Wiki Contributions


This is a good question. I agree that “managing up” is a very important skill in general! It’s one of the primary focuses of our research manager training.

However, I want to acknowledge whether to focus on this with scholars seems to be a question of tradeoffs regarding MATS’s priorities: to what extent are we prioritizing scholars upskilling in deep technical/research understanding available at MATS, versus them upskilling in generalizable soft skills (that they could theoretically learn elsewhere)? If we were to theoretically prioritize solely the former, maximizing time and efficiency between scholars and mentors through taking this burden off of them seems better as this allows us time to improve research skills + time spent on their projects. If we were to prioritize soft skills, though, focusing on them managing up well seems like a good option. (And FWIW, we already do the latter indirectly - but not as a structured offering. We focus much more on things like project management + unblocking scholars with our remaining time.)

To me MATS has primarily been about providing the best environment we can for AI safety mentorship, and increasing the amount of AI safety talent+collabs in the world. I can see an argument here that teaching scholars to manage up does in fact benefit their trajectories holistically, but I would want to balance this against the tradeoff of marginal time spent helping them directly in the counterfactual, be it project management or otherwise preparing for meeting with their mentor. During the main, 10-week phase of MATS, scholars are incredibly time crunched to get a research project done. This pushes me slightly against the idea of spending much concentrated effort on this during the main phase, but not necessarily against some amount of time on this.

That all being said, this seems like a potentially good fit for:

  • a workshop towards the late-middle-or-end of the main 10-week phase, or
  • sometime over the 4-month extension phase, where scholars continue working with their mentors in an increasingly independent fashion.

…and maybe some time spent on this towards the end of the 10-week phase in 1-1s, but I’d want to allow wiggle room for prioritizing more critical work as needed.