The Global Priorities Fellowship

Summary

This philosophy and economics fellowship aims to support promising PhD and master’s students in contributing to global priorities research, with a particular focus on issues that are of relevance to the very long-term flourishing of civilisation. Applications are open to full-time students at any stage of their studies, including those starting their programmes in the autumn of 2019. The application deadline is 27 December 2018. Fellows will receive a stipend of £5,000 (about US $6,500) per year of their fellowship and can attend a yearly fellows’ event in Oxford, United Kingdom. Fellows will also get an exclusive opportunity to apply for full funding of their doctorate or master’s programme.

About Global Priorities Research

Global priorities research is an academic discipline in the intersection of economics, philosophy, math and social sciences. Its aim is to determine how individuals and institutions should spend their limited resources in order to improve the world as much as possible. Global priorities research aims for this deliberation to take the long-term future of humanity into consideration.

For more information on global priorities research, please see our research areas section, or visit the Global Priorities Institute website.

Programme & Application Details

Dates

Application deadline: 27 December 2018

When applicants will hear back: End of January 2019

Fellowship payouts to begin: September 2019

Who can apply?

We accept applications from full-time master’s and PhD students in any year of their studies. This includes applications from those who have applied to start their programme in autumn 2019. We primarily expect to support applicants from the fields of economics and philosophy. Applicants do not have to have prior experience in global priorities research; we encourage applications from candidates newly entering the field. Applications are not restricted by country; we invite students from throughout the world to apply.  We also strongly encourage applications from members of groups underrepresented in academia.

What we offer

  • Money: A stipend of £5,000 (about US $6,500) per year of the fellowship. Fellows start by applying for a year of fellowship, after which there is a simple process by which they can apply for extensions. The fellowship can be extended until the completion of the fellow’s PhD or master’s programme. We encourage fellows to use their stipend for their research expenses (e.g. conference fees or computer equipment).

  • Access to full programme funding: Fellows will have a good chance of receiving full PhD or master’s funding through a separate application process, only available to accepted fellows. Conditional on a successful application, students starting in 2019 will receive this funding from the beginning of their studies.

  • Community: The Forethought Foundation is planning to run a yearly fellows workshop. During this event, fellows will be able to engage with more senior researchers on the topics of their studies, receive mentorship and exchange ideas with their peers. All event costs will be covered by the Forethought Foundation. Additionally, we encourage fellows to communicate throughout the year through online networks.

  • Coaching: Dedicated sessions with a productivity coach. We believe that learning how to be a productive researcher can have a huge influence on one’s output, so we want to encourage fellows to take this opportunity.

What we ask of the fellows

Fellows will have a research focus that aligns with the Forethought Foundation’s mission and goals. We are looking for students interested in helping answer the question of how to do the most good in the world, given our available resources. We also strongly encourage fellows to attend the annual fellows’ meetup to engage with the wider research community. After a completed fellowship, participants will give feedback about their fellowship experience and show how they have used the financial support.

The application process

Application Stages

  • Stage 1 - Submit application materials

    • Application materials will be submitted through this link. Applicants are required to submit the following materials:

      • CV

      • Academic transcript

      • One academic writing sample that best represents your work (between 5,000 and 12,000 words)

      • Names of 2-3 references, at least one of which must be an academic supervisor

      • Short research proposal (500 words). This proposal is not binding, and we expect you may work on other projects in the future

      • Personal statement, describing your motivation for working in global priorities research, and why you are a good fit for the Forethought Foundation (around 500 words)

      • Optional: Links to blogs, websites, etc.

  • Stage 2 - Interviews (20-30 mins)

Research Areas

Below are a few examples of questions we would be excited for candidates to explore in their research. These are listed only to give an idea of the types of areas we are interested in; our interests are in no way limited to the questions below. For more information, you can have a look at the research areas section on our website and the Global Priorities Institute’s Research Agenda, where we outline some of the key open questions in global priorities research.


Economics

Some research we would like to see:

  • Discounting - How would policy recommendations change if we assumed a zero rate of pure time preference? How might a patient agent provide incentives for an impatient government to implement policy consistent with placing a higher valuation on the future? How might an unusually patient government provide incentives for future (possibly impatient) governments to continue to make future-oriented investments?

  • Global catastrophe - How should we evaluate the risk of civilisational collapse, or human extinction? Under what conditions do these risks become the dominant factor in cost-benefit analysis?

  • Trajectory change - As well as via extinction risk mitigation (e.g. preventing nuclear war), we can influence the future via ‘trajectory change’ (e.g. persistent shocks to growth). What are the most promising interventions in this latter category? How does its cost-effectiveness compare to extinction risk mitigation?

  • Very long-term growth - How, concretely, should we adapt (endogenous) growth models to account for the risks and benefits that growth may pose for the long term? How should indices of economic development (such as GDP) be adjusted to incorporate these risks?

  • Long-term beneficial institutions – Certain institutions, such as ‘inclusive’ governments, appear to be associated both with substantial increases in economic growth, across many generations, and with decreases in the probability of events that may be associated with catastrophic risk. How can we estimate the effectiveness of various institution-building efforts on the long term?

Philosophy

  • Concern for the very long-term - Under what moral theories (e.g. of population ethics) is concern for the very long-term future warranted? How does this answer change if we take moral uncertainty into account, and attempt to find a compromise among competing moral views?

  • Human extinction - How bad would human extinction be? How important, relatively, is the resultant loss of future welfare compared to the loss of objective goods like scientific and artistic achievements, and to the intrinsic value of continued human survival?

  • The value of the future - How good or bad, in expectation, is the continuation of the human race? How should we weigh bad outcomes against good outcomes — should we be more concerned about avoiding the worst possible outcomes in the future than we are for ensuring the very best outcomes occur?

  • Moral convergence - Should we expect any ‘sufficiently good’ future civilisation to converge on the correct moral view?  If not, under what conditions would they do so? And would this suggest that broad societal improvements might have greater long-run value than extinction risk mitigation?

  • Decision theory - Is maximising expected value the right decision theory even when it comes to tiny probabilities of enormous amounts of value? If not, how does this affect attempts to ensure the very long run goes well?