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Seed Funding for Courses on Global Catastrophic and Existential Risks

nuclear  explosion
Mar 8 2021

The Program in Science, Technology & Society, in collaboration with the Stanford Existential Risks Initiative and the Center for International Security and Cooperation, is pleased to offer seed funding for courses on global catastrophic or existential risks.

We think of these as risks that could threaten the future of humanity, cause the collapse of human civilization, or even extinguish the human species. As we have learned in 3 years of teaching THINK 65, Preventing Human Extinction, such risks are of extraordinary concern to the current generation of students. We hope to offer students the best available knowledge about these risks, how they may be mitigated, and how to maintain a positive, solution-oriented mindset in the face of these risks. We also seek pathways for young people to contribute to understanding and mitigating these threats in their future careers. 

Our hope is to encourage new course development, but we will consider supplemental funding to reshape or support existing courses in our focus areas. 

  • Nuclear war and nuclear winter

  • Synthetic biology (artificial viruses or other organisms, bioweapons, etc.)

  • Extreme climate change

  • Risks from advanced artificial intelligence

Courses can be at any level, from frosh to graduate, in any discipline. STS will provide course numbers or cross-listings. A cluster of related initiatives includes the new STS concentration in Catastrophic Risks and Solutions as well as SERI-sponsored funded undergraduate research (part-time during the academic year, full-time in summer).  

Funding may be requested for any course-related purpose, including (but not limited to):

  • Course development

  • Books, materials and supplies

  • Field trips

  • Guest speakers

  • Teaching assistants up to 0.5FTE

  • Research assistant to help with course development

  • Team teaching support, especially for interdisciplinary courses

Applying for Funding

To inquire or apply, simply email a proposal and budget to Paul Edwards, STS Program Director. Proposals need not be long, but should make a clear connection to one or more of our focus areas and describe their learning goals for students. They should also briefly describe plans for continuing the course after the initial offering. 


There is no fixed deadline; proposals will be considered on a rolling basis throughout the year.

Our funding is generously provided by a gift from the Open Philanthropy Foundation.