The Global Priorities Project is seeking expressions of interest from exceptional candidates to expand the research team. Start dates would likely be in 2015, subject to negotiation and the outcome of ongoing fundraising efforts.
What does the Global Priorities Project research?
Our aim is to develop practical tools to better compare the effectiveness of different interventions for improving global welfare in the long-run. These will build on existing prioritisation tools such as cost-effectiveness analysis. The intended audience is government aid agencies, major foundations, policy-advice organisations, and international organisations.
We’ve identified a number of issues with existing techniques such as cost-benefit analysis and cost-effectiveness analysis, including:
- The costs and benefits due to changes in population are ignored, despite the fact that many interventions alter population size. More generally externalities are often ignored if they are harder to measure.
- Low probability risks are often ignored or underweighted, especially if arising from new sources, despite their potentially extreme importance.
- When the risk of extinction is considered, only the loss of the current generation is covered. The loss of all future generations is ignored. This leads to underinvestment in these risks.
- When benefits or costs are hard to quantify, existing methods are often not applied, or ignore important terms. For instance, investment in research is rarely compared to the counterfactual in which someone else makes the investment at a later date, leading to an overestimate of the benefits of investment in non-neglected areas.
These problems are often overlooked by economists because they involve ethical issues or are otherwise interdisciplinary, and because the problems lie in translating theoretical results into practical frameworks. This creates an opportunity for a group with a wide interdisciplinary background.
At the theoretical end, we envisage projects such as the following:
- Build a framework which allows a principled comparison between a chance of extinction and other societal goods, building on the idea of the ‘Value of Statistical Life’.
- Create a framework for aggregating subjective estimates of unprecedented and low-probability risks.
We will also work to apply these frameworks to concrete decision problems, and seek engagement with the intended audience and broader communities (including the prioritisation research community and the effective altruism movement).
Who would be suited to this job?
Ideal candidates would:
- Be self-motivating with a genuine interest in improving the world, and be open-minded about how we can best do that.
- Have a PhD or other research experience. Experience in both independent and collaborative research would be ideal.
- Have some knowledge of economics. Knowledge of existing research in cause prioritisation, of policy work, of philosophy, or of statistics would also be useful.
- Have good writing skills for academic papers, popular audiences, or both.
If you would like to register your interest, we would love to hear from you. The application form is here.
If you are only applying for this role, it is sufficient to send us your CV and write 150-300 words on why you would be suitable in response to “Please explain how your previous experience will help you perform the role(s) you are applying for.” As ongoing fundraising progresses, we will launch a second phase of the applications process allowing promising candidates to provide a full application. We will be in touch with all applicants to let them know the state of their application by the end of January 2015.
Ultimately, candidates will be judged on criteria such as:
- GMA (General Mental Ability)
- Social skills and network
- Robust positive self-motivation
- Having an effective altruist mindset
- Focus on effectiveness
- Writing and verbal skills
- Relevant experience and skills.