Invitation to lead a project at AI Safety Camp Virtual

Virtual Edition, 2023

Do you have AI Safety research ideas that you would like to work on with others? Is there a project you want to do and you want help finding a team to work with you? AI Safety Camp could be the solution for you!

Summary

AI Safety Camp Virtual is a 3.5-month long online research program from 4 March to 18 June 2023, where participants form teams to work on pre-selected projects.

We want you to suggest the projects!

We are looking for people with AI Safety project ideas and some research experience to be Research Leads. If accepted, we will help you develop your research idea into a research plan suitable for AI Safety Camp. When the research plans are ready, we will help you recruit a research team. After that, it will be your job to guide and direct the research.

Who is qualified?

To lead a team, we require that you have some previous research experience. If you are at least 1 year into a PhD, or you completed an AI Safety research program (such as a past AISC, Refine or SERI MATS), or did a research internship with an AI Safety org, then you are qualified already. Other research experience can count too.

More senior researchers are of course also welcome, as long as you think our format of leading an online team inquiring into your research questions suits you and your research. 

We cannot offer stipends (yet) for hours worked because a confirmed grant fell through. Details below

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you are unsure, or have any questions you are welcome to:

First virtual camp                  

 

Choosing project idea(s)

If you already have an idea for what project you would like to lead, that’s great. Apply with that one!

However, you are not required to come up with an original idea. It’s not important that it is your idea, as long as it is a good idea, and you understand it thoroughly. Check out AI Safety Ideas for inspiration. If you base your project proposal on someone else’s research idea, make sure to cite them. 

We welcome diverse proposals including for open problems in Theoretical research, Machine learning experiments, Deliberative designs, Governance, etc. You can submit as many project proposals as you want now, and may lead up to two projects during the camp.

 

Team structure

Every team will have:

  • one Research Lead 
  • one Team Coordinator
  • other team members

All team members are expected to work at least 10 hours per week on the project, which includes joining weekly team meetings, and communicating regularly (between meetings) with other team members about their work.

Research Lead (RL)

The RL suggests one or several research topics. If a group forms around one of their topics, the RL will guide the research project, and keep track of relevant milestones. When things inevitably don’t go as planned (this is research after all) the RL is in charge of setting the new course.

The RL is part of the research team and will be contributing research work, same as everyone else on the team.

Team Coordinator (TC)

The TC is the ops person of the team. They are in charge of making sure meetings are scheduled, check in with individuals on task progress, etc. 

The job of the TC is important, but not expected to take much time (except for project management-heavy teams). Most of the time, the TC will act like a regular team member contributing to the research, same as everyone else on the team.

TC and RL can be the same person.

Other team members

Other team members will work on the project under the leadership of the RL and the TC. Team members will be selected based on relevant skills, understandings and commitments to contribute to the research project. 

 

Team formation and timeline

Applications for this camp will open in two stages:

  • Stage one (now – Jan 5) is for RLs to suggest project ideas. Selected RLs then get support developing their project plans. Next we publish the project plans, and open applications for other team members.   
  • Stage two (Jan 5 – March 4) is for all other team members. Potential participants will apply to join specific projects they want to work on. RLs are expected to help select the team for their project(s), and interview potential team members.

Stage one

  • December 4Application deadline for RLs.
    If you apply in time you are guaranteed an interview and help refining your proposal, before we make a decision.
  • December 11Deadline for late RL applications.
    If you apply late we are not guaranteed help with your proposal. However, you do improve your chances by being less late.
  • December 22Deadline for refined proposals.

Stage two

  • January 5Accepted proposals are posted on the AISC website. Application to join teams open.
  • January 19Application to join teams closes. 
  • During Jan – FebOrganisers pre-filter applications. RLs interview potential members and pick their team.

Program start

  • March 4 – June 18:  Research is happening.
    Opening weekend is on March 4-5th. Teams meet weekly, and plan in their own work hours. Present results by the end.

 

Application process for RL

After you submit your application, you get to plan a call with Linda Linsefors to discuss your project ideas. This one-on-one discussion is pretty informal though Linda will be asking questions to check whether you’re thinking things through, and are open to improving your proposal. 

In parallel, Remmelt Ellen will write comments with clarifying questions on the proposal draft(s) you submitted (see template doc). We intend to ask researchers with relevant expertise to comment too (including other RL applicants interested in your work). 

What we want to clarify with you:

  1. Mission-alignment: What is the theory of impact of your project? Here we are asking about the relevance of your project work for reducing large-scale risks of AI development and deployment. 
  2. Cruxes: What are you considering and uncertain about in terms of which research to prioritise and what methods to try? Here we are asking for some of the logic behind your reasoning (consistency) and the empirical premises (soundness).
  3. Project fit: How are you planning to lead collaborative work towards useful findings that you can share with the wider community? Here we are checking whether the minimum version of the project you have in mind can realistically get done in 3 months by incoming team members, or at least would be a fruitful learning experience for each of you to try out contributing in your roles.
  4. Follow-through: Can we trust you to follow through? Here we are checking whether at this moment you are taking ownership to clarify cruxes and get planning sorted, and whether you’re clear about where you can take on needed work and where you will need the support of other team members. 

While we organisers have a list of simple ‘no-gos’ for applications that we must decline, we prefer to not make any quick decision beyond that. Rather, we want to take a few weeks to inquire with you about your ideas, where we get to understand your proposal(s) better and you can refine your proposal(s) further.

 

 

 

 

Stipends

We intended to offer all participants a stipend for the duration of the program, but don’t know yet whether this will be possible.
If a stipend is crucial for you to take on a project, please mention this in your application, and we will see what we can do.


AI Safety Camp is one of many AI Safety projects that were promised a significant grant from FTX Future Fund. We’ll no longer receive that money. Fortunately, we have enough money from previous grants to cover operations, which means that this AISC will happen. We applied to two funds to cover stipends, but a decision will take two weeks at the least. This means we currently cannot make any promises regarding stipends.

The difference between a stipend and a salary is that if you get a stipend you will not be formally employed. We will just send you the money. Stipends are taxed differently in different countries. It’s your responsibility to find out how it works where you live and pay any taxes you owe to your local or national government. If we can offer you a stipend, you will be paid monthly after reporting the rough number of hours worked.

The maximum stipend you can get depends on how much work you put in monthly. For accessibility reasons, you get to choose how much time you spend on AISC, with the minimum being 10h/week and the maximum 40h/week, and the pay will be adjusted accordingly.

RLs may be offered $750 – $3000 USD per month

Research leads may be paid from February 1 to June 30, which includes the interviewing period. In December you will also need to spend your own time to dig into cruxes for your research and revise your project plan. 

Other team members may be offered $500 – $2000 USD per month

Everyone else may be paid from March 1 to June 30.

 

Do you want to be a Research Lead?

If you have a project idea and you are willing to lead or guide a team working on this idea, you should apply to be RL.

We don’t expect a fully formed research plan! If we think your idea is suitable for AISC, we will help you improve it.

If you are unsure, or have any further questions you are welcome to: