Doing Global Priorities or AI Policy research from remote location?

post by With Love from Israel · 2019-10-29T09:34:35.089Z · score: 29 (12 votes) · EA · GW · No comments

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Hello there,

I first discovered 80,000 hours a couple of months ago, and have since fallen in love with EA. I've read plenty of the content, both online and in books, but this is the first time I am connecting to the community and writing a post on the EA forum!

I am currently doing a BA in Economics and International Relations. My tentative career plan at the moment is to get a PhD in Economics and go into global priorities or AI policy research. If that doesn't work out, an advanced degree in economics would give me some good career capital to fall back on.

My concern is that both the global priorities and AI policy research communities are quite small at the moment from my understanding. What are my chances of effectively doing work on these problems from Israel? My girlfriend wants to stay in Israel at least over the long term. Hopefully I will be able to convince her to fly to the US or UK for a couple of years for my PhD, and then come back here after. I was thinking for example, of (if I was accepted) doing my PhD at Oxford and connecting with the Future of Humanity or the Global Priorities Institute, then hopefully I could stay connected and continue to do research in the same domain when I returned to Israel.

Sorry for the long introduction. Here are my questions:

1. If I was to do my PhD in the US/UK and connect to one of those research communities, how efficiently would I be able to continue my research once I moved back to Israel? How much would I be losing out on by moving back?

2. If I was unable to go to the US/UK even just for my PhD, and instead I got my PhD from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. would I still be able to connect and do research in one of those fields, or would I be outclassed by people that got their PhD from Stanford, etc... What if I did a postdoc at an elite school?

Answers

answer by edoarad · 2019-10-29T10:46:40.395Z · score: 16 (9 votes) · EA · GW

Hi there! My name is Edo, from the EA group in Israel. You are welcome to join our facebook group :) We have begun a prelimenary mapping of relevant researchers in the Israeli Academia, to see who can advise on EA-related projects. And we are very interested in seeing more Israeli academics interested in global priorities research, AI governance and any research related to effectively doing good.

It's hard for me to give answers to your first question. It seems that in order to work effectively in Israel you would need

  1. To get a position.
  2. To have local collaborators from related fields. (though, students and collaborators abroad are also great)

Regarding the second, my impression is that:

  1. HUJI and some other universities in Israel are generally considered to be very good.
  2. That depends a lot on your advisor.
  3. It seems that the most important thing is to produce high quality research. People at GPI and FHI could possibly give you some metrics, but that could change by the time you are done.
  4. Currently these fields are growing, and they seek more researchers. You need to be good to get in, but I do not think that you need to publish previous work on the precise topics (though, that would be helpful).

I think that a good advice for the short term would be to go to one of the intership programs at a relevant EA institution. Also, we are looking at ways to work on small scale research problems and do some work that does not require expertise but can aid researchers. This can also help you understand the field better, and to show that you are capaple and motivated in doing relevant research.

You are welcome to get in touch!

comment by With Love from Israel · 2019-10-29T13:08:47.133Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Edo, thank you so much for your reply!

I have recently joined the FB group, though I have yet to explore it.

You mention in relation to my first question that I would need to have local collaborators from related fields. Do such potential collaborators exist in Israel? It would be a number of years before I finished my PhD, so hopefully the community in Israel will expand by then.

From your answer to my second question it seem that you think that getting my PhD at HUJI (or potentially TLV U) would not put me at a significant disadvantage. Am I understanding that correctly?

How difficult would it be to find an advisor that would allow me to work in one of those two fields (Global Priorities or AI policy) or in something similar that could serve as a springboard to working in one of those fields in the future?

At the moment I am doing an internship at an Israeli foreign policy think tank, and I committed to work with them for a year. That plus mandatory volunteer work for a scholarship plus getting good grades seems to be enough on my plate right now. Next year I was planning to work as a research assistant in the economics department to get a taste of real research, plus hopefully help get some recommendations. Does that sound like a good plan?

Thank you again so much!

Lev

comment by edoarad · 2019-10-29T18:23:19.728Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Yes, I think that HUJI and TAU are good universities that should probably not put you at a disadvantage.

Regarding the other questions, I have some guesses but I'm really not sure and I am wary of miscommunication. In general by the way, I'd recommend to take internet advice cautiously (including this one, but excluding this).

I highly recommend applying for coaching at http://effectivethesis.com for questions about advancing academically in these fields.

I'll clarify a bit regarding the first question. I will be pleasantly surprised if there will be senior academic researchers in Israel doing AI governance or global priorities research in 5 years (for the sake of it, very uncertain and around 25%). And I was thinking of your question as doing a postdoc. In this case, you will probably need to find a researcher whos interested in your work and can understand what you want to accomplish. It is possible to collaborate with people remotely, but less fun/productive.

I'd be happy to talk about strategies regarding how to infiltrate the academia 😉

comment by With Love from Israel · 2019-10-29T19:35:39.002Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I certainly agree with 80,000 hours that it is counterproductive to overthink career plans (something I am prone to doing). I don't need all of the answers now, I just need to know that it's possible and that I am not barking up the wrong tree. It seems to me that your answers are ambiguous. It's possible, but not easy? I already messaged Effective Thesis about the topic.

I'd love to talk to you over the phone if you would be interested. I'll send you my number in a PM.

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