Research Assistant in Development Economics - University of Oxford
Key aim: Conduct field and research activities to support a programme of research at the intersection of social psychology, psychiatry and economics and develop a portfolio of research in this area
The Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE) and Blavatnik School of Government (BSG) have a Research Assistant opening for a candidate who has been awarded a Master’s degree in a relevant discipline. The Research Assistant will support the research activities of a team of development economists led by Professor Dercon at CSAE based in the Blavatnik School and Department of Economics. They will also work with a Research Operations Manager on a new, large-scale research hub across multiple countries which will apply behavioural science in the design of programmes to reduce poverty and improve governance in developing countries. The hub will be co-hosted by the Blavatnik School and the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Oxford.
Overview of the role
The School is inviting applications for a Research Assistant to support ongoing work by development economists at CSAE at the intersection of social psychology, psychiatry and economics and the setting up of a major new research programme which aims to facilitate and fund ambitious collaborations between social scientists from Psychiatry, Psychology, Economics, and Political Science. Multidisciplinary teams of academics will apply rigorous quantitative and experimental analysis to i) map how psychological characteristics affect human decision-making in contexts of poverty, violence or poor governance and ii) develop and test scalable, high-impact interventions (alongside or in combination with existing services) to alter decision-making to alleviate poverty or improve the quality of government in developing countries. The research programme aims to be a world-leading centre to advance the application of behavioural science in the world’s poorest and most unstable contexts. The post holder will also be responsible for managing their own research.
Applicants should be:
- Keen to build, contribute to, and collaborate within a research group, including attending lab meetings, contributing to building shared resources and enabling the development of other team members;
- Willing to take responsibility for each stage of the process of delivering an output;
- Systematic, thorough and well-organised with the ability to work on a variety of tasks simultaneously and cope with unpredictable volumes of work, busy periods and tight deadlines;
- Energetic, proactive, meticulous, thorough and reliable, with a flexible, can-do approach and the ability to adapt to changing circumstances.
1) Conduct data analysis and dissemination of activities under supervision on various completed randomised controlled trials on the topic:
- Clean and merge data, check existing code and analysis conducted by previous RAs;
- Produce well-organised tables of results;
- Provide substantial support in the write-up of the report based on these data;
- Organise all project documentation (including data) in an efficient and transparent manner;
- Provide support and take initiative in the write-up of policy briefs and blog posts;
- Provide ad-hoc other forms of support on the project where and when needed.
2) With Kenya-based research coordinator and the post-doctoral fellow, manage end line data collection for a large randomised controlled trial evaluating the effects of cross-cutting an unconditional cash transfer with a video-based psychological intervention to encourage people to set goals and steps to achieve them:
- Conduct literature review and research to develop end line survey questionnaire;
- Support all activities related to end-line data collection; in particular ensure high quality data collection, adherence to the sampling plan and integrity of the research design. Tasks include:
- Careful checking of coded questionnaires, and consent forms
- Support survey implementation planning
- Support and attend interviewer training planning and preparations, including supporting the development of interviewer training materials
- Oversee the start of data collection
- Keep members of the research team informed on progress and potential delays and to take action to mitigate any delays and to keep the project timeline up to date at all times
- Document changes to the project plan and ensure that all team members and partners, and if applicable funders, are informed
- Organise and attend internal and external meetings where appropriate, to set and share meeting agendas and to take notes when required and share with other team members
- Resolve unexpected issues encountered in the field
- Be responsible for cleaning and analysis of end-line data collected as part of this project
- Conduct data analysis and write up results under supervision
3. Be responsible for monthly monitoring of the project budget. This will entail checking the expense reporting by IPA against the budget for any discrepancies and making sure these are resolved.
3) Contribute to developing and running new and continuing research projects by the group. Activities could include but may not be limited to:
- Contribute to the design, development, budgeting and fundraising for new research projects;
- Conducting literature reviews and writing synthesis papers;
- Development of questionnaires and interventions, including field travel;
- Supporting fieldwork firms or qualitative fieldworkers, including field travel;
- Day to day administrative tasks to support fieldwork or the general lab;
- Data management, analysis and writing of publications;
- Supervision of field or other staff;
- Promotion of lab research outputs and relevant findings to key stakeholders, including policy-makers, the media or other end users, through personal contacts, policy briefs and developing and maintaining website content.
4) Support the Research Operations Manager in the development of the research hub, in particular, developing systems for the research group to share resources and collaborate effectively:
- Organise within-project meetings workshops, retreats or collaborative meetings;
- Set up and maintaining online shared resources, including relevant literature and documentation for managing fieldwork;
- Set up and maintain lab systems and records: minutes, meeting rosters, action points;
- On boarding for students and new staff into knowledge management and lab systems;
- Working with the CSAE team to provide minimal support for team travel, including flights, visas, travel insurance;
- Support the CSAE team and Research Operations Manager to:
- Set up and manage the administrative and financial backbone to commission and manage three to four streams of research led by senior academics to produce evidence in this area and conduct syntheses of findings.
- Managing and expanding existing organizational, financial and data systems for managing existing Oxford-run research in this area to maximize functionality and effectiveness and setting up new systems where necessary.
7. Setting up a code bank and processes for getting data compiled to be made open access.
Candidates will be given the opportunity to take on increased levels of responsibility over time, moving from supporting projects to junior project managing and then developing them.
- Master’s Degree or equivalent in economics, public policy, or development studies with a focus on development economics. Candidates nearing completion of their Master’s degree will also be considered.
- Experience of, and an interest in, development economics and behavioural economics.
- Ability to innovate and work effectively with colleagues.
- Ability to carry out independent quantitative research. This includes:
- Strong writing skills.
- Excellent skills in statistics/econometrics.
- Experience in producing high-quality data analysis with minimal guidance.
- A working knowledge of STATA.
- Experience working with household surveys.
- Knowledge of impact evaluation.
- Excellent interpersonal and communication skills, especially those necessary to communicate effectively to relevant academic and non-academic audiences using a range of media.
- Previous experience in working on or supporting lab and/or field experiments.
- Previous experience living in developing countries.
The managers of the team undertake to create a supportive research environment, provide structures and mentorship to facilitate the long-term career development of staff, and structure work to maximise the potential for autonomy, creativity and personal growth.
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