669Joined May 2021


Another update: We have recently removed the deadline and applications are now open until further notice.

Update: We (Open Phil) have decided to extend the deadline for this program until June 1st 2022 (from January 21st originally).

We’re currently reviewing our plans for this program and there is some possibility that we’ll eventually switch to a model on which we continue accepting applications indefinitely/until further notice, rather than opening and closing the program for applications at particular times each year. (We’re already evaluating applications on a rolling basis, but are requiring candidates to apply by the abovementioned deadline.)

Posting this comment as a reminder that applications for this year's round of this program will close on January 21st 2022.

We recently re-opened the biosecurity scholarship program for applications (deadline: January 1st 2022) - see here.

See this section of the program page linked in the post: 

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. Our plans for that program are currently somewhat in flux, but we expect to start accepting applications sometime in the fall of 2021.

The main reason has to do with capacity/turnaround times. Our experience is that a lot of candidates apply very close to the deadline, and prospective grad students typically have to accept their offers in mid-April, so if we had set our deadline in, say, mid-March instead, this would have given us only c.4 weeks to process these applications (which as it happens is already going to be a busy period for the relevant team members for other reasons). The earlier deadline gives us more wiggle room, although it does come at the cost you highlight. Candidates who don’t apply in time for our deadline and find out in February/March that they’ll require funding may want to consider applying to the Long-Term Future Fund.

We did consider asking for less detailed information in the financial information section for the exact reason you point out, but we ultimately felt that the current approach struck the best balance between a number of countervailing considerations. (For example, having to ask all of the most promising candidates to provide additional information at a second stage would have added to turnaround times, which would in turn have required us to set earlier application deadlines.)

Note that the financial section of our application form already requires applicants to provide meaningfully less granular information than the CSS/FAFSA forms and most of the university-specific financial aid forms I have seen, so I’m hoping that this won’t be too onerous on candidates.

Thanks - I’ve now added something along those lines to the description.

I think something along those lines could be pretty promising. I’m not sure it’d be the best fit for Open Phil in particular (given that we generally focus on somewhat larger-scale types of grantmaking), but I know of some other folks active in this space who have expressed an interest in this idea/closely related ideas.

Another thing which I think could potentially be really valuable would be for someone to pull together in one place the most important information regarding the practicalities of applying to these and other universities as an international student (including e.g. information about how likely one is to get admitted to such-and-such a university with such-and-such an academic background, which was mentioned in another comment). My sense from skimming some of the existing resources is that they often aren’t great, although I haven’t tried very hard to look for better ones and it’s possible that something like what I have in mind here already exists - in which case just sharing a pointer to this could be equally valuable.

The main reason is simply that it so happens that most of the very top universities are based either in the UK or the US. (The fact that ETH Zurich is the only non-UK/US university that is in the top-20 on both the QS and Times Higher Education rankings partly reflects this, although my sense is that these rankings have some pretty serious limitations and should be taken with a major pinch of salt.) I also think there are additional benefits associated with attending university in the UK/US, including in terms of opening up career opportunities in the English-speaking world.

I agree that ETH has some things going for it and including it might well have been a reasonable choice, although my impression is that its teaching language at the undergraduate level is German, which means that it’s not really a relevant option for the vast majority of potential applicants.

In general, the decisions about which universities to include involved a number of debatable judgement calls, so I think there is a decent amount of room for reasonable disagreement on this topic.

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