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I'm considering going in the direction of independent AI alignment research, at least for the next few months. So I was wondering - how does one get access to resources usually provided by a university?

Things like:

  1. Paywalled journal articles
  2. Compute infrastructure
  3. Conference funding




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1: scihub, scihub, scihub. If that fails you, look for the paper to be posted on any of the authors websites. I can count on one hand the number of papers I couldn't get through either of these methods. I'm at a university and still don't bother to use the library.

And if that fails, you can usually contact the authors directly. Most academics are happy to have people interested in their work, and papers will have a corresponding author with an email address. Though obviously this method is only worth the bother if it's a really valuable paper for you.

See here for a similar discussion on accessing articles as an independent researcher. TLDR: The Unpaywall extension is a good alternative to scihub because it links to legal Green Open Access version of articles (and scihub is a bit intermittent with uploading new content). There are other options, but most are less efficient than these two. 

A similar resource for books: Libgen

I think you could apply for funding from a number of sources. If the budget is small, I'd start with the Longterm Future Fund: https://funds.effectivealtruism.org/funds/far-future

I know that's the source for e.g. a salary. But say you need less foreseeable expenses like a conference, or use of resources that are usually shared like GPUs. Should you use these funds for that too?

Yes, you can absolutely apply for conference and compute funding, separately from an application for salary, or in combination. E.g. if you're applying for salary funding anyway, it would be very common and normal to also apply for funding for a couple of conferences, equipment that you need, and compute. I think you would probably go for cloud compute, but I haven't thought about it much.  Sometimes this can give mild tax issues (if you get the grant in one year but only spend the money on the conference in the next year; or, in some countries, if you just receive the funding as a private person and therefore can't subtract expenses). Some organisations also offer funding via prepaid credit cards, e.g. for compute. Maybe there are also other options, like getting an affiliation with some place and using their servers for compute, but often this will be hard.
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