Associate Director of Research – J-PAL North America

Associate Director of Research – J-PAL North America

Website J-PAL North America at MIT

J-PAL North America, a research center within the Economics department at MIT, is actively seeking an Associate Director of Research to join its team and contribute to its mission to reduce poverty by ensuring that policy is informed by scientific evidence. J-PAL North America conducts randomized evaluations, builds partnerships for evidence-informed policymaking, and helps partners scale up effective programs. As a regional office of the global Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, J-PAL North America leverages research by affiliated professors from universities across the world to generate and disseminate rigorous evidence about which anti-poverty social policies work and why.

Our Commitment to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion is essential to address the complex causes and consequences of poverty. To advance our mission, J-PAL North America must draw on diverse experiences from our staff and affiliated researchers in order to ask better questions and identify better solutions. We are working to increase the limited representation of individuals from underrepresented backgrounds in the economics profession. Our organization is implementing strategies to attract, develop, and advance a diverse staff and building a pipeline to increase diversity among economic researchers. We are committed to engaging in self-reflection, learning, and dialogue to nurture understanding across differences. Together, we will build an equitable, inclusive culture where everyone is respected, empowered, and heard.

To learn more about our work and team culture, see our Join Our Team brochure or visit 

Opportunity Overview

The Associate Director of Research is a senior-level position that is a part of J-PAL North America’s senior leadership team. They report directly to a co-Executive Director, and will work closely with J-PAL North America’s co-Scientific Directors, Amy Finkelstein (MIT) and Larry Katz (Harvard). The Associate Director of Research leads the research vertical and oversees the following key programmatic areas:

– Research Management Support for projects from incubation to completion; 
– Internal and public resources and guides to best practices in research, such as a quick guide to power calculations or an overview of the ethical conduct of RCTs; and 
– Research Staff Training, an annual program equipping over 50 research assistants per year with the skills to work on RCTs.
– The Associate Director of Research maintains a standard of excellence and a culture of continuous learning, ensuring J-PAL North America’s research activities adhere to the latest standards and operate efficiently and effectively. The Associate Director of Research also maintains a focus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and advises on strategy for how to incorporate a racial equity lens into J-PAL North America’s research activities.

Key Responsibilities:

60% – Lead J-PAL North America’s research operations, strategy, and partnership development

Maintain high standards in research implementation 

The Associate Director of Research works closely with J-PAL affiliated professors and research staff across projects to troubleshoot, assist and advise them in their decision making. The Associate Director of Research also develops systems to ensure J-PAL North America’s research activities adhere to the latest standards; comply with J-PAL research protocols, institutional requirements, and legal requirements; and effectively support researchers. 

Cultivate and manage inclusive collaborations with critical stakeholders and funders
The Associate Director of Research develops and maintains relationships with researchers in J-PAL North America’s network, keeping a pulse on their needs and priorities and keeping them informed of our research resources and services. They also build and maintain productive and strategic relationships with partner research organizations. Additionally, the Associate Director of Research works with the co-Executive Directors to secure funding for J-PAL North America’s research work by cultivating and managing relationships with local and national philanthropic funders. 

Manage and support a talented research team
The Associate Director of Research supervises managers and senior managers, providing timely, ongoing feedback, coaching and training, and maintaining a positive, inclusive, and equitable environment. They identify staffing needs and actively engage in recruiting and hiring of research staff. Additionally, the Associate Director of Research provides strategic leadership and direction to the research staff to set and meet clearly defined objectives and key results, conduct work planning, and ensure work plans, staffing allocations, budgets and priorities are coordinated across the research vertical. 

Oversee financial planning and management for research activities
The Associate Director of Research, in close collaboration with the co-Executive Director and Director of Finance & Operations, sets, leads, and monitors the progress of the research vertical’s finance and fundraising strategies, to ensure all projects and activities in the research portfolio are fully funded.

20% – Engage in research work and intellectual leadership of the research team

J-PAL’s network of researchers act as principal investigators on randomized evaluations. The J-PAL North America office supports these projects, and our research staff, by providing guidance on methodological innovations and developments and through technical support. To guide such support, the Associate Director of Research engages directly in key aspects of J-PAL North America’s research work in order to maintain and develop skills. Responsibilities may include such activities as developing and presenting modules for research staff training and other capacity building activities; collaborating on J-PAL research as an adviser or technical assistant; and leading content development for resources such as guidelines, best-practice guides, case studies, and toolkits as a part of our research resources.

20% – Provide strategic leadership to advance J-PAL North America’s mission and improve operational effectiveness

As part of the senior leadership team, the Associate Director of Research actively contributes to the overall strategic planning and leadership of J-PAL North America and collaborates with senior leadership at J-PAL’s global and other regional offices to ensure that best practices are shared and implemented. They contribute to the design and creation of new systems and modifications to existing systems to maximize functionality and effectiveness across J-PAL North America and participate in the planning and management of J-PAL North America’s annual operating budget. Additionally, the Associate Director of Research represents J-PAL North America at high-profile events, lectures at training events, and participates in high stakes meetings as needed to effectively communicate J-PAL North America’s work, build J-PAL North America’s brand and reputation, and influence high-level decision makers.

Compensation & Benefits

This full-time, exempt position is classified by MIT as a Research Associate position and currently offers a competitive market-based salary range that is based on experience.

J-PAL North America staff are MIT employees, which means they are eligible for a wide array of institutional benefits. Some of these MIT benefits include comprehensive health insurance, a 401(k) match up to 5% of salary plus a pension-based retirement plan, tuition assistance up to $5,250 per calendar year, commuter benefits, access to MyLifeServices, a generous vacation policy (3 weeks of paid vacation in your first year, and 4 weeks every year after that), plus an additional 12+ paid Institute-wide holidays per year), paid leave for sick time, maternity and parental leave, back-up child care benefits and much more.

Professional Development

J-PAL North America supports a culture of learning, with opportunities to attend weekly seminars, engage in small-group discussions with other J-PAL staff, participate in workshops, and take classes for credit at MIT or elsewhere with our generous tuition assistance program. Staff have the opportunity to work with J-PAL affiliates and directors, as well as interact with policymakers and practitioners. 


Commitment to Mission & Values: Cares personally and deeply about using rigorous research to inform policy. Demonstrates interest in poverty alleviation in the North American (primarily the United States) context in particular. Demonstrates a commitment to J-PAL North America’s values and shares our commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

Education: Holds a master’s degree in economics, public policy or a closely related field that includes significant training in economics, statistics, and quantitative methods of program evaluation.  

Experience: A minimum of 8 years of experience is required, including work related to poverty reduction, impact evaluations, and evidence-informed policymaking. This should include at least 2 years of experience working on prospective randomized evaluations and at least 2 years managing and coaching individuals, teams, and complex projects. Work experience should demonstrate a high level of responsibility and ownership. Experience in an academic research or similar setting is strongly preferred. 

Exceptional Communication Skills: Ability to effectively communicate and engage in discussions with a diverse audience (e.g. Principal Investigators, Research Managers, Implementation Partners in government and non-governmental organizations, donors, etc) about a wide range of information, including evaluation design, research results, or organizational strategy. Ability to write in clear, precise language for diverse audiences, and to understand and write technical research language (e.g. in economics, statistics) and gain skills in understanding legal language (DUAs, MOUs). Ability to teach evaluation design and statistical concepts to a diverse audience. 

External Stakeholder Relations: Develops and manages relationships with internal and external stakeholders, including staff, researchers, donors, and implementing partners, including high-level external partners. Effectively takes multiple perspectives into account when making decisions. 

Project Management: Demonstrated ability to plan and manage multiple complex, multi-year projects from conception to completion. Effectively pushes forward external stakeholders, meets deadlines, manages budgets, and manages staff time and resources. Familiarity with project management tools and software (e.g. gantt charts, Asana) and building systems where tools do not already exist. Incorporates long term or big picture implications of each option or constraint in decision-making. Takes responsibility for decisions made and executed. 

People Management: Demonstrated leadership and management experience, including hiring, training, and managing a diverse team to successfully complete projects on tight deadlines. Demonstrates effectiveness in leading, inspiring and supervising direct reports or teams. 

Travel:  Willingness to travel and represent J-PAL North America as needed at conferences and stakeholder meetings.

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