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AThank you to the following people for reviewing: @Lin BL @Tessa @Max Görlitz @Gregory Lewis @James Smith, Sandy Hickson & @Alix Pham   


  • Getting a full-time role in biosecurity is hard
  • Seeing a path to get there can be even harder
  • I propose a model to think about on-ramps into biosecurity & provide a few use cases for it depending on the background you are coming in with. 
  • I provide an overview of how different organisations in this space fit into the model. 
  • If you are an undergrad check the "I'm new to Biosecurity, where do I start?".  

A common problem

When I first heard about biosecurity I was excited by the 80,000 hours podcast and impressed by the work of Kevin Esvelt, RAND and NTI. Even though I was studying molecular biology, a seemingly relevant subject I couldn’t see a way for me to get involved and to find a full-time role in this field. The gap between hearing about biosecurity and working full-time in biosecurity felt huge.

Figure 1: The gap between hearing about biosecurity and working full-time in the field. 

A proposed on-ramp model 

Through my experiences with reading groups, UC Berkeley EA, SERI BITS and now the Oxford Biosecurity Group I have found that working on short, object-level, scalable projects fills this gap. And since I get questions of how to fill the gap from others new to the field I made a model to explain my thoughts. 

Figure 2: Proposed model for On-Ramps into Biosecurity. 

Using the model

Below I outline some touch points that people have with various organisations in the biosecurity space. It’s important to note that this model is not always linear. It’s important to question your assumptions at every stage and the “stages” themselves can be more fluid. 

Hear about it (0 - 10 hours)

This stage can be passive or active depending on your timeline. Note that a lot of the 'hear about it' resources can also be 'learn about it' resources if they are used for more in-depth research at a later stage. 

  1. 80,000 Hours
  2. EA Forum (hehe)
  3. GCBR Organization Updates Newsletter
  4. Biosecurity newsletters you should subscribe to
  5. University Groups
  6. Your local EA Group

Learn about it (10 - 40 hours)

This stage usually takes around 1-2 months and is more passive. 

  1. List of Short-Term (<15 hours) Biosecurity Projects to Test Your Fit
  2. Reading groups at your university
  3. Reading groups at your local EA Group
  4. Find peers (at a similar career stage to you and you can exchange ideas with) 
  5. Find mentors (who can help you deliberate between next steps in your career)
  6. Find experts (who can help you deliberate on technical differences between projects and provide insights into specific sub-fields) 
  7. Taking to relevant people in the field, building a network
  8. BlueDot Impact Biosecurity Fundamentals
  9. Emerging Tech Policy Careers 
  10. Effective Thesis research questions Airtable

Project Work (40 - 100 hours)

This stage usually takes around 2-3 months and is more active. You are encouraged to continue building out your network of peers, mentors and experts and possibly to form your working group to think about these concepts. However my suggestion would be to do project work as a part of some formal group/institution if possible, to make sure that you work on something valuable. 

  1. Biosecurity Working Groups
    1. Oxford Biosecurity Group 
    2. Wisconsin Biosecurity Initiative 
    3. Cambridge Biosecurity Group (contact: Sandy Hickson) 
    4. Nordic Biosecurity Group (contact: Johan Täng) 
  2. Next Generation for Biosecurity Competition
  3. BlueDot Impact Biosecurity Fundamentals (second part of the course)
  4. Mentorship Programs
    1. Magnify Mentoring
    2. IFBA Global Mentorship Program
    3. UNODA Biosecurity Diplomacy Workshops
  5. Short-term, full-time fellowships 
    1. Stanford Existential Risks Initiative (SERI)
    2. Existential Risk Alliance (ERA) Cambridge Fellowship
    3. Swiss Existential Risk Initiative (CHERI)

Full-Time Work (100 hours +)

  1. A more extensive list of organisations has been compiled below
    1. Map of the biosecurity landscape (list of GCBR-relevant orgs for newcomers)
    2. Early Career Positions for Building Biosecurity-Relevant Skills
  2. Career Development Funding from Open Philanthropy 
  3. A Ph.D. in a relevant field, if you are excited by research
  4. Working in government where a lot of the most impactful biosecurity work is done. 
  5. Emerging Leaders in Biosecurity Fellowship (for people later in their careers)

Limitations of the model

  • The path is not linear 
    • You can go back and forth between the stages. You can skip a stage. 
  • There are other ways to get into biosecurity
    • There are other paths to working on biosecurity, like working in an adjacent field and then pivoting. This could sometimes put you in a stronger position to work in biosecurity, though this might take longer.
  • This model skips out on critical thinking (Tessa’s alternative model below)
    • Hear about it
    • Learning to decide whether you're interested
    • Starting to generate your own ideas/opinions
    • Starting to contribute
    • Making contributions in a more defined area

I’m new to Biosecurity, where do I start?

A step-by-step guide:

  1. Identify where in the diagram you are (see below for example case studies)
  2. Have a look at the Map of Biosecurity Interventions and the Map of the biosecurity landscape
  3. Pick 3-5 key areas that you are interested in
  4. Pick 3-5 key skills you are interested in developing
  5. Now identify learning or work opportunities to test out 3&4 
Figure 3: Short-form version of the proposed model for On-Ramps into Biosecurity.

Below I include use cases of this model with a few example backgrounds. These are just examples and if you feel ready for full-time work but have less experience than I have specified, please do not be dissuaded. 

Case Studies

  1. High school student
  2. Undergraduate with no specific background
  3. Undergraduate STEM background
  4. Masters policy student
  5. Engineer with 3+ years of experience
Figure 4: Where to start if you are a high school student. 
Figure 5: Where to start if you are an undergraduate student with no specific background (e.g. first two years) or if you think your background doesn’t apply as much (e.g. classics course).


Figure 6: Where to start if you are an undergraduate student with a specific background (e.g. chemistry, biology, engineering, computer science, public policy) or if you have some specific experience. You could try working in a lab or doing a project and completing a reading group or a project in parallel to your education. 
Figure 7: Where to start if you are a master policy student. You could try one of the writing projects from the short-term projects list, or take part in a policy-related project at a Biosecurity Working Group. After this, you can try one of the longer-term and more involved policy fellowships.
Figure 8: Where to start if you are an engineer with 3+ years of experience. If you have extensive experience in a particular area then you might not need to complete extra readings or side projects and can just learn on the job.


What’s next?

I hope that Alix Pham and I will build a V1 of a website similar to aisafety.world but for biosecurity in Q1 of 2024. This will combine Max’s overview of biosecurity organisations and also act as a way for new people in the field to get better oriented and to find the next step for them. We hope that it will be legible and easy to navigate. If you want to be involved please reach out at sofya.m.lebedeva@gmail.com





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Awesome work, thanks! And this model resonates with my experience getting more involved with bio over the last few years.

Wonderful to hear that!

Thanks a lot for writing this up, it'll be useful in my work for planning projects to help people get into the field :) 
Could you point me to the alternative model that you mentioned in the limitations?

Hi! @Tessa might have time to write up the alternative model. I don't want to put pressure on them to do so. However, the only thing I can share is: 

  • Hear about it
  • Learning to decide whether you're interested
  • Starting to generate your own ideas/opinions
  • Starting to contribute
  • Making contributions in a more defined area

Thank you! :) 

Thank you for writing this!  As someone interested in exploring opportunities in biosecurity, I found it very helpful.

I appreciate your feedback! Glad you found it helpful.

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