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Thank you Elika Somani,  Chris Bakerlee & Tessa Alexanian for the edits & suggestions.

Edit: I have a new email, please reach out at sofya.m.lebedeva@gmail.com 


I frequently get the following questions:

  • Am I a good fit for biosecurity?
  • How do I test my fit for biosecurity?
  • The general idea of working in biosecurity seems exciting but I am hesitant to apply to a full-time position or a 2-month summer program.
  • How do I get involved in a biosecurity project?
  • What if I am not interested in working in a lab, but think biosecurity is important? What should I do?
     

Having talked to a number of people about this I have composed a list of projects that can be completed without the need for a lab (a computer & internet access is required). These should take 10-15 hours total and will allow individuals to test their fit for biosecurity. 

List of projects:

See the next section for details & specific examples of the projects

  1. Conduct & write up a 2-page literature review on any of the following GCBR topics: Infectious Disease Surveillance, UVC, Indoor Air Quality, and PPE. 
  2. Conduct & write up a 2-page literature review of the existing biosecurity policy of any particular country. In particular, it would be helpful to do this with countries that have biosecurity programmes in their country.
  3. Conduct & write up a 2-page survey of the biggest supply chain shocks in the last 100 years, and what can we learn from them for GCBR resilience?
  4. Conduct a 2-page distillation of one of the biosecurity articles from this list. 
  5. Conduct a 2-page review of the labs in your university/local area that are working on biosecurity research. 
  6. Conduct a 2-page review of the history, current status, and potential future applications to global biological weapon nonproliferation/disarmament of one article on the biological weapons convention.

More in-depth information about each project:

  1. Conduct & write up a 2-page literature review on any of the following topics:
    1. Infectious Disease Surveillance
    2. Far UVC & Indoor Air Quality
    3. Next-generation vaccines & antivirals
    4. PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). An example of a speedrun
    5. Supply chains & global coordination of any of the above. Particularly focused on identifying issues with existing policy, suggestions, and details around implementing policy (ex. Not just what should a policy cover broadly, but how would you write a policy)
  2. Conduct & write up a 2-page literature review of the existing biosecurity policy of any particular country. 
    1. Policy and governance over dual-use research of concern (DURC) or any element of biosafety and biosecurity (ex. DNA synthesis, enhanced potential pandemic pathogens)
    2. DURC, ePPP, gain-of-function, and lab-based biosafety and biosecurity 
    3. Emerging Technologies and synthetic biology risks and Oversight 
    4. Import Control
    5. Select Agents
    6. Animal & Plant Risks
    7. DNA synthesis and emerging technologies 
    8. Specific example: review DURC policy in India
    9. Specific example: review strategic countermeasure stockpiling in Brazil
    10. For more examples please look at Global Bio Labs.
    11. For more information go to the country profiles from the GHSI
      1. They are lengthy PDFs but contain a lot of information. 
      2. For example, to find the one for Canada, you would go here and then click "Country Score Justification Summary" and you will get this. 
  3. Conduct & write up a 2-page survey of the biggest supply chain shocks in the last 100 years, and what can we learn from them for GCBR resilience?
  4. Picking one specific shock, examining its effects & evaluating why it was worse than others
  5. Conduct a 2-page distillation of one of the biosecurity articles from this list. 
    1. Your 2-page article should be accessible to a wide audience and should be able to be understood by someone with little background knowledge about biology
    2. Write a summary a book summary of the Dead Hand
    3. Write a book summary of Biosecurity Dilemmas
  6. Conduct a 2-page review of the labs in your university/local area that are working on biosecurity research. 
    1. This should be a general summary of the key individuals working in biosecurity around you
  7. Conduct a 2-page review of the history, current status, and potential future applications to global biological weapon nonproliferation/disarmament of one article on the biological weapons convention.
    1. Only pick one article

Guidelines & FAQ for the Projects

  • Who are these projects aimed at & what background do I need to have?
    • Individuals who are interested in transitioning into biosecurity
    • You do not need to have a background in biosecurity to get started, but a working knowledge of some biological or policy processes may help. 
  • How long should I spend working on one of these projects?
  • When & how should I get feedback on this project?
    • Do not spend more than 15 hours on this project before getting feedback on it
    • See the next section for specific instructions
  • What if I start on one of these projects and don’t like it?
    • Use this to test your fit, if you find that you are not engaged or interested in the work feel free to try another project from the list or to switch to another cause area. 

I have finished a project from this list, what do I do next?

  • Spend 15 minutes evaluating if you enjoyed pursuing this type of work by listing the project's pros and cons of the process. Some examples of things to consider are below.
    • Did I find this kind of research interesting?
    • Are there similar questions I would enjoy looking into?
    • Which parts of my project do I feel most confident in? 
    • Which parts do I think I would change my mind on if I took more time to research?
  • If you would want to get further involved send an email to sofya.m.lebedeva@gmail.com with a PDF or Google Doc of your write-up & your CV. If you are interested in pursuing more biosecurity opportunities I will use these short-term projects as a work sample and we can schedule a call together to discuss how to proceed with getting you involved in the field. 

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Sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 6:23 PM

Fantastic post, I would love to see 80k do this for every cause area they recommend. I often found myself recommending similar personal-fit tests for policy work which typically boiled down to variants of:

  • Read the legislation relevant to your field of interest, then come back and tell me what you think.
  • Follow a parliamentary plenary debate and see if you can stay awake, analyze the political positions of people speaking in relation to their party-lines.

The people do the cheap tests most often come back with thoughtful and nuanced takes, which they can later write up and share as a longer test of fit - What comes out is also great signal for potential EA employers that you're informed on the topic and conscientious)

Strong +1 to the idea of following debates or meetings and writing up notes - as a benefit, this seems like a nearly unlimited source of projects and one that is substantively valuable as well.

This was pretty much my goal with this! Thank you for sharing your thoughts. 

This is great! I think that project-based learning is simply a way more effective way to learn about a cause area than going through a reading list (I know you've written about this before). Cold Takes has quite a lot of writing about how just reading stuff is probably not the best way to form a view and robustly retain things.

It's also super generous of you to offer to review people's fit-test projects :)

Thank you so much! I appreciate it :) 

Thanks for writing this up Sofya!

Seconded. Strongly endorse this as a first step for junior people.

Appreciate it, I hope some people engage with it.