Link to apply

 

We, the Center on Long-Term Risk, are looking for researchers to explore strategies for reducing suffering in the long-term future (s-risk). We are currently offering temporary and permanent roles:

  • Summer Research Fellows: For nine weeks, you will be part of our team while working on your own research project. During this time, you will be in regular contact with our researchers and other fellows. One of our researchers will serve as your guide and mentor.
  • Researchers: As a researcher, you will become a permanent member of our team. You will be able to pursue high-impact research questions autonomously and without distractions.

Your contributions to our research program will have a positive impact through their influence on our strategic direction, grantmaking, communications, events, and other activities. You will work autonomously on challenging research questions relevant to reducing suffering. You will become part of our team of intellectually curious, hard-working, and caring people, all of whom share a profound drive to make the biggest difference they can.

We are worried that some people might not apply because they wrongly believe they are not a good fit for working with us. While such a belief is sometimes true, it is often the result of underconfidence rather than an accurate assessment. We would therefore love to see your application even if you are not sure if you are qualified or otherwise competent enough for the positions listed. We explicitly have no minimum requirements in terms of formal qualifications and many of the past summer research fellows have had no or little prior research experience. Being rejected this year will not reduce your chances of being accepted in future hiring rounds. If you have any doubts, please don’t hesitate to reach out (see “Application process” > “Inquiries” below).

 

Roles

Summer Research Fellow

Purpose of the fellowship

The purpose of the fellowship varies from fellow to fellow. In the past, have we often had the following types of people take part in the fellowship:

  • People very early in their careers, e.g. in their undergraduate degree or even high school, who have a strong focus on s-risk and would like to learn more about research and test their fit.
  • People seriously considering changing their career to s-risk research, who want to test their fit or seek employment at CLR.
  • People with a strong focus on s-risk who aim for a research or research-adjacent career outside of CLR and who would like to gain a strong understanding of s-risk macrostrategy beforehand.
  • People with a fair amount of research experience, e.g. from a partly- or fully completed PhD, whose research interests significantly overlap with CLR’s and who want to work on their research project in collaboration with CLR researchers for a few months. This includes people who do not strongly prioritize s-risk themselves.

There might be many other good reasons for completing the fellowship. We encourage you to apply if you think you would benefit from the program, even if your reason is not listed above. In all cases, we will work with you to make the fellowship as valuable as possible given your strengths and needs. In many cases, this will mean focusing on learning and testing your fit for s-risk research, more than seeking to produce immediately valuable research output.

 

Responsibilities

  • Carrying out a research project related to one of our priority areas below or otherwise targeted at reducing s-risks. You will determine this project in collaboration with your supervisor at CLR, who will meet with you every week and provide feedback on your work.
  • Attending team meetings, including giving occasional presentations on the state of your research.

 

What we look for in candidates

We don’t require specific qualifications or experience for this role, but the following abilities and qualities are what we’re looking for in candidates. We encourage you to apply if you think you may be a good fit, even if you are unsure whether you meet some of the criteria.

  • Curiosity and a drive to work on challenging and important problems;
  • Ability to answer complex research questions related to the long-term future;
  • Willingness to work in poorly-explored areas and to learn about new domains as needed;
  • Independent thinking;
  • A cautious approach to potential information hazards and other sensitive topics;
  • Alignment with our mission or strong interest in one of our priority areas.

 

Further details

We encourage you to apply even if any of the below does not work for you. We are happy to be flexible for exceptional candidates, including when it comes to program length and compensation.

  • Number of available positions: We expect to accept five to ten fellows.
  • Program length & work quota: The program is intended to last for nine weeks in a full-time capacity. Exceptions, including part-time work, may be possible. We might decide to offer you a grant, an extended fellowship, a work trial, or a permanent position. Last year, we offered 2 out of 14 fellows a permanent position, 2 fellows a work trial, and 2 fellows a grant.
  • Program dates: We offer two starting dates for summer research fellows: June 06, 2022 & June 20, 2022. Exceptions may be possible.
  • Location: We prefer summer research fellows to work from our London offices, but will also consider applications from people who are unable to relocate.
    • With regard to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we expect the situation in the summer to be such that work from our offices will be possible. If not, we will make arrangements for remote work.
  • Compensation: Summer Research Fellows will receive a salary of £4,000 per month if located in London. Exceptional circumstances may justify a higher salary. We may offer only reduced compensation for remote work. We will cover travel and visa costs for Fellows who need to relocate to London for the Fellowship.
  • Benefits: CLR also offers substantial benefits to all staff – for details see the section about this below.
  • International applicants: We are a registered UK visa sponsor. In most cases, we expect to be able to sponsor temporary visas for successful international applicants who would like to come to the UK for the Fellowship. If you have questions about this, please ask us in the application form or reach out to us beforehand.

 

Researcher

Responsibilities

We will adapt the responsibilities of the role to the strengths and preferences of each successful candidate, but they usually include:

  • Developing and answering research questions to enhance our understanding of s-risk reduction and improve the decision-making of stakeholders in our target audience;
  • Communicating research to relevant academic audiences, the effective altruism community, and the AI safety community (e.g., publications, presentations);
  • Collaborating with researchers at CLR and other relevant organizations, including those from different fields than your own.

Depending on your experience and skill set, we might ask you to supervise junior researchers or research fellows on our team.

Successful applicants will be supervised by either Daniel Kokotajlo or Emery Cooper.

 

What we look for in candidates

We don’t require specific qualifications or experience for this role, but the following abilities and qualities are what we’re looking for in candidates. We recognize that some of these qualities could be hard to test well outside a similar role, and we believe that smart, curious generalists can make substantial contributions, even if they lack formal training in any field related to our focus areas. We therefore encourage you to apply if you think you may be a good fit, even if you are unsure whether you meet several of the criteria.

  • Curiosity and a drive to work on challenging and important problems;
  • Ability to answer complex research questions related to the long-term future;
  • Comfort working in poorly-explored areas and a willingness to learn about new domains as needed;
  • Ability to distill concrete, domain-specific research questions from macrostrategic considerations;
  • Ability to communicate well with relevant target audiences (e.g., academics and audiences in less formal venues like the Alignment Forum);
  • Independent thinking;
  • A cautious approach to potential information hazards and other sensitive topics;
  • Alignment with our mission or strong interest in one of our priority areas,  particularly cause prioritization and macrostrategy related to s-risks and decision theory and formal epistemology; or in AI forecasting — in particular: timelines, takeoff scenarios, likely training schemes and architectures and their relationships to AI values and off-distribution behavior.

Relevant academic education, such as a master’s degree or higher in a related field, can be a useful indicator for some of the above qualities but is not a requirement.

 

Further details

  • Number of available positions: There is no fixed limit on the number of positions.
  • Work quota: This is a full-time position with flexible working hours. We will consider applicants who prefer to work part-time.
  • Contract length: These are permanent positions.
  • Location: We prefer staff to work from our London offices but will also consider applications from people who are unable to relocate.
    • With regard to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we expect the situation in the summer to be such that work from our offices will be possible. If not, we will make arrangements for remote work.
  • Compensation: Permanent staff can determine their own salary within reasonable bounds. A common salary for staff in London is around £60,000 per year. If you would only consider working here for considerably higher compensation, we still encourage you to apply. We want remuneration to (almost) never be a reason to leave CLR or turn down an offer.
  • Benefits: CLR also offers substantial benefits to all staff – for details see the section about this below.
  • International applicants: We are a registered UK visa sponsor. In most cases, we expect to be able to sponsor work visas for successful international applicants who would like to come to the UK. If you have questions about this, please ask us in the application form or reach out to us beforehand.

 

Priority areas

You can find an overview of our current priority areas here. However, If we believe that you can somehow advance high-quality research relevant to s-risks, we are interested in creating a position for you. If you see a way to contribute to our research agenda or have other ideas for reducing s-risks, please apply. We commonly tailor our positions to the strengths and interests of the applicants.

 

Application process

We value your time and are aware that applications can be demanding, so we have thought carefully about making the application process time-efficient and transparent. We plan to make the final decisions between April 10 and April 17. Please submit this form if you require an earlier decision, for example, if you will have to confirm whether you will take part in another summer program.

Stage 1: To start your application for any role, please complete our application form. As part of this form, we also ask you to submit your CV/resume and give you the opportunity to upload an optional research sample. The deadline is Sunday, February 27, 2022 end of day anywhere. We expect this to take around 2 to 3 hours if you are already familiar with our work. In the interest of your time, you do not need to polish the language of your answers in the application form.

Stage 2: By Sunday, March 6, we will decide whether to invite you to the second stage. If you requested an expedited application process, we will also let you know if your request has been granted. We will ask you to write a research proposal (up to two pages excluding references) and two research proposal sketches, to be submitted by Sunday, March 27 end of day anywhere. This means applicants will have 3 weeks to complete this stage, which we expect will take up to 12h of work. Applicants may therefore want to keep some time free during this period to work on this. Applicants will be compensated with £400 for their work on this stage.

  • You can see some example research proposals submitted by previous successful candidates here. Note that we will alter the instructions for the research proposals this year. We will make examples for proposal sketches available before stage 2.

Stage 3: By Sunday, April 3, we will decide whether to invite you to an interview via video call during the week of April 4. By Sunday, April 17, we will

  • send out final decisions to applicants to the Summer Research Fellowship, and
  • decide whether to invite applicants to the Researcher position to a work trial (details to be determined in coordination with each applicant, including if a work trial is not feasible for the applicant.) We might invite some applicants, especially those with little prior experience, to do the Summer Research Fellowship instead of a regular work trial. At this stage, we will also conduct reference checks.

 

Further details

  • Applying for multiple roles: Candidates may apply for multiple roles. If you want to do so, please submit only one application and click the relevant checkboxes in the form for each role for which you’re applying.
  • Application base rates: Last year, we received 64 applications for the researcher position. We ended up making one offer and might still decide to make two more offers. In all cases, they had also applied for the summer research fellowship, and we only made a decision after they had completed that program. Last year, we received 79 applications for the summer research fellowship. We made thirteen offers.
  • In 2020, we received 48 applications for the researcher position. We ended up making three offers. In two of those cases, they had also applied for the summer research fellowship, and we only made an offer after they had started in that program. That year, we received 67 applications for the summer research fellowship. We made eleven offers.
  • We expect to receive more applications this year without having significantly more capacity.
  • Diversity and equal opportunity employment: CLR is an equal opportunity employer, and we value diversity at our organization. We welcome applications from all sections of society and don’t want to discriminate on the basis of race, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, age, marital status, veteran status, social background/class, mental or physical health or disability, or any other basis for unreasonable discrimination, whether legally protected or not. If you would like to discuss any personal needs that may require adjustments to our application process or workplace, please feel very free to contact us.

 

Inquiries

If you have any questions about the process, please contact us at hiring@longtermrisk.org. If you want to send an email not accessible to the hiring committee, please contact Amrit Sidhu-Brar at amrit.sidhu-brar@longtermrisk.org.

We will also host two open video calls for any questions about this hiring round or working at CLR more generally. Sign up here to receive an invitation to the video call. They will take place at the following times:

  • Thursday, February 17, 17:00-18:00 GMT
  • Monday, February 21, 10:00 - 11:00 GMT

 

Benefits

In addition to their salary, CLR offers the following benefits to all staff (including Summer Research Fellows):

  • 25 days’ paid vacation per year, plus public holidays. (For temporary staff, this is reduced proportional to the length of your employment.)
  • A budget of £4000 per year to spend on your professional development and productivity. For the Summer Research Fellow role, this is decreased to £2000 per year.
  • Lunch available at the office every day.
  • Flexible working hours.
  • 20 weeks of paid leave for permanent employees who become new parents, and consideration of childcare costs in setting permanent employees’ salaries.
  • For permanent employees working from the US, we also cover full health care and dental costs.

 

Why work at CLR

We aim to combine the best aspects of academic research (depth, scholarship, mentorship) with an altruistic mission to prevent negative future scenarios. So we leave out the less productive features of academia, such as precarious employment and publish-or-perish incentives, while adding a focus on impact and application.

As part of our team, you will enjoy:

  • a role tailored to your qualifications and strengths with ample intellectual freedom;
  • working towards a shared goal with dedicated and caring people;
  • an interdisciplinary research environment, with friendly and intellectually curious colleagues who will hold you to high standards and support you in your intellectual development;
  • mentorship in longtermist macrostrategy, especially from the perspective of preventing s-risks;
  • the support of a well-funded and well-networked longtermist EA organization with substantial operational assistance instead of administrative burdens.

You will advance neglected research to reduce the most severe risks to our civilization in the long-term future. Depending on your specific project, your work will help inform our activities across any of the following paths to impact:

  • Grantmaking: In addition to the CLR Fund, we are making grant recommendations to the Center for Emerging Risk Research (CERR), a new foundation committed to using all of their funds (over $100 million) to support high-impact work to reduce s-risks.
  • Technical interventions: We aim to develop and communicate insights about the safe development of artificial intelligence to the relevant stakeholders (e.g. AI developers, key organizations in the longtermist effective altruism community).
  • Governance interventions: We aim to develop and help implement appropriate governance structures for the safe development of artificial intelligence.

New projects: In collaboration with people in our network, we are always looking for novel impactful organizations to set up. For instance, we have been involved in the founding of the Cooperative AI Foundation and the Foundations of Cooperative AI Lab. Previously, we established Wild Animal Suffering Research, which later merged with Utility Farm to become the Wild Animal Initiative, a now independent organization.

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Some data that I didn't formally write up and put in the post (mostly for time reasons) on how past fellows evaluated the fellowship:

 

2021

10 out of 14 fellows filled in the fellowship feedback survey:

  • 10 of 10 respondents answered "Are you glad that you participated in the fellowship" with 5/5 ("hell yeah")
  • 9 of 10 respondents answered "If the same program happened next year, would you recommend a friend (with similar background to you before the fellowship) to apply?" with 10/10 ("strongly yes).
    • 1 of 10 fellows rated the question with 9/10.
  • 4 of 10 respondents answered "To what extent was the fellowship a good use of your time compared to what you would otherwise have been doing" with "notably more valuable (3-10x the counterfactual)"
    • 3 of 10 respondents answered "To what extent was the fellowship a good use of your time compared to what you would otherwise have been doing" with "Much more valuable (10-30x the counterfactual)"
    • 1 of 10 respondents answered "To what extent was the fellowship a good use of your time compared to what you would otherwise have been doing" with "Far more valuable (>30x the counterfactual)"
    • 1 of 10 respondents answered "To what extent was the fellowship a good use of your time compared to what you would otherwise have been doing" with "Somewhat more valuable (1-3x the counterfactual)"
    • 1 of 10 respondents did not answer the question

It's possible that the respondents were anchored by the possible options for the last question: There was one option "about as valuable" and 4 options each in the directions more and less valuable. The lowest respondents could go was "not at all valuable (<10% of counterfactual)"

The survey was not anonymous (although the name field was optional and one respondent chose not to enter their name) and several of the respondents were either in employment, on a grant, or on a trial with us at the time of responding.

 

2020

7 out of 9 fellows filled in the fellowship feedback survey:

  • 6 of 7 respondents answered "Are you glad that you participated in the fellowship" with 5/5 ("hell yeah")
    • 1 of 7 respondents did not answer this question
  • 3 of 7 respondents answered "To what extent was the fellowship a good use of your time compared to what you would otherwise have been doing" with "Much more valuable (10-30x the counterfactual)"
    • 3 of 7 respondents answered  "To what extent was the fellowship a good use of your time compared to what you would otherwise have been doing" with "notably more valuable (3-10x the counterfactual)"
    • 1 of 7 respondents answered "To what extent was the fellowship a good use of your time compared to what you would otherwise have been doing" with "much more valuable (>30x the counterfactual)"
  • We did not ask the question of whether they would recommend the program to someone similar to them this year.

The survey was anonymous in 2020. Several of the respondents were either in employment, on a grant, or on a trial with us at the time of responding.

Do you plan on holding any other S-Risk Intro Fellowships anytime soon? If so, when might they take place? It looks like you're holding one throughout this month, but the deadline for this upcoming fellowship has passed. If you plan on holding intro fellowships in the future, what would you say are the most important articles/videos/books to read/watch in order to prepare for it?

Thanks for the question! It's unclear whether we'll run an S-Risk Intro Fellowship in this precise format again. We are fairly likely to run intro events with similar content in the future though. I think this will most likely happen on an annual or semi-annual basis.

Hey! I wonder how flexible the starting date is. My semester ends mid-July, so I couldn't start before. This is probably the case for most students from Germany. Is that too late?

Thanks for asking! We would definitely consider later starts if people aren't available earlier and I would be surprised if we rejected a strong candidate just on the basis that they are only available a month later. There's some chance we would shorten the default fellowship length (not necessarily by the same number of weeks that they would start later) for them, though but we would discuss this with them first. I think if they would only accept the fellowship if it starts later and is the original 9 weeks long, this would increase the threshold for accepting them somewhat, but again, I would be surprised if we rejected a very strong candidate just on the basis. (I think it would only matter for edge cases.) It also depends a bit on what other applications we get: E.g. if we get many strong applications for Germans who can only start later, we would probably be much more happy to accommodate all of them.