Research Operations Manager - University of Oxford

United Kingdom
Other advanced degree
Language Requirement 
Length of Commitment 
More than two years
Start Date 

The Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE) is seeking an outstanding Research Operations Manager with a social science background, experience in managing large-scale quantitative research in developing countries, and strong strategic, operational and financial skills. The post-holder will have management responsibility for the field research activities of a team of development economists at the CSAE based in the Blavatnik School of Government and the Department of Economics. They will also lead operational aspects of a new, large-scale research hub The postholder will lead all operational aspects of a large-scale research hub led by Professor Dercon across multiple countries which will apply behavioural science in the design of programmes to reduce poverty or 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. The candidate will work alongside the academic Research Lead [post to be recruited] for the hub and with the support of the CSAE’s five-person administrative and support team and the Blavatnik School and Psychiatry grants support team.

Overview of the role
The Blavatnik School is now inviting applications for a Research Operations Manager for 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 from these fields 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 research programme will build upon the Blavatnik School’s commitment to challenge-focused and practice-based research. It also builds on an existing collaboration between the CSAE at the Blavatnik School and the Department of Psychiatry and on existing field research projects at the intersection of Psychiatry, Psychology and Economics in Oxford.

This appointment offers a unique opportunity to lead and improve the operational management in a small existing research group and lead its growth into a larger international research centre. The postholder will also be part of the small and energetic CSAE support team (based largely in the Department of Economics), and perform a key liaison role with colleagues in the Blavatnik School, and across the wider University. The postholder will report to the CSAE Administrator, and work closely with colleagues in finance, personnel, communications, and research management.

The main duties of the post are as follows:

1)    Working with senior leadership in developing a research strategy and funding portfolio for the research programme. The post-holder will:

  • Work with the Oxford team leading the research programme and a small group of leading academics from institutions worldwide to develop a research strategy for the hub.
  •  With the research lead, work with existing donors and mobilise new donors to secure a pool of funding for hub activities.

2)    With the CSAE support team, 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. Specific activities would be to:

  • Support the research lead and senior CSAE management in setting up an advisory board.
  • Manage the call for proposals, review process, granting and subcontracting, with the guidance of the advisory board.
  • Set up, monitor and report to programme leadership on research stream deliverables.
  • Provide oversight of budgeting in the research streams.
  • Design and set up collaborative activities (such as workshops or online communities) to share research methods and findings across the research streams.
  • Manage research activities cutting across all research streams. Core modules on key economic outcomes will be included in all research projects for a cross-project meta-analysis and the research manager will work with the Research Lead in the development and implementation of these.

3)    Training and managing a team of Research Assistants who will manage fieldwork and provide analysis support for existing and new Oxford-run research that is part of the research programme. This includes:

  • Co-ordination of recruitment of new staff to the lab including drawing up job descriptions, getting the job graded and advertised, maintaining records of applications, coordinating short-listing and arranging interviews.
  • Setting up a guidelines and processes for on-boarding of new staff, drawing up contracts and coordinating induction with the Blavatnik School and/or Economics HR teams.
  • System for maintaining task lists, days/hours worked by all part time DPhil RAs.
  • Coordinating, designing and arranging feedback and year-end reviews.
  • Capacity building with RAs and DPhil students and compilation of training materials.
  • Co-ordinate and organize meetings workshops, retreats or collaborative meetings. This includes regular (at least twice every term) lab meetings.
  • Setting up and maintaining online shared resources.

4)    Managing and expanding existing organisational, 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. The actual trial management will be done by Research Assistants.

  • Manage the grant portfolio of the group, including:
  1. Oversight of financial reporting of all grants across BSG and Economics, in accordance with University financial regulations.
  2. Work with partner firms in developing countries for financial reporting on all field activities.
  3. Development, budgeting and fundraising for new research projects in collaboration with colleagues.
  4. Coordinating with colleagues in research management at BSG and/or Economics and with partner firms to finalise contracts.
  • Development and high-level maintenance of relationships with implementing partner NGOs or governments in developing countries, as well as stakeholders in those countries including memorandum of understanding with collaborators.
  • Managing and supporting fieldwork firms or qualitative fieldworkers on all projects run out of the lab.
  • Developing operational processes to ensure smooth and effective running of the lab, documenting best practices and streamlining systems and processes as needed. This includes maintaining a proper online filing system, having processes for backing up all files and obtaining ethical approvals.
  • Advise CSAE team and Research Assistants on working with University and funder research data management requirements. This would require keeping up to speed with methods at the University and ensuring implementation and compliance across projects of the following:
  1. Meeting funding and regulatory body requirements.
  2. Drafting, tracking, and securing ethics approval for existing and new projects.
  3. Ensuring that research data remains accurate, authentic, reliable and complete.
  4. Working with RAs to ensure data security and device encryption as necessary.
  5. Archiving data [] and delivering open-access, transparent research, by making interventions publicly available and ensuring data is available online.
  6. Setting up a code bank and processes for getting data compiled to be made open access.

Selection Criteria

Applications will be judged only against the criteria that are set out below.

  1. Master’s degree in a relevant field such as economics, quantitative political science or public policy.
  2. Technical training in experimental methods, strong analytical abilities and an understanding of quantitative survey-based research and randomized evaluations (field experiments) to the level necessary for management of such research.
  3. Leadership experience in managing and administering complex operations requiring independent planning and efficient utilization of resources. Your work experience includes increasing levels of responsibility and a depth of experience in managing teams. Prior experience working in a developing country setting in management of large-scale quantitative research projects is highly desirable.
  4. Willing and able to travel frequently to developing countries.
  5. A strategic thinker who can handle multiple projects at once, push forward external stakeholders, meet deadlines, effectively manage time, adapt to changing circumstances and take responsibility for each stage of the process of delivering an output. Energetic and proactive, with a flexible, can-do approach.
  6. Demonstrated ability to build financial, human resources and data systems, ideally in challenging fieldwork settings. Detail-oriented, meticulous, thorough and reliable.
  7. Excellent interpersonal and communication skills, the ability to build trust and good relationships and the ability to work well with diverse stakeholders in different cultural contexts.

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 maximize the potential for autonomy, creativity and personal growth.

How to Apply

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