U.S. Agency for International Development

Postdoctoral Research Associate
CLIR/DLF Postdoctoral Fellowship in Data Curation for the Sciences and Social Sciences

Background:  The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is the lead U.S. Government agency that works to reduce poverty, strengthen democratic governance, and help people emerge from humanitarian crises and progress beyond assistance. 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 investing in programs that harness science, technology, innovation and partnership to accelerate development impact faster, cheaper, and more sustainably. Data intrinsically underpins each of these investments and plays a critical role in establishing an evidence base to gauge a country’s journey toward self-reliance. The USAID Data Services team is at the forefront of the Agency’s efforts to ensure that development outcomes are informed and enhanced by evidence. The team manages numerous digital resources for USAID including, but not limited to Foreign Aid Explorer, IDEA, Dollars to Results, the Development Experience Clearinghouse, and the Development Data Library. This fellowship represents an exciting opportunity to bring state-of-the-art digital management, data curation, research, and library science practices to USAID’s broad portfolio of digital services 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 the USAID Data Services team to deliver enterprise-level data management services and solutions to the Agency. The individual’s work will contribute directly to data-driven solutions that can catalyze decision-making, innovation, and breakthroughs that support improved development outcomes in multiple countries around the world. The CLIR fellow will serve as a primary subject matter expert for data management and digital curation best practices that enhance data availability, access, and usability. As a key member of the USAID Data Services team, the fellow will provide expertise and actionable contributions to support:

  • Enhancements and upgrades to USAID’s public and internal-facing data repositories and portals;
  • Various Federal mandates and directives for managing data (i.e., Executive Order 13642 and OMB Policy on open data; OSTP memo on enhancing public access to federally-funded research);
  • Data management planning resources and tools (e.g, data management plans, data management technical tools);
  • Metadata standards and guidelines for international development (e.g., International Aid Transparency Initiative – IATI) and a diverse set of other disciplines (e.g., social and political sciences, behavioral sciences and education, agriculture, earth and environmental sciences, geospatial);
  • Documentation standards and guidelines for data analysis methodologies, workflows, pipelines, etc.;
  • Data quality control and assessment practices and procedures;
  • Data curation best practices for different types of digital objects (i.e., structured and unstructured data and objects);
  • Data curation best practices and requirements for geospatial data and metadata;
  • Emerging software curation best practices and standards;
  • Digital repository management, administration, and development;
  • Trustworthy digital repository audit and certification criteria and processes for achieving certification;
  • Repository integration with data collection and submission systems/tools and with data analysis systems/tools;
  • Implementation of linked data principles and technologies in digital repository environments;
  • Data impacts and use (e.g., data citation, bibliometrics);
  • Data publication and sharing;
  • Data risk assessment and mitigation (e.g., data privacy and security risk evaluation and mitigation; protection of individual information; protection of human subjects); and
  • Intellectual property rights and issues (e.g., copyright, data licenses, data use restrictions and agreements)

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 public engagement and instructional training materials, and applying findings to USAID’s data curation efforts.

Major Duties and Responsibilities:  

  • Serve as a key advisor to the USAID Data Services team, advocating for the incorporation of features and approaches that will contribute toward the increased usage and trustworthiness of USAID’s data products and services, particularly among USAID staff, partners, and academic constituencies;
  • Socialize and apply standards and best practices for curation, communication, description, and management of USAID data 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 USAID Data Services 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:
  • 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 USAID digital repositories and third party academic research services such as CHORUS; and
  • Other related duties stemming from USAID’s effort to make its data available and accessible to a broad spectrum of stakeholders.

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 growing 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 data governance and strategy development to digital curation, master data management, data literacy training, and privacy and risk management.  The fellow will have broad exposure to data management challenges and opportunities facing the USG foreign assistance community.  The individual will be able to learn from data and digital development 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. 


The USAID Data Services team supports nearly every aspect of USAID operations, ranging from its field missions around the world to its subject specific pillar bureaus based in Washington.  The fellow will be working at USAID during the early years of 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.