-relevant international peace and security issues while gaining valuable career capital for a policy career—including a relevant credential, network, skills, and knowledge.
Appendix: Other US policy fellowships
Are you looking for opportunities to pivot into or accelerate your policy career? If so, check out this database of EA-relevant US policy fellowships. It includes opportunities for people from various backgrounds (STEM, social sciences, etc.) and career levels (undergrad to mid-career). The database allows you to filter by cause area, degree requirements, location, and more.
If you are eligible for the Scoville Fellowship, please also consider these fellowships: