Job Opportunity: Life Sciences Associate, Open Philanthropy Project

Kate Stuart
June 5, 2015

The Open Philanthropy Project is looking for Life Sciences Associates to help us explore a wide range of possible approaches to funding life sciences research. These possible approaches include funding work on neglected diseases and conditions, supporting breakthrough fundamental science, and working to improve science policy and infrastructure.

We are looking for someone who can commit at least 20 hours per week on average, and are open to both full-time and part-time hires.

 

About the Open Philanthropy Project

The Open Philanthropy Project is a collaboration between Good Ventures and GiveWell in which we identify outstanding giving opportunities, make grants, follow the results, and publish our findings.

Good Ventures is a philanthropic foundation whose mission is to help humanity thrive. Good Ventures was created by Dustin Moskovitz (co-founder of Facebook and Asana) and Cari Tuna, who have pledged to give the majority of their wealth to charity. GiveWell is a nonprofit that finds outstanding giving opportunities and publishes the full details of its analysis to help donors decide where to give.

 

Supporting scientific research

Our goal is to accomplish as much good as possible with the resources we have. We believe that innovation has been, and will continue to be, one of the major contributors to improvements in human well-being, and we hope to play a part in accelerating it.

Our interests are not limited to any particular field, disease, biological condition, or population. We seek to broadly consider and identify the approaches that are most (a) promising and (b) under-invested in by other funders. We hope to find opportunities that are potentially transformative, and appear after substantial scrutiny (by world-class scientists) to represent intelligent (if sometimes risky) philanthropic investments. We are committed to identifying the most promising science, regardless of how unconventional it may be.

We're currently in an exploratory phase with regard to scientific research, and we are seeking Life Sciences Associates to help us evaluate different possible approaches in this space. Preliminarily, early interests include:

  • Supporting research toward goals that are undervalued by the biggest government and commercial funders. For example, research targeting diseases and conditions of the global poor; pursuing the possibility of in vitro meat in order to reduce abuse of animals; developing biological interventions that enhance people’s abilities rather than simply counteract diseases. More at http://blog.givewell.org/2015/03/26/investigating-neglected-goals-in-sci...
  • Supporting attempts at "breakthrough fundamental science": research that achieves important, broadly applicable insights about biological processes, such that the insights bring on many new promising directions for research, even if it is difficult to anticipate all the specific ways in which they will be applied and thus difficult to be assured of “results” in the sense of new clinical applications. More at http://blog.givewell.org/2015/04/14/breakthrough-fundamental-science/
  • Supporting attempts to change the culture, policy and infrastructure around scientific research, in order to improve scientists' abilities to pursue breakthroughs. More at http://blog.givewell.org/2015/04/21/science-policy-and-infrastructure/

However, these are only preliminary interests, and we are very open to revising them or pursuing other approaches instead. 


 

The role

Life Sciences Associates will initially focus on helping to investigate possible scientific focus areas. Such focus areas could range from "R&D focusing on improving malaria control and treatment options" to "Development of better tools and techniques for fundamental neuroscience." For any given investigation, Life Sciences Associates will review and summarize relevant literature, talk to key people in the field, communicate with other staff at the Open Philanthropy Project, in order to get a basic sense for questions such as:

  • How much good could we accomplish via more scientific progress in this area?
  • What are the most promising scientific paths forward? Which of these are not getting enough attention at the moment?
  • How might a funder accelerate progress? Possibilities could include policy work, provision of public goods, etc. as well as directly supporting research.

Life Sciences Associates will not be experts in the fields they investigate. They will be generalists with the ability to get up to speed quickly and provide a basic picture for a number of different fields.

Over time, Life Sciences Associates will likely lead deeper investigations of the most promising areas, and help to build staff capacity and/or run grantmaking processes for the focus areas we ultimately select. This could include helping with grantmaking to improve science policy and infrastructure. We are a small and dynamic organization; responsibilities will be fluid, and Life Sciences Associates will be encouraged to engage with our work outside of life sciences research as well.

This job is located in San Francisco. We will offer competitive compensation, commensurate with experience.

 

Required Skills and Experience

●      Ph.D. completed or in progress in a life sciences field.

●      Strong analytical and quantitative skills.

●      Ability to get up to speed quickly on unfamiliar fields in life sciences.

●      Strong interpersonal and communication skills.

●      Full-time or 20+ hours per week commitment.

●      We are open to a wide range of different profiles in terms of career stage.

 

Personal Characteristics We Look For

●      Alignment with the Open Philanthropy Project’s core values of openness and impact maximization.

●      Excitement about working for a relatively new organization whose processes are under development and subject to change.

●      Strong self-direction coupled with eagerness for discussion and feedback.

●      Directness and openness in giving and receiving feedback.

●      Comfort with intense discussion and debate, including challenging one’s manager.

●      Quantitative mindset and comfort thinking in terms of expected value.

 

To apply

Please send resume and cover letter to lifesciencesassociate@openphilanthropy.org.