Senior Research Manager, Tamil Nadu - J-PAL South Asia

Language Requirement 
Length of Commitment 
Two years
Start Date 
January 01, 2019

The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) J-PAL was established in 2003 as a research center at the Economics Department at MIT. Since then, it has grown into a global network of researchers who use randomized evaluations to answer critical policy questions in the fight against poverty. J-PAL is propelled by a first-rate team dedicated to research, policy, training, and other vital work, supporting J-PAL's mission to reduce poverty by ensuring that policy is informed by scientific evidence. J-PAL’s three program areas are:

  1. Conducting Rigorous Impact Evaluations- J-PAL conducts Randomized Evaluations to test and improve the effectiveness of programs and policies aimed at reducing poverty.
  2. Building Capacity- Providing expertise for people interested in rigorous program evaluation and training others to conduct Randomized Evaluations .
  3. Impacting Policy- Identifying the most cost-effective ways to achieve policy goals, and promoting the scale-up of other highly effective policies and programs. 

About J-PAL South Asia and the TN Partnership:

J-PAL South Asia, which is based at the Institute for Financial Management and Research (IFMR) in India, conducts impact evaluations, analyses, and disseminates research results and builds partnerships with policymakers to ensure that policy is driven by evidence, and that programs proven effective are scaled up. We have a growing number of partnerships in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

In November 2014, J-PAL South Asia signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Government of Tamil Nadu to institutionalize the use of evidence in policymaking by evaluating innovative programs, strengthening monitoring systems, and enhancing the officials’ capacity to generate and use data. Under this MoU, policy engagement, capacity building, and a number of pilot studies and randomized control trials are being undertaken by J-PAL.

About the role:

The Senior Research Manager, Tamil Nadu engagement is a new role created this year to fill a critical position on leading one of J-PAL South Asia’s largest and strategic policy research engagement with governments. This person will be a key member who will join a team of leading economists, working on cutting-edge development research on testing and scaling innovations for public policy impact.

Senior Research Managers in J-PAL South Asia are facilitators of cutting-edge development research and are responsible for the strategic management of all aspects of a randomized evaluation and its subsequent use in informing decisions. The position will allow for autonomy in planning and executing a portfolio of research projects, comprising of small scoping studies to large-scale randomized controlled trials (RCTs) across many sectors in Tamil Nadu.

The candidate will work very closely with the Principal Investigators affiliated to the global J-PAL network, the senior management team of J-PAL South Asia, and individual project teams of research managers and associates. The role will also be external facing on a need basis for coordination and communication with partnering Departments of the Government of Tamil Nadu. There are a total of four ongoing impact evaluations, with another two in the pipeline. To date, two RCTs and eight scoping/pilot studies have been completed. The projects vary across sectors of health, nutrition, education, sanitation, labour, urban issues among others.  

Job Description:

The role of an all-rounder Senior Research Manager is to manage a growing portfolio of exciting randomized evaluations and important government stakeholder relationships. The SRM responsibilities include but may not be limited to:

Overseeing research projects planning and execution:

1. Independently managing the effective and efficient execution of randomized evaluations: This involves ensuring:

  • Adherence to key research best practices on the field and with data management: such as scientific standards and that are practical and appropriate to local culture; on research compliance, data security, and safety as well as all relevant human subjects committees.
  • Develop and refine the research design and objectives in close coordination with principal investigators, and ensure alignment across all stakeholders (donors, implementing partners, research collaborators etc.). Assist with identifying possible research sub- questions, and design surveys and data collection activities accordingly and in alignment with project budgets.
  • Maintain relationships with existing implementing (government) partners through meetings and presentations, and establish new relationships with potential partners as equal stakeholders in the execution and take up of research projects under the partnership. Act as the single point person on all aspects related to research management to communicate with the relevant stakeholders, donors, governmental and non-governmental partners.
  • Resource (human and financial) and activity timeline planning and tracking for smooth execution of the research design and goals, reporting along key indicators on project progress and financial health, identifying and taking corrective action as needed, in case of deviations 
  • Foresee, highlight, and suggest changes to manage threats to RCT study design to Principal Investigators.
  • Work closely with the project team and support functions to ensure that projects adhere to policies, procedure, finances and timelines. Develop and follow project management processes and systems for tracking and reporting of outputs and outcomes

2. Mentoring and managing project teams:

  • Plan for and oversee recruitment of required research staff (associates, managers, others) on ongoing and new projects.
  • Supervise and mentor mid and junior-level research staff on their personal and professional development; help maintain adequate work-life balance, train associates and managers to better their technical and leadership skills.
  • Identify training and capacity building needs, and provide necessary support to internal training activities to ensure that skills are aligned to requirements of the positions

3. Contribute to organizational goals, management and measurement  

  • Actively engage in organizational level discussions with all vertical heads on planning and reporting on all aspects related to research activities under the engagement
  • Document and disseminate lessons and best practices followed
  • Create outputs for internal reference and public distribution on the successes, challenges, outcomes and results of the policy research engagement
  • Represent J-PAL in meetings and conferences, make presentations on activities, progress and outcomes, and liaise with academics, officials, policymakers, donors and partner organizations

4. General responsibilities:

  • Travel to project locations to work with the RA and project teams and provide direct oversight as needed.
  • Ensure the adherence to J-PAL SA's guidelines
  • Support J-PAL SA in creating and managing institutional knowledge. Provide additional support to streamline systems and processes.
  • Take an active role in capacity development, training and presenting as and when required.
  • Any other work as assigned by the Project Director, Associate Director, or Executive Director.

Key Requirements:

  1. Education: Master’s degree or higher in economics, statistics, mathematics, public policy/ international development, related fields. Strong coursework in economics is highly preferable.
  2. Understanding Randomized Evaluations and technical skills: Demonstrating an advanced understanding of randomized evaluations and methodology Knowledge of Stata is required, working knowledge of R is a bonus.
  3. Experience: This position requires demonstrated research and management experience in a multi-faceted role, working with multiple stakeholders. Experience working with Governments preferred. Five years’ minimum work experience, including prior experience and exposure to randomized evaluations, economics research, and international development policy.
  4. Management: Proven ability to handle several different projects/tasks and one or more teams of people at one time, successfully complete tasks assigned, and meet deadlines. A willingness to work hard, put in long hours, be self-motivated and learn will be essential for doing well in this position.
  5. Strong ability to manage high-level partnerships.
  6. Communication: Attention to detail and advanced writing and presentation skills for communicating with multiple partners. This requires the ability to produce clear, precise, research outputs that speak to both technical and non-technical audiences.
  7. Language requirement: Should be fluent in English. Fluency in Tamil is preferred.
  8. Travel: Travel to different parts of India and Tamil Nadu to meet with relevant stakeholders and manage projects.
  9. Organization and Time Management: Highly organized, very careful, and detail-oriented; proven ability to prioritize despite constant competing demands. 
  10. Initiative: Able to accept responsibility and have the initiative to formulate, prioritize, and carry out tasks autonomously. 
  11. Interpersonal: Proven ability to manage others; excellent people skills; sensitivity to different cultural contexts.

We are looking for a minimum commitment period of two years for this position with a strong possibility for a longer-term position for exceptional candidates.

How to Apply

Complete the J-PAL/IPA common application. After completing a brief registration, choose the Research job category, then select “Senior Research Manager, Tamil Nadu - J-PAL South Asia”. Applications require you to include two letters of recommendation, statement of purpose (cover letter), CV, and transcripts. Note that you are able to submit your application without the recommendation letters. However, please be advised that we will require a minimum of two references should you be invited for an interview. You will be required to provide the contact information for two references to complete your application.

Additionally, please submit the following documents in PDF format to Putul Gupta ([email protected]) as soon as possible – applications will considered on a rolling (1) a cover letter clearly addressing your qualifications for the various responsibilities listed above, (2) Curriculum Vitae (Resume).

In the subject line: Put your full name, first (given) name followed by last (family) name.

In the email body: Copy exactly the following position line:

J-PAL South Asia, Senior Research Manager

Please do not include any text besides the position line(s) in the body of the e-mail. Adding extra text will interfere with the processing of your application. Only short-listed candidates will be contacted for an interview.