We founded SI in March 2021. In its first 9 months, we produced various outputs and results. This review of our achievements and shortcomings was written to guide our planning for 2022, not for official reporting. We share the full document for informational purposes only. We are happy to provide more detail upon request. Our 2022 plans will be published by the end of January.
SI’s goal for the first two years is to demonstrate counterfactual impact, or otherwise extract lessons and shut down. SI’s network, brand, knowledge, and facilitation have started generating promising signs. Two achievements in 2021 make us particularly optimistic.
First, a 2-day workshop commissioned by the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at the University of Cambridge for 30 researchers and international policy brokers, successfully deployed online. In 2022, we will publish a resulting joint report on improvements to the science-policy interface on global catastrophic risks (GCR). The workshop bridged inferential gaps between participants and resulted in an increased willingness to engage with GCR governance on both sides. Further, it identified promising pathways for progress.
Second, a high-level dinner on the side of the Biological Weapons Convention’s Meeting of States Parties, proving SI’s convening capacity by introducing senior diplomats from key nations and international organizations to leading researchers on biological risks from the Future of Humanity Institute and the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk. The achieved goal was to better understand diplomacy, build connections for collaboration, and draw attention to the importance of global catastrophic risks. A present biosecurity-focused grantmaker estimated the value of this event to have been worth about 8x SI’s costs.
SI’s activities also show potential beyond short-term impact. A series of 28 interviews on decision-making under uncertainty with trainers and practitioners highlighted important needs and gaps - the report is to be published in Q1 2022. The Swiss Government has started a collaboration on “resilience to major risks through international law” with us. The Future of Humanity Institute commissioned a 1-day workshop on engaging with international policy processes, in part delivered online, in part moved to 2022 due to COVID-19. Similarly, we are ready to deploy a 3h tabletop exercise on pandemic preparedness, commissioned by the Geneva Science-Policy Interface to explore systemic resilience and global catastrophic risks with international civil servants and diplomats.
Further, our concepts of “long-term institutional fit” and “computational policy process studies” have received positive feedback in peer review and will likely be published in academic journals in 2022. Various other posts, articles, and a guide of ours have been reported as useful reference pieces. Despite a lack of in-person engagement, rendered impossible by the pandemic and delayed hiring, we accepted 66 applicants into our Longterm Governance Network and maintained a 50/50 balance of researchers and policy actors.
Last but not least, we set up our management, admin, and accounting systems; the corresponding legal entity; raised funds to transition into full-time positions ourselves; have continuously updated our plans in light of feedback and events; and drawn various lessons from attempting to prove the value of a new organization - all described in this annual review.