Research Engineer - Evaluations - AI Safety Institute

Department for Science, Innovation & Technology

Apply before 11:55 pm on Wednesday 28th August 2024

 

Details

Reference number

343183

Salary

£85,000 - £135,000
Base salary of between £42,495 (L4) - £68,770 (L6) which is supplemented with an allowance between £42,505 to £66,230
A Civil Service Pension with an average employer contribution of 27%

Job grade

Other
L4, L6

Contract type

Temporary (not fair and open)
Loan
Secondment

Length of employment

12 to 24 months

Business area

AI Safety Institute

Type of role

Information Technology

Working pattern

Flexible working, Full-time, Part-time

Number of jobs available

1

Contents

London

Job summary

The AI Safety Institute is the first state-backed organisation focused on advanced AI safety for the public interest.  We launched at the AI Safety Summit because we believe taking responsible action on this extraordinary technology requires a capable and empowered group of technical experts within government.

Our staff includes senior alumni from OpenAI, Google DeepMind, start-ups and the UK government, and ML professors from Oxford and Cambridge.  We are now calling on the world’s top technical talent to build the institute from the ground up.  This is a truly unique opportunity to help shape AI safety at an international level.

We have ambitious goals and need to move fast.

Develop and conduct evaluations on advanced AI systems
We will characterise safety-relevant capabilities, understand the safety and security of systems, and assess their societal impacts.

Drive foundational AI safety research
We will launch moonshot research projects and convene world-class external researchers.

Facilitate information exchange
We will establish clear information-sharing channels between the Institute and other national and international actors. These include stakeholders such as policymakers and international partners.

Our Inclusive Environment
We are building an inclusive culture to make the Department a brilliant place to work where our people feel valued, have a voice and can be their authentic selves. We value difference and diversity, not only because we believe it is the right thing to do, but because it will help us be more innovative and make better decisions.

 What we Value:

  • Diverse Perspectives: We believe that a range of experiences and backgrounds is essential to our success. We welcome individuals from underrepresented groups to join us in this crucial mission.
  • Collaborative Spirit: We thrive on teamwork and open collaboration, valuing every contribution, big or small.
  • Innovation and Impact: We are dedicated to making a real-world difference in the field of frontier AI safety and capability, and we encourage innovative thinking and bold ideas.

Job description

About the Role

Research Engineers build and maintain scientific software to enable high quality research.  They are uniquely placed to bridge the world of software engineering and research, and at the AI Safety Institute will be involved in challenging and diverse projects at the cutting edge of advanced AI development.

As a Research Engineer you will either be embedded within one or more of our research teams, or you will sit in a cross-cutting group of Research Engineers within the Platform Team.

In either case you will be collaborating with research scientists and people running evaluations and user studies on the one hand, and with our Platform Team on the other.  You might also on-board, run and improve existing evaluations from the wider research community, as well as up-scaling new evaluation methods developed in-house.

We draw on a wide range of disciplines, and value a diversity of research expertise across our five workstreams. You will be primarily associated with one of our workstreams (please specify in your application which you’re most interested in), however, sometimes your work will intersect multiple workstreams.

  • Chem/bio: studying how LLMs and more specialised AI systems are advancing biological and chemical capabilities relating to harmful outcomes.  This includes potential uplift to novice actors and future scenarios like design of biological agents
  • Cyber misuse: studying how LLMs and more specialised AI systems may aid in cyber-criminality and the adequacy of cybersecurity measures against AI systems
  • Safeguards: evaluating the strength and efficacy of safety and security components of advanced AI systems against diverse threats which could circumvent safeguards
  • Societal impacts: evaluating a range of impacts of advanced models that could have widespread implications for our societal fabric (e.g. undermining trust in information, psychological wellbeing, cognitive wellbeing, unequal outcomes)
  • Autonomous systems: Testing for precursors to loss of control by measuring relevant capabilities in long-horizon computer-based tasks. Examples are sub-tasks of autonomous replication, AI development and self-improvement, as well as adaptation to human attempts to intervene and the ability to profitably interact with and manipulate humans. This includes trajectories that start from a misuse event as well as cases of misalignment.

The Platform Team will be providing the foundational infrastructure for our research projects.  You will build on top of our platform to create bespoke, load-bearing infrastructure and tools for individual research projects.  You will be able to independently run and analyse your own experiments to diagnose problems and understand our research work and tech stack in detail.

You will spend your time working not just on infrastructure code but also in the planning and execution of research projects, such as a wide range of evaluations of cutting-edge AI systems.  This includes working on analysing and visualising the outcomes of complex evaluation or fine-tuning procedures and managing large data sets.

As a research engineer it is your responsibility to make the hard trade-offs between when code needs to be load-bearing enough to support multiple experiments and when it is better to write “good enough" code to quickly prove or disprove a hypothesis.

In this you will work very closely with our Research Scientists who will often be the main users for the tools you build.

Existing Civil Servants and applicants from accredited NDPBs are eligible to apply, but will only be considered on loan basis (Civil Servants) or secondment (accredited NDPBs). Prior agreement to be released on a loan basis must be obtained before commencing the application process. In the case of Civil Servants, the terms of the loan will be agreed between the home and host department and the Civil Servant. This includes grade on return.

Person specification

This role may be a great fit if you:

  • Have excellent knowledge of training, fine-tuning, scaffolding, prompting, deploying, and/or evaluating current cutting-edge machine learning systems such as large language models
  • Have substantial experience working in a similar role in industry, relevant open-source collectives, or academia
  • Have experience conducting your own research, but most importantly as part of a cross-functional team
  • Possess a strong curiosity in understanding AI systems and have the ability to develop data collection, analysis and visualization interfaces to do so
  • Have substantial experience in building software systems to meet research requirementsand have led or been a significant contributor to relevant software projects, demonstrating cross-functional collaboration skills
  • Deeply care about the user experience of a diverse range of users, from machine learning researchers to domain experts, to wide and diverse groups of human evaluators
  • Work autonomously and in a self-directed way with high agency, thriving in a constantly changing environment and a steadily growing team, while figuring out the best and most efficient ways to solve a particular problem
  • Bring your own voice and experience but also an eagerness to support your colleagues together with a willingness to do whatever is necessary for the team’s success and find new ways of getting things done within government
  • Have a sense of mission, urgency, and responsibility for successdemonstrating problem-solving abilities and preparedness to acquire any missing knowledge necessary to get the job done

Core requirements

  • You should be able to spend at least 4 days per week on working with us
  • You should be able to join us for at least 12 months
  • You should be able work from our office in London (Whitehall) for parts of the week, but we provide flexibility for remote work
Alongside your salary of £85,000, Department for Science, Innovation & Technology contributes £11,473 towards you being a member of the Civil Service Defined Benefit Pension scheme. Find out what benefits a Civil Service Pension provides.

The Department for Science, Innovation and Technology offers a competitive mix of benefits including:

  • A culture of flexible working, such as job sharing, homeworking and compressed hours.
  • Automatic enrolment into the Civil Service Pension Scheme, with an average employer contribution of 27% of the base salary.
  • A minimum of 25 days of paid annual leave, increasing by 1 day per year up to a maximum of 30.
  • An extensive range of learning & professional development opportunities, which all staff are actively encouraged to pursue.
  • Access to a range of retail, travel and lifestyle employee discounts.
  • The Department operates a discretionary hybrid working policy, which provides for a combination of working hours from your place of work and from your home in the UK. The current expectation for staff is to attend the office or non-home based location for 40-60% of the time over the accounting period.

Selection process details

Application Process

To apply for this post, you will need to complete the online application process, this should be completed no later than Wednesday 28th August 2024 at 23:55 and will involve completing the sections in the online application outlined in this pack. 

We reserve the right to close this vacancy with a two week notice period if we have received a sufficient number of applications. Please submit your application as early as possible to ensure that you are considered for the role.

To apply for this post, you will be required to provide your CV and a personal statement (500 word limit) setting out your answers to the questions below:-

  • Why are you interested in joining the AISI right now?
  • What are the most important technical projects UK government needs to undertake within the next few months to advance AI Safety?
  • What do you want to be doing to drive those projects forward?
  • Is there anything else about your skills, experience or background you’d like us to be aware of?

Sift and interview process

Candidates should expect to go through some or all of the following stages once an application has been submitted:-

Coding Test - To be completed within 72 hours 

Initial Interview

Technical take home test

Formal interview and review of take home test

Third stage interview

Final Stage interview

Sift and interview dates

Candidates will be sifted on an ad-hoc basis once your application has been submitted. If successful in first sift, we will contact you to arrange initial interviews or coding tests to be taken.

Reasonable Adjustment

We are proud to be a disability confident leader and we welcome applications from disabled candidates and candidates with long-term conditions.

We fully support adjustments throughout our recruitment process and we encourage candidates to discuss their adjustment needs by emailing the job contact which can be found under the contact point for applicants section.

We do not have an exhaustive list of adjustments that we support but just some examples include additional time to complete your application form, behaviour questions up to 72 hours prior to interview and having extra time at interview.

If you are experiencing accessibility problems with any attachments on this advert, please contact the email address in the 'Contact point for applicants' section.

If successful and transferring from another Government Department a criminal record check may be carried out.

New entrants are expected to join on the minimum of the pay band.

A location based reserve list of successful candidates will be kept for 12 months. Should another role become available within that period you may be offered this position.

Please note terms and conditions are attached. Please take time to read the document to determine how these may affect you.

Any move to the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology from another employer will mean you can no longer access childcare vouchers. This includes moves between government departments. You may however be eligible for other government schemes, including Tax Free Childcare. Determine your eligibility https://www.childcarechoices.gov.uk

DSIT does not normally offer full home working (i.e. working at home); but we do offer a variety of flexible working options (including occasionally working from home). 

In order to process applications without delay, we will be sending a Criminal Record Check to Disclosure and Barring Service on your behalf.

However, we recognise in exceptional circumstances some candidates will want to send their completed forms direct. If you will be doing this, please advise Government Recruitment Service of your intention by emailing Pre-EmploymentChecks.grs@cabinetoffice.gov.uk stating the job reference number in the subject heading. 

Applicants who are successful at interview will be, as part of pre-employment screening, subject to a check on the Internal Fraud Database (IFD). This check will provide information about employees who have been dismissed for fraud or dishonesty offences. This check also applies to employees who resign or otherwise leave before being dismissed for fraud or dishonesty had their employment continued. Any applicant’s details held on the IFD will be refused employment. 

A candidate is not eligible to apply for a role within the Civil Service if the application is made within a 5 year period following a dismissal for carrying out internal fraud against government.

Nationality Requirements

If you do not meet the standard nationality requirements as detailed below, then we would still encourage you to submit an application.  We may be able to explore other options such as seconding you in from either your current employer or a third party organisation.

Not meeting the nationality rules set out below should not be seen as an automatic barrier to applying for this role.

Feedback



Feedback will only be provided if you attend an interview or assessment.

Security

Successful candidates must undergo a criminal record check.
People working with government assets must complete baseline personnel security standard (opens in new window) checks.

Nationality requirements

This job is broadly open to the following groups:

  • UK nationals
  • nationals of the Republic of Ireland
  • nationals of Commonwealth countries who have the right to work in the UK
  • nationals of the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein and family members of those nationalities with settled or pre-settled status under the European Union Settlement Scheme (EUSS) (opens in a new window)
  • nationals of the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein and family members of those nationalities who have made a valid application for settled or pre-settled status under the European Union Settlement Scheme (EUSS)
  • individuals with limited leave to remain or indefinite leave to remain who were eligible to apply for EUSS on or before 31 December 2020
  • Turkish nationals, and certain family members of Turkish nationals, who have accrued the right to work in the Civil Service
Further information on nationality requirements (opens in a new window)

Working for the Civil Service

The Civil Service Code (opens in a new window) sets out the standards of behaviour expected of civil servants.

We recruit by merit on the basis of fair and open competition, as outlined in the Civil Service Commission's recruitment principles (opens in a new window).
The Civil Service embraces diversity and promotes equal opportunities. As such, we run a Disability Confident Scheme (DCS) for candidates with disabilities who meet the minimum selection criteria.
This vacancy is part of the Great Place to Work for Veterans (opens in a new window) initiative.
Once this job has closed, the job advert will no longer be available. You may want to save a copy for your records.

Contact point for applicants

Job contact :

  • Name : active.campaigns@dsit.gov.uk
  • Email : active.campaigns@dsit.gov.uk

Recruitment team

  • Email : dsitresourcing.grs@cabinetoffice.gov.uk

Further information

Appointment to the Civil Service is governed by the Civil Service Commission’s Recruitment Principles. If you feel that your application has not been treated in accordance with the recruitment principles, and wish to make a complaint, then you should contact in the first instance DSITrecruitment.grs@cabinetoffice.gov.uk . If you are not satisfied with the response that you receive, then you can contact the Civil Service Commission. For further information on bringing a complaint to the Civil Service Commission please visit their web pages: Click here to visit Civil Service Commission/Complaints

Attachments

DSIT T&Cs v1.2 Opens in new window (docx, 179kB)

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