Senior Data Associate - J-PAL Africa

J-PAL Africa
  • South Africa
  • Master's
  • Other advanced degree
  • Honours
Start Date (Earliest):
Start Date (Latest):
Language Requirement:
  • English
Length of Commitment:

J-PAL Africa IDEA Lab

J-PAL Africa seeks a Cape Town-based Senior Data Associate to support the development and work of the J-PAL Africa IDEA Lab. Digital data collection has grown rapidly in the past decade, but large datasets now stored by governments and other organisations are not used to their full potential. J-PAL’s Innovations in Data and Experiments for Action (IDEA) initiative supports governments, firms, and non-profit organisations who want to make their administrative data accessible to researchers; analyse it to improve decision-making; and use it to design and evaluate innovative programs that contribute to alleviating poverty. The J-PAL Africa IDEA Lab is being established to support this work in South Africa through long-term partnerships with local governments and other data providers. The project is led by Brendan Maughan-Brown.

The position will be based at J-PAL Africa, the Africa hub of J-PAL Global, located at the Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit (SALDRU) in the University of Cape Town’s School of Economics. This is a one-year contract with an opportunity to renew and take more responsibilities in a small, growing team.

The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) consists of a global network of academics who specialise in conducting randomised evaluations of social policies/programmes in order to generate scientific evidence about what works in the fight against poverty. In 2019, J-PAL co-founders Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, along with long-time J-PAL affiliate Michael Kremer won the Nobel Prize in Economics “for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty.” J-PAL’s administrative data work, through the IDEA initiative, is the next frontier in evidence-informed policy.

The successful candidate will work with leading researchers within the J-PAL network and highly committed staff to build the structures for the next generation of randomised evaluations. This is a great opportunity for someone interested in leveraging administrative data for better policymaking and in the implications of big data for research.

Responsibilities include:

Develop J-PAL Africa IDEA Lab resources

Working closely with J-PAL Global to develop resources and templates (eg., data use agreements, protocols on data sharing and management), and document best practices on the use of admin data for research

Use existing partner experience to inform IDEA Lab resources and tailor resources to existing partners

 Support building new partnerships with data providers

  • Mapping of potential data partners (focus areas: labour, education, health) and the administrative data landscape in the region
  • Scoping of administrative data to assess the potential for (multiple) randomized evaluations
  • Developing data sharing agreements and systems with high potential partners
  • Support maintaining and deepening relationship with long-term/established partnersSupporting existing research teams working with partners to help partners use their own data better: developing and sharing data documentation and code; providing key summary statistics and data visualizations; providing policy and training support to data providers; supporting the interpretation and use of research results
  • Ensuring best practices are adhered to for data access, storage and management for existing partnerships

Build J-PAL Africa IDEA Lab and brand

  • Building knowledge of IDEA in Africa, both internally, with partners, and with a broader public audience.
  • Designing and presenting external communications materials to various audiences (research, development community)
  •  Contributing to fund raising for continued unit health


  • A minimum of an Honours or Masters in Data science, Economics or another similar social science including graduate level courses in econometrics/statistics, microeconomics and development economics
  • 2+ years of relevant professional experience
  • Exceptional analytical skills: ability to frame policy-relevant research questions and work with research teams and partners to conceptualize innovative study designs.
  • Strong skills in data cleaning, analysis and programming using Stata and/or R, including task automation and proven understanding of systems supporting large datasets. Enthusiastic about learning new software/ programming technologies
  • Ability to understand the needs and build relationships with external data partners such as governments and other public institutions
  • Advanced writing and oral presentation skills in English, particularly the ability to communicate technical research considerations to policymakers in a non-technical manner
  • Excellent project management and organisational skills, attention to detail and ability to work under pressure
  • Creative and effective problem-solver, self-motivated and independent
  • Familiarity with and interest in randomised evaluations and experimental methods
  • Right to work in South Africa (citizenship, permanent residency or critical skills visa)

Note: J-PAL Africa cannot sponsor work permits.

Highly Advantageous

  • Prior experience managing and analysing large datasets and administrative data
  • Prior experience with data security and sharing systems  

How to Apply

Please complete this short application form. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis and we encourage you to apply early. Only shortlisted candidates will be contacted and will likely be required to undergo an assessment process before interview rounds.

As cost of employment are being paid for from externally derived funds, this appointment is subject to the availability of funding.

Recruitment will follow UCT’s hiring procedure and remuneration is commensurate with UCT pay-scales. UCT is committed to the pursuit of excellence, diversity and redress. Our Employment Equity Policy is available at UCT reserves the right not to appoint.