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The Century Fellowship

The Century Fellowship is a 2-year program that supports people early in their careers who want to work on challenges the world may face this century that could have a lasting and significant impact on the long-term future.1

We aim to empower early-career individuals to start ambitious projects, tackle difficult problems, and address key bottlenecks in areas such as biosecurity and pandemic preparedness, potential risks from advanced artificial intelligence, and expanding the talent pool of people interested in working to make the future better, as well as other areas with potential long-term relevance.2 Each year, we select a small group of early-career individuals and give them the resources and support to pursue whatever projects they believe to be most impactful. Fellows receive:

Personal funding:

  • Base fellowship funding starting at $100,000 per year.
  • $10,000 per year in funding for personal development and productivity improvements.
  • A $14,050 per year health insurance stipend for Fellows in the US.3
  • Funding for travel to relevant conferences and workshops.

Help starting something new:

  • Seed funding for for-profit or non-profit start-ups, including funding for up to 5 full-time-equivalent collaborators.4
    • For those working to support university student groups relevant to our priority areas, we will offer up to $100,000 per year in dedicated funding for group expenses, with more available upon request.
  • Access to legal advice, tax advice, and assistance setting up new entities.
  • Expedited processing for additional funding requests to help promising projects scale.

Support from a broader network:

  • Connections to Fellows and professionals working in similar areas.
  • Advice from funders and impact-focused founders in our network.
  • At least one month of access to large coworking offices (including catered lunches and dinners) shared with major organizations working to improve the long-term future (location and space permitting).

Apply for the fellowship here

Applications for the 2022 class are open until the end of this year and will be assessed on a rolling basis. We aim to get back to applicants within six weeks of receiving their application, though we may take longer in exceptional cases. We will reply to all applications.

If you have any questions, please email [email protected].

Selection criteria

Any individual is eligible for the Fellowship. Fellows will be selected on the basis of the following criteria:

  • Career stage: We are most interested in supporting Fellows who are either at an early stage of their career or have recently pivoted, and would especially benefit from increased support and flexibility.
  • Commitment to high-impact work: Fellows should be motivated to focus their careers on solving problems that affect the long-term future.
  • Aptitude: Fellows must show strong signs of having the skills necessary to pursue the kinds of work they are considering. This could consist of prior experiences or accomplishments, or an exceptional application.
  • Ambition: Fellows should aspire to have a significant impact on the world and make plans in service of doing so.

When assessing applications, we will primarily be evaluating the candidate rather than their planned activities, but we imagine a hypothetical Century Fellow may want to:

  • Lead or support student groups relevant to improving the long-term future at top universities
  • Develop a research agenda aimed at solving difficult technical problems in advanced deep learning models
  • Start an organization that teaches critical thinking skills to talented young people
  • Run an international contest for tools that let us trace where synthetic biological agents were first engineered
  • Conduct research on questions that could help us understand how to to make the future go better
  • Establish a publishing company that makes it easier for authors to print and distribute books on important topics

We generally expect Fellows’ plans to change a lot – we’re looking for dedicated and high-aptitude people, not finalized plans. We encourage people to apply who are very uncertain about what they want to do and are just starting to work through different ideas.

Frequently asked questions

Can I apply if I’m a current student?

Fellows must work full-time towards the goals of the Fellowship; this generally precludes participating in the Fellowship while still an undergraduate, though we may consider it in exceptional circumstances. Undergraduates are welcome to apply if they anticipate finishing or leaving their undergraduate degree before beginning the Fellowship. Students who support relevant university groups part-time are welcome to apply for funding for their work here, or through the Effective Altruism Infrastructure Fund.

Graduate students are free to apply, though note that we will not cover tuition as part of the Fellowship. (However, our early-career funding program does include tuition.)

Can I apply if I want to stay at my current position?

We welcome applications from people early in their careers who are excited about their current position, think it meets our criteria above, and would like to continue their work. We want to encourage applicants to pursue the best opportunities available to them, whether that means starting something new or helping with an existing project.

Funding for Fellows with existing positions will be capped such that the Fellowship only contributes funding up to a $100,000 total,5 and we will not provide a health insurance stipend if health insurance is provided by another employer.

Can I apply if I’m outside the U.S.?

We welcome applicants from any country, and may be able to sponsor U.K. or U.S. work authorization for Fellows who want it. However, we don’t control who is and isn’t eligible for a visa, and can’t guarantee visa approval.

Do I need to have a specific project in mind to apply?

No. We’re happy to support promising applicants who are thinking about a broad area of work, but aren’t sure what exactly they want to work on. Fellows will not be required to work on the plans suggested in their application.

Do I have to commit to the Fellowship for the full two years?

Our aim for the Fellowship is to make it easy for people early in their careers to work on this century’s most pressing problems. We don’t place any constraints on Fellows as long as they are working towards this goal, so Fellows are free to do whatever seems best to them during the Fellowship, including pursuing speculative projects or taking positions at existing institutions or organizations. (Fellows who take positions which provide a salary will have their Fellowship-provided funding capped as specified in the second FAQ question.)

Fellows who are no longer interested in the goals of the Fellowship may also leave the Fellowship at any time, at which point we will ask them to return an amount equal to their yearly funding * (the number of months they’ve worked this year + 3) / 12. That is, we will pay for 3 additional months of funding after they leave the Fellowship, as well as letting Fellows keep the health insurance and productivity benefits they’ve received for the year.

What happens once the Fellowship is over?

At the end of the Fellowship, we expect most Fellows to be well-positioned to take high-impact jobs or receive funding from Open Philanthropy or other funders to continue pursuing impactful projects. We are also open to providing an additional 2 years of renewal funding to Fellows who have done good work and think they would continue benefiting from the structure of the Fellowship.

How is this program different from Open Philanthropy’s early-career funding program, University Organizer Fellowship, and request for outreach proposals?

The scope of this program overlaps with the scope of all three programs, but is intended to give more support and flexibility to people who would be especially promising applicants. We will automatically forward applications to this program to the other three programs as appropriate, and will email you for additional application information if necessary.

For reference, you can find information on the other programs as follows:

Application process

To apply, fill out our our short application form, which asks about your academic background, relevant experience, references, and a non-committal sketch of potential plans for the Fellowship.

Apply here

Descriptions of plans may be very broad or uncertain, e.g. “I’m interested in contributing to research that helps with risks from advanced AI systems; here are some things I might look into” or “I’m broadly interested in teaching and supporting the development of talented young people, but I’m still thinking about plans and I’m not sure what exactly I want to do.” In particular, we are happy to provide advice at a later stage for candidates who are interested in supporting university student groups but don’t have a particular location in mind.

If you pass our initial screen, we will follow up with next steps specific to the candidate, which may include requests for additional information, or an invitation to have an interview with an Open Philanthropy staff member. We aim to get back to applicants within six weeks of receiving their application, though we may take longer in exceptional cases. We will reply to all applications.

  • 1. See this blog post series by Open Philanthropy co-CEO Holden Karnofsky for an argument for why this century could be the most important one for humanity’s future.
  • 2. Other potential areas include mitigating great power conflict, investigating extreme risks from climate change or nuclear weapons, or research work investigating new areas that could have significant and lasting impacts on the long-term future. See this page from 80,000 Hours for a broader list of potential areas.
  • 3. This includes $10,000 earmarked for spending on health insurance (including vision, dental, and other relevant insurance) as well as an additional $4,050 “tax gross-up” to account for taxes paid on the stipend.
  • 4. Collaborator salaries will be set by Fellows, subject to our approval. Funding for collaborators will not be available for Fellows working at an existing organization.
  • 5. For example, a Fellow earning $20,000 per year from their existing position would receive $80,000 in Fellowship funding; a Fellow earning $100,000 per year or more from their existing position would receive no Fellowship funding.