Senior Research Manager IDEA Initiative - J-PAL Global

United States of America (the)
Other advanced degree
Language Requirement 
Length of Commitment 
More than two years
Start Date 

The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) is a global research center working to reduce poverty by ensuring that policy is informed by scientific evidence. Anchored by a network of 165 affiliated professors at universities around the world, J-PAL conducts randomized impact evaluations to answer critical questions in the fight against poverty.

This position will lead J-PAL’s new Innovations in Data, Experiments, and Action (IDEA) Initiative. The IDEA Initiative was founded to support policy organizations, firms, and governments who would like to make their data available for research, as well as researchers who conduct randomized evaluations based on this data. You will work closely with J-PAL Executive Director Iqbal Dhaliwal, Initiative Co-Chairs Dr. Shawn Cole (HBS) and Dr. Lars Vilhuber (Cornell), and J-PAL Director of Research Anja Sautmann, who are leading IDEA. You will be a part of J-PAL Global’s Research, Education, and Training (RET) team, a dynamic group that is well integrated and collaborates closely on a range of exciting activities, from running a MicroMasters program to creating research transparency tools.

“Administrative data” – that is, data that is collected for any purpose other than research – is ubiquitous: from tax data to firm-level transaction data, vast quantities of data are being collected by a wide range of organizations and entities. The core goal of the IDEA initiative is to connect academic researchers with custodians of administrative data to dramatically increase the quality, speed, and scope of randomized control trials. This will lead both to better science and more evidence-driven policy.

To this end, the IDEA initiative aims to develop and disseminate technical, legal, and ethical expertise to put more such administrative data to use to conduct research and improve the quality of decision making, while ensuring that data is used responsibly and effectively, sensitive data is protected, and ethical standards for research on human subjects are upheld. You will convene leading experts in the field to identify key challenges to the use of administrative data in research, and devise successful approaches to overcoming these challenges, such as data privacy, data security, property rights, regulations for public data use, data architecture, data access and storage, cost structure and recovery, ethics, de-identification, publishing for public use, and dissemination for restricted access use. As part of this work, you will curate and edit a handbook on the use of administrative data in research that provides state-of-the-art guidance for data providers and researchers on how to provide access, handle, and analyze administrative data.

In the position, you will take a technical and intellectual leadership role within the IDEA team across all J-PAL offices. You will oversee the creation of the handbook and work with faculty and senior experts in the field on the writing of guidelines, best-practice papers, case studies, instructions, and toolkits on key topics regarding administrative data. You will work closely with other IDEA staff in our regional offices, both in the US and abroad, to identify and build collaborations and data capacity with data producers and provide hands-on training. Finally, you will oversee or advise staff who provide direct support to our partners for data cleaning, basic analysis, and descriptive work that helps them move towards more data-driven decisions. You will directly manage one or more Associate- or Senior Associate-level staff.

Responsibilities include:

  • Create resources including guidelines, best-practice papers, case studies, instructions, and toolkits on key topics regarding administrative data.
  • Work with leading experts on administrative data use to curate and edit a handbook that provides guidance to data producers on making administrative data more accessible, and to applied researchers on processing and using this data.
  • Identify and build collaborations with, and capacity of, data producers who can be long-term strategic partners, who have access to a wide range of administrative data, and who are willing to engage with researchers on overlaying experiments on this data to help improve policies and programs.
  • Oversee efforts to clean the data accessed by the above strategic partners and perform basic analysis and descriptive work that helps these policymakers move towards more data-driven decisions and encourages them to make data available for research and experiments.
  • Work with senior leadership to raise funds to support IDEA and manage calls for proposals to allocate grant funds to research projects based on innovative uses of administrative data.
  • Other responsibilities as the position grows.

Skills and qualifications:

  • Education: A Master's degree required (PhD preferred) in data science, computer science, economics, political science, public policy, or other related fields. Training in and a strong technical understanding of statistics/econometrics and specifically randomized impact evaluations is an advantage.
  •  Experience: 3+ years of relevant experience with a PhD (including up to one year of full time equivalent teaching and research experience during graduate school). 7+ years of relevant experience with a Master’s degree. Clear evidence of experience with rigorous quantitative data analysis and direct involvement in research is required. Experience in management and collaboration in international teams is a plus. Candidates with more than three years of experience post PhD may be considered for an appointment at the Associate Director level. Exceptional candidates with less experience may be considered for a Manager level position.
  • Interest in Development and Policy: Strong interest in poverty alleviation policy and research, as demonstrated by coursework and research and teaching experience. International development experience or extensive experience in social policy in other settings is desired.
  • Quantitative skills: Advanced statistical analysis skills are required. Experience in handling issues like encryption and access rights for complex data (large, multi-user data sets) is a plus.
  • Software: Must have fluent command of Stata or R. Knowledge of other programming languages like Python, Matlab or Julia is a plus. 

Professional Development

The Research, Education, and Training Group invests in your professional development. As a team member, you will learn, engage, travel, and grow.

Learn: J-PAL supports a culture of learning, with opportunities to attend weekly MIT–Harvard Development Seminars and take classes for credit at MIT or elsewhere with our generous tuition assistance program. All J-PAL staff are also eligible to take the innovative online MITx MicroMasters credential in Data, Economics, and Development Policy (DEDP) free of charge.

Engage: Managers have the opportunity to work with J-PAL affiliates and directors, as well as interact with policymakers and practitioners alongside team members. A manager's work can include creating and contributing to publications that are distributed to development stakeholders worldwide. 

Travel: Managers have the opportunity to present at J-PAL’s regional offices, attend policy events worldwide, and participate in a unique international experience supporting on-the-ground research.

Grow: Managers can expect to join a peer group eager to build institutional knowledge and pass on lessons learned. Managers receive one-on-one mentorship from senior leaders and promotions are based on performance and ability.


As a member of the MIT community, you benefit from more than just your salary. 

J-PAL hires highly qualified staff and rewards them accordingly. Total compensation packages are competitive for the non-profit international development field with excellent MIT benefits, including comprehensive health insurance, a 401(k) match and pension-based retirement plan, tuition assistance, commuter benefits, MIT community discounts, a generous vacation policy, and more. We like working at MIT and think you will too.

How to Apply

Ready to join a team of supportive, engaging, and fun colleagues? Apply now.

Please note: Candidates must be legally authorized to work in the United States. This position is not eligible for visa sponsorship. 

Complete the MIT Application. Search for Job ID: 17358

Please apply by Monday, May 13 for priority consideration.

MIT is an equal employment opportunity employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment and will not be discriminated against on the basis of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, disability, age, genetic information, veteran status, ancestry, or national or ethnic origin. 

Given the volume of applications received, only shortlisted candidates will be contacted for an interview.