Host a Horizon Fellow at your federal agency

This page answers some of the most common questions that we have received from federal agencies interested in hosting a Horizon Fellow, covering background on the organization and fellowship, our matching and placement process, and other financial and administrative information.
Background on the Horizon Fellowship
What is the Horizon Institute for Public Service?

The Horizon Institute for Public Service is a 501(c)3 public charity. Our mission is to help the US government navigate our era of rapid technological change by fostering the next generation of public servants with emerging technology expertise. The Horizon Fellowship, our flagship program, recruits, trains, and fully funds fellows to work on AI or biosecurity problems at host organizations in Washington, DC. We are funded solely through philanthropic support. You can read more about us and our team here.

Where have you placed fellows in the past?

Some of our executive branch fellows have served or are serving in: 

  • Department of Defense (Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy)
  • Department of Homeland Security (Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency)
  • Department of Health and Human Services (Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response)
  • Department of Commerce (Office of the Secretary) 
  • Department of State (Human Rights Bureau) 

We have also placed more than a dozen fellows in various congressional offices and think tanks. You can see our full list of past fellows and their placements here.

How are fellows selected by Horizon?

Fellows are selected through a highly competitive and transparent application process. We start with an assessment of application materials, including for writing skills. We also conduct multiple rounds of interviews, most with interviewers who have extensive first-hand experience with emerging technology policy and/or Congress. Timed work tests allow us to assess both writing skills and subject-matter expertise. You can read more about each step of our process in the applicant FAQ here

When assessing applicants, we look for a combination of subject-matter expertise and fit for policy. Subject-matter expertise allows fellows to contribute hard-to-access knowledge and skills to their office. Policy fit matters because success in policy requires not only expertise but also the ability to work in teams, to write well and quickly, to make analysis relevant to decision-makers, and to navigate complex social and political contexts. We look for fellows who are passionate about public service and who would seriously consider continuing to work in policy after their fellowship. 

As a host office, you are also able to assess prospective fellows yourself before making a placement offer, for example by conducting your own interviews or evaluating writing samples. 

What background would a fellow bring to my office?

All Horizon fellows bring some form subject-matter expertise related to emerging technology. We are open to many forms of expertise, and recruit fellows from a wide range of backgrounds, including industry, academia, the military, and civil society. This allows us to offer a wide range of skillsets and perspectives to host offices. 

See our list of past fellows for examples of professional backgrounds. They include machine learning researchers, applied scientists from major labs, social scientists, medical doctors, engineers, journalists, lawyers, and more. During our matching process, offices would be sent professional bios for incoming fellows so that you can opt into talking to fellows whose background aligns with your office's priorities. 

Executive branch fellows typically have several years of work experience and a graduate degree prior to starting their fellowship. As a rough guideline, we expect fellows to be able to contribute to their office’s work somewhere in the GS-11 to GS-15 range of responsibilities, depending on their background.

Is my office eligible for hosting a fellow?

Yes. Horizon is happy to work with any office that is interested in hosting a fellow with expertise in emerging technology. The ultimate decision of where to do their placement is up to each individual fellow.

What is the cost to my office of hosting a fellow?

Fellows are fully funded by Horizon, so they are placed at a host office on a non-reimbursable basis. This means there are no salary or benefit requirements for a host office hosting a fellow. We do require host offices to work with us to identify appropriate hiring authorities for onboarding fellows (see below for more details). If applicable, host offices are required to sponsor a fellow’s security clearance or travel, if relevant for the role.

Matching and placement information
Do fellows receive any training prior to their placement at an office?

Yes. Fellows participate in a part-time training program from January through March, which involves more than 100 hours of policy-related teaching and work before they start their placements. This enables them to start their placements with both subject-matter expertise in emerging technologies and the policy skills and knowledge required to hit the ground running. 

Our curriculum includes multiple sessions on navigating the policy world, as well as around a dozen interactive meetings with White House and agency officials, congressional staffers, and think tank directors and researchers. Fellows also do a short project on a policy topic of their choosing in order to build applied skills such as memo writing, stakeholder mapping, policy research, and advocacy.

How are fellows matched to agency placements?

Towards the end of our training period, typically in early March, we will circulate a list of fellows and their backgrounds to prospective host organizations. Host organizations can then indicate interest in talking to one or multiple fellows about a potential placement opportunity. To be included in this outreach list, you can fill in our host expression of interest form

The next step is a short informal conversation between fellow and think tank, after which both sides can assess whether to proceed. Fellows may have matching conversations with 5-10 different think tanks. Fellows then have a second conversation with a smaller set of think tanks, often focused more specifically on ideas for projects they could work on and details such as possible start dates and titles. Host organizations may also request further conversations or documents for purposes of assessment or planning.

You can make a placement offer to one or multiple fellows (see below on hosting multiple fellows). Fellows may receive multiple placement offers. Horizon staff are involved throughout this process to facilitate introductions and advise both fellows and host organizations as needed, but the ultimate decision of which offer to accept is up to the fellow. 

Our matching process is deliberately flexible, in order to allow both the fellow and think tank some leeway in timing and assessment. We are happy to discuss any questions you may have about the process.

When do fellows make a placement decision?

The matching period for fellows is March through May. March is typically spent on informal conversations (see above). Horizon encourages fellows to take time to talk to multiple agencies and gather sufficient information, to ensure their placement is a good fit. Some fellows accept an offer in April, while others take until May. Fellows need to receive placement offers and make a decision no later than end of May, or they exit the program.

After the host and fellow match, Horizon works with both sides to draw up the documents needed to formalize the placement, including the identification of the appropriate hiring authority used for onboarding the fellow at the office. These documents are outlined in more detail below.

When do fellows start their placements?

We allow fellows and host offices to decide on the timing that works best for them. Some of our fellows prefer to start as soon as possible after matching (e.g. May or June), while others have summer commitments to complete before they can start their placements. Offices may also have preferences or constraints regarding the start date. We have built in flexibility to accommodate such considerations. The exact target start date is agreed on by the fellow and office during the matching process.

We recognize that some offices will require fellows to receive a security clearance prior to starting, and in some cases a hiring authority (e.g. the IPA program) may require a fellow to have a 90-day employment period prior to starting at a host office. We can plan around these requirements on a case-by-case basis (see below for more details on clearances and hiring authorities).

Can fellows extend for a second fellowship term?

Yes. All our fellows have access to a second year of funding, contingent on Horizon approving a renewal. Horizon approval is based on whether the host office is satisfied with the fellow’s work quality, the fellow’s participation in the fellowship community, and continued relevance of the fellow’s work to Horizon’s mission. 

We typically start renewal conversations with the fellow and host office midway through the first placement year. Fellows have the option to do their second year at a congressional office or think tank. We expect some to want to renew at their host office, but others may want to spend their second year elsewhere. The final placement choice is made by the fellow. 

Will fellows have other responsibilities during their placement period?

We want fellows to be able to focus on their agency work during their placement, and treat it as a full-time commitment. Horizon organizes social and other events for fellows, but these will typically take place after work hours. We will give host organizations advance notice on the rare occasion that fellows are required to miss work in order to participate in Horizon events.

Financial and administrative information
Are the fellow's salary and benefits paid for by Horizon?

Yes. We fully fund fellows’ salaries and benefits, making the fellow free (“non-reimbursable”) to the host agency. Fellows also have a professional development budget and are eligible for support if they have to relocate to the Washington, DC area. Up-to-date information on pay and benefits can be found on the applicant page

All support for Horizon comes solely from philanthropic funds; our funders are listed here

What hiring authorities can my office use to onboard a Horizon fellow?

We can work with agencies to explore which authorities are available and appropriate, and we are open to working with agencies using a wide range of hiring authorities, including the Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) Mobility Program, Schedule A fellowships, Experts & Consultants Authority, Direct Hire Authority. We can also work with department-specific authorities, such as the Public Private Talent Exchange program in the Department of Defense. We can discuss with relevant agency staff the advantages and disadvantages of the applicable authorities. 

Useful resources for agencies include the Federation for American Scientists’ guide on Flexible Hiring Resources for Federal Managers and the Partnership for Public Service’s IPA Agency and Candidate Guidebook. These cover the most widely-used authorities; there are also often agency-specific hiring authorities that can be utilized for fellowships (see for example this list of DoD authorities).

If my office requires a security clearance, am I still eligible to host a fellow? Do fellows have, or can they receive, a security clearance?

We are open to placing fellows in offices where a security clearance is required, including TS/SCI clearances. The host office would be responsible for sponsoring the fellow’s clearance. Occasionally a fellow may have an active or inactive clearance from a prior job. 

To avoid fellows getting bottlenecked by clearance approval, we will work with host offices to explore ways for the fellow to onboard without clearance or with an interim clearance. If fellows must receive their clearance before starting their placement, fellows can spend a period doing background research and preparatory work at a think tank while their clearance application is pending.

All Horizon executive branch fellows are US citizens, and we work to identify any obstacles to them receiving a security clearance early in our process, including through conversations with a security clearance lawyer. If there is a reasonable chance that a fellow would not receive a clearance, we would communicate this to host offices in a timely manner.