Open Philanthropy is Offering a Remote Fellowship Opportunity: Global Health and Wellbeing Cause Prioritization Team: Apply!

The Global Health and Wellbeing team focuses on scientific research, policy advocacy and global development work aimed at improving lives as much as possible by reducing premature deaths and increasing incomes, particularly for the world’s poorest people.

Application Deadline: 28 January 2024

About the team

Within that broader team, the Cause Prioritization sub-team plays a crucial role, working closely with senior leadership and GHW program officers to conduct research that improves our GHW grantmaking and high-level strategy. The Cause Prioritization team investigates potential new cause areas, recommends new grants, evaluates and prioritizes across causes, contributes to high-level strategy decisions, advances research agendas within causes, and partners with other organizations and philanthropists to advance cost-effective grantmaking. 

Examples of Past Work

To illustrate what these roles involve day-to-day, here are a few recent projects managed by Research and Strategy Fellows on the GHW Cause Prioritization team: 

Possible Scopes

When applying, you’ll have the opportunity to choose between two possible role types (Research Fellow vs. Strategy Fellow) and opt into consideration for one or both of two focus areas (Generalist vs. Program Research, both of which are available to both Research Fellows and Strategy Fellows). Details on these options are below. 

Research Fellow vs. Strategy Fellow

Both Research Fellow and Strategy Fellows will:

  • Talk to global experts, review reports or academic papers, and work with potential grantees to create back-of-the-envelope calculations (or cost-benefit analyses) to decide whether a potential cause area is important, neglected, and tractable
  • Divide time between gathering new information and synthesizing it into concrete recommendations.
  • Work to get the right answer, not to summarize others’ views. This will require making reasonable judgment calls and being willing to tackle a problem from multiple angles to check your logic. 
  • Write clearly and well, with strong reasoning transparency
  • Do back-of-the-envelope calculations to estimate social returns and valuations.
  • Work in a way that is aligned with Open Philanthropy’s core operating values of openness, ownership, calibration and inclusiveness. 

While there is significant overlap, we think the roles differ in:

  • Skillset: Research Fellows will need to do deep analysis of academic social science, while Strategy Fellows will spend more of their time engaging with a wide set of external practitioners and experts and doing quicker, more assumptions-driven calculations.
  • Likely future path: Research Fellows are more likely to advance into deeper analytical or strategic research roles in the organization. Strategy Fellows are more likely to take on more complex cross-organizational projects and may become grant-makers themselves.

As a Research Fellow you will:

  • Evaluate different types of social scientific evidence (e.g. reading an academic paper and evaluating the evidence and methodology presented in it). You are a good fit for this role if you enjoy going “beyond the paper” and trying to extract your true best estimate, accounting for other factors like publication bias and how much you trust the paper’s methodology. You’re interested in distilling complex literatures into concrete recommendations.
  • Build models of your reasoning. You feel comfortable approaching a problem from multiple angles and using data to inform your views and assumptions, as well as quantifying difficult tradeoffs. You’re excited about finding ways to apply data-driven thinking to open-ended questions.
  • Connect with experts in the field to dig deeper on key points, and engage deeply with other social scientists about their work.

While there’s no single background we’re looking for, examples might include: graduate study in economics or political science, research on global health & development, or experience conducting policy research in a think tank. We are particularly interested in applications from candidates with experience living and/or working in low- or middle-income countries.

As a Strategy Fellow you will:

  • Gather data and build structured models of your reasoning. You should feel comfortable keeping a skeptical eye on claims you’re presented with in order to come to your own view (however, you do not need to be able to engage deeply with social scientific research, as you will work with Research Fellows when this skillset is necessary).
  • Investigate and make pilot grants. This will require building and managing relationships with potential grantees and stakeholders in the field, as well as synthesizing evidence and making judgment calls under uncertainty.
  • Manage complex projects. You should be excited about scoping and getting toeholds on open-ended questions. You may manage multiple projects at once that involve working with a diverse range of stakeholders.

While there’s no single background we’re looking for, examples might include: management consulting, investment research, and evidence-based or data-driven project management / leadership roles. We are particularly interested in applications from candidates with experience living and/or working in low- or middle-income countries.

Generalist vs. Program Research 

Generalist role

The first is a generalist role, where new Research or Strategy Fellows would take on some combination of the first five responsibilities below based on team needs, with occasional work on the sixth. We expect to hire multiple people for this position. Managers for these hires are not yet decided. We will make a final decision towards the end of the process depending on candidate profiles.

Generalist Strategy and Research Fellows are (collectively) charged with six primary responsibilities:

  1. Searching for new program areas. We believe there are promising giving opportunities that don’t currently fall within the purview of our existing program areas. This line of work combines abstract modeling with concrete investigation into the tractability of new interventions to improve health and wellbeing. A large chunk of this research is informed by conversations with relevant experts.
  2. Managing grantmaking for small portfolios and/or grantmaking that falls outside of existing portfolios. We maintain some small grantmaking portfolios (like Land Use Reform) that do not have a full-time program officer and are instead managed by Research or Strategy Fellows alongside other responsibilities. We also make grants aimed at exploring potential new cause areas; these “miscellaneous” grants are often managed by the Cause Prioritization team.
  3. Evaluating existing program areas. We pursue many different approaches to improving health and wellbeing, and it’s not always clear how these strategies compare to one another (and thus how we should allocate available resources across programs). This line of work combines backward-looking evaluation of past grants as well as forward-looking evaluation of programmatic theories of change. 
  4. Informing high-level strategy. Improving health and wellbeing is complicated, and many of our most zoomed-out decisions rely on dynamics that are difficult to capture. For example, where we should set our grantmaking cost-effectiveness bar and how quickly we should spend down our assets depend on the timeline and trajectory of problems and the evolution of the opportunity set to tackle those problems (among many other factors). This line of work investigates the considerations that are most crucial to our strategic decision-making. 
  5. Partnering with other grantmaking organizations and philanthropists. We are actively looking for ways to partner with others to bring resources to cost-effective opportunities. One recent example of this work is the Regranting Challenge we ran in 2022.
  6. Advancing research agendas within program areas. Our program areas are often faced with critical research questions which inform their grantmaking strategy. The GHW cause prioritization team lends research capacity to program staff that need help working through internal decision-focused research questions. Examples include research to inform the global aid policy program’s policy agenda, and estimating the relative contribution of different sources to cumulative lead exposure in a particular region.

Program research role

The second role focuses on advancing research agendas within program areas. In particular, the core responsibility is (6): Advancing research agendas within program areas.

We expect to hire one Research or Strategy Fellow who will initially focus on advancing the research agenda and policy goals within our Global Aid Policy program. This work has the potential to inform the allocation of hundreds of millions of dollars of donor government funding. The role will then expand to support one or more additional programs depending on personal fit (most likely Global Public Health Policy).

Some illustrative questions we might consider as part of the Global Aid Policy work include:

  • How much should we value additional marginal funding to various multilateral aid agencies (e.g. Global Fund, Unitaid)? This would include quantitatively estimating historic cost-effectiveness, as well as conducting interviews with experts to understand future priorities and funding needs.
  • Are there ways bilateral aid agencies could improve their health programming? For example, to what extent could health programming have more impact if it was more targeted at countries with higher disease burdens?
  • What are the most cost-effective agricultural interventions that aid agencies should fund? For this and other Global Aid Policy work, the candidate will assess not only what looks cost-effective based on existing evidence, but will also assess how cost -effective a program will be if implemented by an aid agency.

We are advertising this role alongside the broader cause prioritization role because the roles are similar and we expect a lot of overlap in strong candidates. We highlight some differences in the roles below:

  • The role would work particularly closely with Program Officers, answering questions of direct relevance to specific grants under consideration, as well as building out a policy agenda to inform a broader grantmaking strategy.
  • The role would primarily focus on questions related to how donor governments could allocate funding more effectively. The research agenda will therefore be responsive both to what is politically feasible, and what could be effectively implemented by aid agencies and by donor-funded government programs (rather than NGOs).
  • The role may also involve commissioning external research to develop policy priorities, writing directly for consumption by policymakers.

A candidate would be a particularly strong fit for this role if they have (as well as the capabilities listed under the generalist role):

  • An appreciation of the political realities of advising or working in government.
  • The capacity to make sound judgment calls about external validity, and in particular, to quantify how government and aid agency implementation (rather than NGOs) could affect impact.
  • The ability to communicate effectively with non-research audiences, including policymakers, aid agency staff, and aid advocates.

While we expect previous experience working with or in governments would be helpful, there are no formal additional requirements and we would encourage you to apply to this role if the work above sounds exciting to you.

The role would operate at the intersection between our cause prioritization and programmatic teams. A successful candidate would report to James Snowden (who oversees several of Open Phil’s GHW programs), and would work closely with Norma Altshuler, the Senior Program Officer who manages our Global Aid Policy program.

How to Select Roles When Applying

  • First, please choose whether you will apply as a Research Fellow or a Strategy Fellow. You cannot choose both.
    • These roles have overlapping skills and responsibilities, so don’t worry too much about which role to apply for; if we think you’d be a great addition to our team, we will find the right position for you. 
    • That said, if you are genuinely on the fence between the two, we recommend applying as a Research Fellow, since we expect to need more people with Research skill sets than Strategy skill sets in this round (though the final decision will depend on candidate profiles).
  • Second, decide whether you would like to apply for the generalist role or the Program Research role.
    • You can choose to apply for both (and we encourage it!).
    • If you move through the hiring process, you may need to complete slightly more work if you select two roles than if you selected only one, though we do not expect this to be a significantly higher burden. In particular, we would ask that someone who advances under consideration for two roles complete one additional interview. In the latter stages of the process we may also ask you to either choose an application track or do an additional work test. 

Application Process

Our application process will include work tests and interviews, all of which will take place remotely. Please note that we cannot give feedback during the early stages of the process, including on any work tests, due to time constraints. Thank you for your understanding.

The initial application consists of answering a series of short questions on our application form, completing a 25-minute quantitative work test, and uploading a resume. 

We expect two subsequent work tests to take place in February through early March, final interviews to take place in late March or early April, and offers to be made by the middle of April. 

Role Details & Benefits 

These details are the same for Research and Strategy Fellows. We expect to hire most individuals at the level described below, but we are committed to hiring people at the appropriate level. If you would anticipate being hired at a more senior level, we strongly encourage you to apply and please add a note in the final section of your application. 

  • These are permanent, full-time, salaried positions.
  • Compensation: baseline compensation for this role is $160,355.45, comprising a salary of $139,439.52 and an unconditional 401(k) contribution of $20,915.93.
  • Time zones and location: We have a fully remote team, with most team members in the US or Western Europe. You can work from anywhere; the ability to overlap with both 9am-6pm UTC and 9am-6pm UTC-08 for at least five hours per week is strongly preferred.
    • We are happy to consider sponsoring U.S. work authorization for hires interested in moving to the US. However, we don’t control who is and isn’t eligible for a visa and can’t guarantee visa approval.
  • Benefits: Our benefits package includes:
    • Excellent health insurance (we cover 100% of premiums within the US for you and any eligible dependents) and an employer-funded Health Reimbursement Arrangement for certain other personal health expenses
    • Dental, vision and life insurance for you and your family
    • Four weeks of discretionary leave recommended per year, not including holidays 
    • Four months of fully paid family leave
    • A generous and flexible expense policy — we encourage staff to expense the ergonomic equipment, software and other services that they need to be productive 
    • Support for remote work — we’ll cover a remote workspace outside your home if you need one, or connect you with an Open Phil coworking hub in your city
    • We can’t always provide every benefit we offer US staff to international hires, but we’re working on it (and will usually provide cash equivalents of any benefits we can’t offer in your country) 
  • Start date: We’d like a candidate to start as soon as possible after receiving an offer in early April. If you would need to start significantly later, please outline your anticipated timeline in the application form.

We aim to employ people with many different experiences, perspectives and backgrounds who share our passion for accomplishing as much good as we can. We are committed to creating an environment where all employees have the opportunity to succeed, and we do not discriminate based on race, religion, color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or any other legally protected status.

If you need assistance or an accommodation due to a disability, or have any other questions about applying, please contact [email protected].

The deadline for this application is Sunday January 28, 2024 at 11:59pm Pacific Time. We will consider all applications as a cohort.


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