[Job ad] Lead an ambitious COVID-19 forecasting project [Deadline extended: June 10th]

post by jacobjacob · 2020-05-27T16:38:04.084Z · score: 56 (16 votes) · LW · GW · 1 comments


  What is the state of this project?
  Why would this project be valuable?
  Where can this project go?
  What's involved? What skills do I need?
  What exactly am I signing up for?
  What should I do next?
1 comment

In brief: I’m hiring for a project manager for Epidemic Forecasting, an independent project spun off from the Future of Humanity Institute that provides forecasting information to governments and other decision-makers during the covid pandemic. [Application deadline extended to June 10th]. You need to have good judgement, the ability to work fast and hard leading a team, and references from people I trust. You need to be able to commit to 3 months of full-time paid work, and there’s the potential to scale up afterwards to a full-time organisation if you find traction.

Private message [LW · GW] me to talk more. For the rest of the post, I’ll give more info on the project, what’s involved and why you might want to work on this.

What is the state of this project?

Since the beginning of March, I've led the Epidemic Forecasting project which spun off from the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford.

So far we've:

Over the last 3 months we've found that this project has real traction and demand, and I think it's time for a focused team to commit to at least another 3-12 months on this, and either wrap up once opportunities go away, or build it into a non-profit/for-profit that serves an important long-term function for mitigating pandemics.

This post is an invitation for a new project manager to step up. I’m going to pursue other projects that I think have more long-term potential for me personally. If I find someone who can do the management work, can deliver output fast, and has the sound judgment needed to take over, then I will help you get started with the team, introduce you to major relationships (governments, vaccine companies, and funders) and help advise/mentor you over the coming month. If I don’t I will start winding down my responsibilities and involvement.

Why would this project be valuable?

Peter Thiel says the most successful projects are based on secrets that nobody else has realised. This seems true to me. Here is my sense of the secrets this project is based around.

My sense is that, in line with what Scott Alexander says about failures during the covid pandemic, you can substantially improve the decision-making of many of humanity's best institutions by using the basic skill of reasoning under uncertainty and being willing to move fast and act quickly. You do need to be able to quickly make serious quality checks on a forecast (e.g. "What does this number really imply about the next 2 months of growth of the disease in country X?"), but you do not need years of expertise in this area to pick it up, especially when you have people around you doing a lot of the heavy lifting who aren't doing the management (and aren’t responsible for the final decisions).

Where can this project go?

Like many startups, the world should determine the product you make, not you. While I don't know where this will end up, here are some ambitious win conditions.

Thus far there have been many opportunities to pivot. We've moved from building public dashboards, to policy consulting, to vaccine trial portfolio optimisation.

There are a wealth of important problems that need solving, and we have some key skills allowing us to do it. There will be many opportunities for the next project manager to figure out how to navigate this space.

What's involved? What skills do I need?

Here are some of the kinds of tasks I've worked on, many of which you would do too:

More generally, you need to be able to:

You need to be someone that someone I trust trusts.

What exactly am I signing up for?

Committing to run this project full-time, salaried, for at least 3 months.

The world is struggling to meet the overwhelming demand for covid forecasting and analysis. You're in a position to improve the decisions they make about covid, and save thousands of lives, if you want to put in the work. We've set up a team with some good skills and relationships. The highest variance part has already happened, where we didn't even know if there was demand. There is demand.

If you're someone who can execute and have shown good judgment to me or someone I trust (e.g. Ben Pace, Oliver Habryka) then I'm interested in handing the reins to you and you helping it take off.

What should I do next?

Message me here on LessWrong [LW · GW] (or by other channels if you know me), including the material you think is needed for me to evaluate your fit, by June 10th. Don’t send me more than 2 paragraphs of text, although links to google docs for me to skim are fine. Please include:

If the main reason you don't expect to do this is because you're already quite busy, especially if it's at a non-profit, I might still be quite interested in talking through this opportunity with you for half an hour so you have a clearer vision of what opportunity you're not taking. Your choice might be right but it's often good to properly consider alternative hypotheses for an hour or two.

[Note: due to me being very busy, Ben Pace wrote the majority of this post based on our conversations. I endorse everything said, but might have formulated some things differently had I written it myself.]


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comment by jacobjacob · 2020-05-27T16:48:35.918Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm also posting a bounty for suggesting good candidates: $1000 for successful leads on a new project manager; $100 for leads on a top 5 candidate


We will pay you $1000 if you:

  • Send us the name of a person…
  • …who we did not already have on our list…
  • …who we contacted because of your recommendation...
  • ...who ends up taking on the role

We will pay you $100 if the person ends up among the top 5 candidates (by our evaluation), but does not take the role (given the other above constraints).

There’s no requirement for you to submit more than just a name. Though, of course, providing intros, references, and so forth, would make it more likely that we could actually evaluate the candidate.

NO bounty will be awarded if you...

  • Mention the person who actually gets hired, but we never see your message
  • Mention a person who does not get hired/become a top 5 candidate
  • Nominate yourself and get hired
  • If multiple people nominate the same person, bounty goes to the first person whose nomination we actually read and act on

Remaining details will be at our discretion. Feel free to ask questions in comments.

You can private message me here [LW · GW].