U.S. Agency for International Development

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Background: The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is the lead U.S. Government agency that works to end extreme global poverty and enable resilient, democratic societies to realize their potential. In order to support these goals, we work with a wide variety of partners, spanning academia, non-profits, and private enterprise with a presence in dozens of countries worldwide.  USAID is building on the understanding that science, technology, innovation and partnership can accelerate development impact faster, cheaper, and more sustainably. Data intrinsically underpins each of these investments, and never has the need been greater to share our data with people everywhere to improve development outcomes.  In October 2014,  USAID announced the release of its first ever open data policy, which established the Development Data Library (DDL) as the Agency’s repository of USAID-funded, machine readable data created or collected by the Agency and its implementing partners. Deeply related to these efforts are the global Sustainable Development Goals, launched in September 2015, which will require immense amounts of data to assess their progress over the next decade and beyond.  While little more than a year old, the DDL has begun to grow in size and complexity; partners from around the world are submitting new datasets on a weekly basis. This fellowship represents an exciting opportunity to bring state-of-the-art data curation, research, and library science practices to USAID’s official data repository and to influence the Agency’s data management efforts for years to come.

Position Description:  USAID is funding a two-year post-doctoral fellowship.  The individual awarded the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) fellowship will report to USAID’s Chief Data Officer and function as part of a team committed to ensuring that USAID-funded data is of high quality, timely, and made available to a broad set of stakeholders to catalyze innovation, decision making, and new insight in support of improved development outcomes.  The fellow will serve as the team’s primary subject matter expert for ensuring that the Agency’s official data repository, the Development Data Library (DDL) meets the research needs of internal and external stakeholders; harmonizes with standards observed by academia and other communities of experts; and observes best practices in library and data curation sciences. This includes reconciling mandates (including metadata requirements) of the President’s Executive Order and OMB Policy on open data and the  International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) with other data curation practices commonly used by other government agencies, the academic community and other data management experts.  The fellow will consult regularly with internal and external stakeholders in the development data community and provide USAID with tangible action plans and/or draft guidance on shaping standard processes and procedures, articulating and developing instructional training materials, and applying findings to USAID’s data curation efforts.

Major Duties and Responsibilities:

  • Serve as a key advisor on the Development Data Library (DDL) project team, advocating for the incorporation of features and approaches that will contribute toward its integrity as a trusted data repository, particularly among academic constituencies;
  • Socialize and apply standards and best practices for curation, communication, description, and management of Development Data Library assets to facilitate open access and reuse by diverse user communities. This includes advising on the application of state of the art search techniques to improve accessibility and discoverability of USAID data;
  • In consultation with the DDL project team, develop recommendations for creating linkages between the DDL and third party service providers governed by the DigitalGov Terms of Service. For example, this may include linkages between the DDL and code repositories such as GitHub and feedback mechanisms such as StackExchange.  Recommendations for these linkages should be based on the fellow’s consultations with other reputable public data repositories;
  • Gather lessons learned and best practices from reputable public data repositories for incorporation into the DDL platform and into Agency guidance documentation. Focus areas are likely to include :
    • Data citation;
    • Liscensing;
    • Informed consent;
    • Data  protection (anonymization vs. deidentification);
    • Criteria for access to restricted data;
    • Codebooks, data dictionaries, and supporting documentation;
    • Data management plans;
    • Harmonization of U.S. Government data curation requirements with other common practices and standards such as (but not necessarily limited to):
  • Assist with USAID’s public engagement efforts designed to catalyze interest in and use of USAID’s data assets.  Events may include conferences, hackathons, datapaloozas, data jams, and speaking engagements with USAID staff and implementing partners;
  • Provide direct support to USAID staff and implementing partners on effective techniques for documenting, cataloging, and formatting data for release to the public.  This may include one-on- one consultation, seminars, brown bags, or virtual and in-person trainings;
  • Assist USAID with the implementation of its plan to support increased public access to the results and data from research funded by the Federal Government. This may include facilitating linkages between the DDL and third party academic research services; and
  • Other related duties stemming from USAID’s effort to make its data open to the public.

Required Education and Experience:

  • A United States citizen with the ability to secure a U.S. Government security clearance at the “Secret” level;
  • PhD obtained within five years of the postdoctoral fellowship in a social science, hard science, or information technology with a strong emphasis on information and data management. Examples may include (but are not necessarily limited to) the following: library science, information science, computer science, computational science, informatics, economics, bioinformatics, public health, anthropology, sociology, chemistry, physics, microbiology, or other data-intensive discipline;
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills, including proficiency in writing reports and guidance documents in language suitable for both technical and non-technical audiences.  This includes the ability to convey technical concepts to non-technical audiences.  The fellow’s writing should generally adhere to the guidelines found at found at  http://www.plainlanguage.gov;
  • An understanding of issues and technical challenges related to data management/curation as demonstrated by academic or work experience;
  • Evidence of being a collaborative team player and having the ability to establish and maintain healthy working relationships with diverse colleagues on a small team within a large institution; and
  • Demonstrated capacity to engage in outreach and instruction.

Desired Qualifications:

  • Competence in the statistical analysis of primary data;
  • Advanced degree in a data-intensive discipline;
  • Experience with one or more disciplinary or institutional repository platforms;
  • Experience with one or more current scientific metadata conventions and standards;
  • Data management plan writing experience and familiarity with federal funding requirements;
  • Experience developing and delivering training, either virtually or in-person;

Professional Development and Support

The fellow will have the opportunity to participate in numerous internal USAID communities of practice, covering a wide variety of subjects ranging from knowledge management and data governance to myriad subjects across the spectrum of foreign assistance.  The individual will be able to learn from data and knowledge management experts in the Bureau for Management, USAID’s Global Development Lab, and the Bureau for Policy, Planning, and Learning, among others. The fellow will have access to USAID University, USAID’s online training platform, and the opportunity to attend both internal and external events focused on data and information management.

Environment

USAID’s Open Data Initiative touches almost all parts of the agency ranging from its field missions around the world to its subject specific pillar bureaus based in Washington and across all management functions including procurement, finance, and information technology. The fellow will be working at USAID during the early days of what is being referred to the worldwide Data Revolution, with many opportunities to connect with passionate, talented individuals with global experience and perspectives. The fellowship will occur during a time of large-scale change to USAID’s information technology infrastructure, which the fellow will have the opportunity to witness and influence, particularly as the Agency makes progress in linking its datasets, publications, procurement, and financial systems. The fellow will not only have the opportunity to learn about pressing development challenges but to influence USAID’s ability to address these challenges by making its data more accessible to a broad array of stakeholders. The fellow will be based within the Bureau for Management, located in one of USAID’s Washington, D.C. area offices.