Comment author: lukeprog 23 May 2018 09:01:43PM 1 point [-]

Somebody asked the following question:

I understand that OP’s preference is to have promising candidates attend an in-person work trial rather than do an additional remote work test; would this preference still stand if the candidate in question has to obtain a US work visa sponsorship in order to attend the in-person trial?

Our reply is: Yes, that preference stands regardless of current work authorization status, though of course in some cases there won't be any way for us to help an applicant get US work authorization, depending on their situation.

Comment author: Xavier_ORourke 11 May 2018 09:59:14AM 2 points [-]

Thanks Holden and Luke for answering so many questions <3

Thinking in terms of broad generalisations/approximations - if you had to draw a graph depicting the value provided to OP by a new research analyst over time, what kind of shape would this graph have?

Or to ask the question in a different way: Are your efforts to hire for new OP roles motivated more by a desire to make better grants in the next couple of years, or by an intention to have a strong team in place several years from now which does high quality work in the future?

Comment author: lukeprog 11 May 2018 09:11:10PM 2 points [-]

Responding to your second formulation of the question, the answer is "more the latter than the former." We intend to invest heavily in training and mentoring new hires, and we hope that research analysts will end up being long-term core contributors at Open Phil — as research analysts, as grant investigators, and as high-level managers, among other roles — or, in some cases, in important roles that require similar skills outside Open Phil.

Comment author: rjmk 02 May 2018 08:44:12PM 1 point [-]

Thanks for the response. I understand OPP doesn't control the visa process, but do you have a rough sense of how likely a successful applicant would be to get a visa after being sponsored, or is it a complete unknown?

Comment author: lukeprog 02 May 2018 10:43:33PM 0 points [-]

Unfortunately the likelihood is still pretty unclear to us at this point, and the available options vary a fair bit by applicant, depending on which country they're from, whether they recently graduated from undergrad or graduate school, and other factors.

Comment author: markm 02 May 2018 01:34:56PM *  1 point [-]

1a. Has Open Phil set any aggressive org-wide goals or timelines for 2018?
1b. The published plan for 2018 says that OPP expects to give "well over $100 million" [1]. What is this expectation based on? Or is it a goal?

2a. Other than current funders, who considers the research coming from Open Phil RAs to be reputable, credible and useful? (ie. government?)
2b. Does it matter that RAs aren't PhDs or that Open Phil isn't directly affiliated with any educational institution?


Comment author: lukeprog 02 May 2018 10:43:15PM *  1 point [-]

Quick replies to each:

1a. Our goals for 2018 are laid out in the post you linked to.

1b. The expectation is based mostly on the fact that we gave well over $100 million last year, and we're devoting similar time and effort to grantmaking in 2018.

2a. Open Phil is still a fairly new organization, and I don't think many know much about us yet. Probably we are best known in the effective altruism community, where we seem to have a strong reputation.

2b. Does it matter for our reputation, do you mean? I'm not sure. I'm not aware of us having received critiques about that.

Comment author: rileyharris 25 April 2018 05:28:05AM *  0 points [-]
  • If someone was looking to work for OPP would an honours* or masters program be more beneficial than an undergraduate degree?

  • Are there particular questions or areas that could be worked on for a research project in honours/masters that are particularly helpful directly or develop the right kinds of skills for OPP? (especially in economics, philosophy or cognitive science)

  • ("Honours" in Australia is a 1 year research/coursework program)

Comment author: lukeprog 26 April 2018 05:08:17AM 0 points [-]

Completion of an honours or masters program provides us with a bit more evidence about an applicant's capabilities than an undergraduate degree does, but both are less informative to us than the applicant's performance on the various work samples that are part of our application process.

Because our roles are so "generalist," there are few domains that are especially relevant, though microeconomics and statistics are two unusually broadly relevant fields. In general, we find that those with a STEM background do especially well at the kind of work we do, but a STEM background is not required. A couple other things that are likely helpful for getting and excelling in an Open Phil research analyst role are calibration training and practice making Fermi estimates.

Comment author: MaxRa 19 April 2018 10:34:30AM 0 points [-]

Is it possible to switch to remote work (in my case in Europe) after working from office in SF e.g. for one year?

Comment author: lukeprog 21 April 2018 02:46:22AM 1 point [-]

Possibly. If a research analyst excels at the job after being hired, and seems likely to continue excel even while remote, we'd certainly consider it.

Comment author: lukeprog 19 April 2018 03:04:58AM *  3 points [-]

Here's a question I received via email, which I'll answer here so others can benefit from the answer.


Would you be able to give examples of how the research has been used for decision making around giving money/grants?


Sure, here are a few examples:

  • Our research on the history of philanthropy helped us decide to be more ambitious: "we are more interested in working on daunting problems over long periods of time after learning about some of philanthropy’s past contributions." This has increased the amount of attention and funding we've spent on daunting challenges that will likely require investment over many years to achieve the impacts we hope for.
  • Our shallow investigations into several different global catastrophic risks enabled us to choose initial priorities in that category. Most importantly, we launched grantmaking focus areas in "biosecurity and pandemic preparedness" and "potential risks from advanced artificial intelligence." Across those two focus areas we've since made more than $80 million in grants.
  • Our research on moral patienthood persuaded us to begin making grants related to fish welfare. Since then, we've made more than $6 million in fish welfare grants.
Comment author: Calvin_Baker 15 April 2018 01:00:23AM 0 points [-]

Is there any room in the application process for applicants to submit samples of original research or academic letters of recommendation?

Thank you!

Comment author: lukeprog 15 April 2018 01:13:08AM 0 points [-]

Yes, you may submit a writing sample by sending it to, as FirstName.LastName.Sample (e.g. John.Smith.Sample.doc or John.Smith.Sample.pdf). If you'd like to submit a letter of recommendation, please include it as a page of your résumé.

Please keep in mind that writing samples and letters of recommendation are entirely optional, so if you don't already have them handy, I don't recommend spending time pulling them together. Our application process puts much more weight on work test performance anyway.

Comment author: KevinWatkinson  (EA Profile) 13 April 2018 06:01:32PM 0 points [-]

How does Open Philanthropy weigh conformity against talent?

Comment author: lukeprog 13 April 2018 09:45:44PM 0 points [-]

What kind of conformity are you asking about? Certainly, some degree of alignment with our mission and values is important to us, and so is talent and "fit" for the work. Our team members are encouraged to focus on optimizing for Open Phil's mission, even when it means pushing back on their manager.

Comment author: Khorton 12 April 2018 11:29:36PM 1 point [-]

What are the stages of the application process? What proportion of applicants do you expect to filter out at each stage?

Comment author: lukeprog 13 April 2018 09:44:31PM 3 points [-]

Because applicants are working through our application process at different speeds, we're still learning what portion of applicants are invited forward at each stage. We are also adjusting the process as we go along. As of today, our application process looks like this:

  1. Initial submission of application + résumé.
  2. 2-question timed test.
  3. A "conversation notes" work test. (compensated via honorarium)
  4. A brief call, to explain the rest of our process and answer the applicant's questions.
  5. An "internal grant write-up" work test. (compensated via honorarium)

To some degree we are still determining next steps after #5, and they depend somewhat on the applicant's availability and preferences, and that's the main thing we discuss with applicants at step #4, on an individual basis.

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