Host a Horizon Fellow at your think tank

This page answers some of the most common questions that we have received from think tanks 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 topics at host organizations, including think tanks, in Washington, DC. We are funded solely through philanthropic support. You can read more about Horizon and our team 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 material, followed by multiple rounds of interviews, most with interviewers who have extensive first-hand experience with emerging technology policy. Timed work tests allow us to screen for both writing skills and subject-matter expertise. You can read more about 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 host organization. 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 aim to work in policy after their fellowship. For think tank fellows, we pay special attention to research and writing ability.

As a host organization, 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. This would typically happen during the matching phase (more details below)

What background would a fellow bring to my organization?

All Horizon fellows bring 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 organizations. As a prospective host organization, you would receive a full list of eligible fellows and be able to indicate interest in talking to fellows whose backgrounds align with your priorities.

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.

What is the difference between a Horizon “fellow” and “junior fellow”?

Horizon supports two types of fellow placements at think tanks, for “fellows” and “junior fellows”: 

  • Fellows are initially placed at their host program for 12 months. They have either a PhD or equivalent professional experience and are able to work independently.
  • Junior Fellows are initially placed at their host program for 6 months. They have at least a bachelor’s degree and may also have work experience. They are expected to primarily support or collaborate with other researchers at their host organization, though we also work to select junior fellows who are capable of doing independent work.

Both fellows and junior fellows can renew their fellowship for a second term (an additional 12 or 6 months, respectively) conditional on good performance and host organization interest. 

Is my think tank eligible for hosting a fellow?

Horizon is happy to work with any think tank that does policy-relevant research on important emerging technology challenges. Our fellows are required to be based in Washington, DC, and we prefer to work with think tanks who have offices in DC.

We are a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization and cannot support fellows for positions where lobbying activities would be a part of their role.

Where have you placed fellows in the past?

Past fellows have placed at a range of think tanks, including:  

  • Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET)
  • Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
  • Center for Health Security (CHS)
  • Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT)
  • Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI)
  • Brookings Institution
  • Carnegie Endowment for International Peace 

We have also placed fellows in various federal agencies and congressional offices. You can see our full list of past fellows and their placements here.  

Matching and placement information
Do fellows receive any training prior to their placement at a think tank?

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 think tank 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 complete 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 think tank 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 think tanks and gather sufficient information, to ensure their placement is a good fit. Fellows typically accept offers between April and May. Fellows must 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 a placement plan and a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Horizon and the host organization. These documents are outlined in more detail below.

When do fellows start their placements?

Fellows and host organizations may decide on the timing that works best for them, as long as placements start by around the end of August. 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. Think tanks may also have preferences or constraints regarding the start date. We have built in flexibility to accommodate such considerations. The exact start date is agreed on by the fellow and think tank during the matching process.

Can fellows extend for a second fellowship term?

Yes. All our fellows have access to a second term of funding, contingent on Horizon approving a renewal. Horizon approval is based on whether the host organization is satisfied with the fellow’s work quality, the fellow's participation in the fellowship community, and the continued relevance of the fellow’s work to Horizon’s mission. We typically start renewal conversations with the fellow and host organization roughly midway through the first term.

Junior fellows’ terms are 6 months. This means we would start a renewal conversation around 2 months into their placement. We expect most junior fellows to want to renew at their initial think tank placement. 

Fellows’ terms are 12 months, meaning we would start a renewal conversation around 4 months into their placement. In contrast to junior fellows, fellows have the option to do their second term at a federal agency or congressional office. We expect some to want to renew at their think tanks, but others may want to spend their second year in government.

Can my think tank host multiple fellows simultaneously?

Yes. We do not have a rule against multiple fellows going to one think tank, whether in the same program or across different programs. Several think tanks have previously hosted two fellows simultaneously.

Who manages the fellow during their placement?

The host organization is fully responsible for managing the fellow. As part of the matching process, the fellow and think tank will collaboratively draft a 1-2 page “placement plan” that outlines the fellow’s focus areas and responsibilities. Horizon staff will review this plan for consistency with Horizon’s mission, but we will not be involved in reviewing or directing the fellow’s day-to-day work.

Horizon provides fellows with a $3,000 professional development budget. If host organizations identify areas for improvement in the fellow’s performance, we encourage open feedback and the use of this budget towards those areas. We are also available to discuss a fellow’s development needs and may be able to provide additional coaching if needed.

Will fellows have other responsibilities during their placement period?

Horizon wants fellows to be able to focus on their think tank 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 provide advance notice on the rare occasion that fellows are required to miss work in order to participate in Horizon events.

Fellows may bring individual outside commitments and affiliations unrelated to Horizon. If these pose a concern, we encourage host organizations to ask about them during the matching process.

Financial and administrative information
Is the fellow’s stipend paid for by Horizon?

Yes. We fully fund fellows’ salaries and benefits. Up-to-date information on amounts can be found on the applicant page.

Do fellows have access to benefits?

Yes. Fellows receive a generous stipend to acquire a private health insurance plan of their choice on DC’s health exchange, and to cover additional medical expenses. 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 compensation can be found on the applicant page.

Does Horizon also cover institutional costs to the think tank, such as IT and office space?

Yes. Horizon works with think tanks to ensure that the fellow is entirely free to their host organization, including by covering the costs necessary for the fellow to have a productive placement experience. Examples include costs like IT support, publication costs, and office space. Some think tanks waive these costs in support of the fellowship .

We reserve the right to refuse institutional cost requests that fall outside of reasonable bounds.

Does the fellow need to be hired as an employee at my think tank?

No. We normally pay a fellow’s compensation and benefits directly through a grant agreement with the fellow. This allows the fellow to get paid without being formally employed by their host organization.

If your think tank prefers to formally hire a fellow as an employee, we can consider this on a case-by-case basis. However, in our experience, this option is often more expensive and administratively burdensome.

What paperwork needs to be in place to host a fellow?

There are three documents involved in most placements:

  • Host-Horizon MOU: A memorandum of understanding between Horizon and the host organization lays out the terms of the fellowship and formalizes the institutional costs that Horizon will cover for the host organization (see above). We have a template MOU that can be adapted to a host organization’s needs.  
  • Host-Fellow placement plan: A placement plan is a 1-2 page document that lays out the substantive focus of the fellow’s work during the placement, along with administrative details like start date, time-off policies, and title. Horizon provides a plan template, which is filled out collaboratively by the fellow and host organization and then reviewed and approved by Horizon.  
  • Horizon-Fellow grant agreement: A grant agreement between Horizon and the fellow allows Horizon to pay the fellow’s stipend. Host organizations are usually not involved in this part of the process, except if they strongly prefer to host a fellow as a full-time employee (see above). 

We strive to make hosting a fellow as administratively simple as possible and to avoid burdensome paperwork for our host organizations. If a think tank prefers to hire a fellow as a full-time employee, this process would look somewhat different.