Research Associate Roles

J-PAL, South Africa

Skill Required:, Research and Analysis
Preferred Experience: 
1 to 3 Years
Closing Date for Applications: 
13th August, 2019

Job Description

J-PAL Africa is seeking Johannesburg-based Research Associates to support its mission of reducing poverty by ensuring policy is informed by scientific evidence. We are looking for aspiring researchers with strong technical skills, a dedication to quality and a passion for working with diverse communities on poverty alleviation strategies.

The position holder will be employed by J-PAL Africa, the Africa hub of J-PAL Global, which is part of the Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit (SALDRU) in the University of Cape Town’s (UCT’s) School of Economics. While our South African headquarters sits in the University of Cape Town, this position will be based at our satellite office in Johannesburg for proximity to the study partner organisations, program beneficiaries and J-PAL Africa’s research manager – all based in Gauteng and surrounding provinces.

The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) consists of a global network of academics who specialize in conducting randomized evaluations (also known as randomized control trials or ‘RCTs’) of social policies/programs in order to generate scientific evidence about what works in the fight against poverty. J-PAL’s research associates work closely with these leading academics and partner organisations (often NGOs and governnments) to design and implement these studies.

These roles provide excellent opportunities to work at the frontier of rigorous research and evidence-based policymaking, contributing to knowledge that can improve the lives of citizens across Africa and beyond. J-PAL Africa provides the flexibility for accelerated growth and learning by supporting proactivity and encouraging top performers to take on more responsibility. At the same time, the position is rooted in rigorous, careful research practices and backed by a system of scientific oversight and supportive management structures to promote the highest research standards. Research associates in particular are often given significant project and staff management responsibilities, challenging data analysis tasks and opportunities to find creative solutions to research implementation issues. They are also charged with managing important relationships with study partners (often senior policymakers). However, they perform these functions with support and guidance from peers, managers and the academics who lead the studies. This is also supplemented with formal training, where required.

Responsibilities may include:

  • Managing one or more field research projects on development economics or political science topics. Current projects include testing of interventions designed to improve outcomes in youth unemployment and community relations in extractive industries.
  • Coordinating data collection efforts including hiring, training and managing teams of field staff.
  • Conducting literature reviews or consulting related literature to inform study design.
  • Designing survey instruments, focus group discussions and other data collection tools and methods to achieve study objectives in partnership with academics.
  • Programming surveys, high-frequency checks and data cleaning processes (often in Stata and/or R).
  • Analyzing data for needs assessments, study design or computation of results (often in Stata and/or R).
  • Scoping the feasibility of randomized evaluations and helping to design study implementation methods
  • Coordinating relationship management with core study partners.
  • Managing finances and donor reporting for large research projects.
  • Performing cost-effectiveness analysis and/or working with partner organisations on implementing effective programmes at scale.
  • Training others on research practices and contributing to J-PAL’s global knowledge repositories and external capacity building efforts.


  • A minimum of an Honour’s degree in economics, the social sciences, or other Honour’s level degrees involving training in statistics or coursework in quantitative research methods.
  • Strong proven quantitative skills.
  • Fluency in English. Demonstrated strong oral and written communication skills.
  • Excellent management and organizational skills, detail-oriented with ability to work both independently and in groups and to be supervised remotely.
  • Excellent knowledge of MS Word, MS Excel and Stata.
  • Familiarity with randomised evaluations / randomised control trials.
  • Excellent interpersonal and conflict resolution skills.
  • Ability to work under time pressure and solve problems in field.
  • Valid driver’s licence.
  • Right to work in South Africa (citizenship, permanent residency or critical skills visa). Note: J-PAL Africa cannot sponsor work permits.

Highly advantageous:

  • Prior research assistance experience in the field.
  • Experience with data cleaning, merging and management using Stata/R programming.
  • Survey programming experience in SurveyCTO or equivalent.
  • Proficiency in an official South African language other than English (e.g., isiZulu, isiXhosa).
  • Interest in labor, conflict studies, or the mining sector


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