Data Science Lead

United Nations University Data Science Lead
Location New York, USA
Application deadline 31 May 2017
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The Data Science Lead will play a central role in a fully funded, multimillion-dollar project to rapidly accelerate the global creation, exchange, and uptake of knowledge about modern slavery, human trafficking, forced labour, and child labour – and how to fight them successfully.

Working within a small team of knowledge professionals, researchers, and communicators, in the first year the Data Science Lead will work with external data partners — including UN agencies, anti-slavery and anti-trafficking organisations, academia, and the private sector — to build an online Knowledge Platform, supporting and engaging with Alliance 8.7 and stakeholders from around the world.

In the second year, the Data Science Lead will help bring the resulting data to life, developing bespoke data visualisations, typologies, and other knowledge products to demonstrate the utility of knowledge creation, exchange, and uptake in this field. The Data Science Lead will also contribute to the establishment of an online, peer-reviewed journal, engaging both scholars and policymakers, through leadership on data science aspects of the journal’s editorial processes; and input into the creation of learning and training tools, as well as targeted policy outreach.

After two years, the state of knowledge creation, exchange and uptake in the fight to achieve SDG 8.7will be demonstrably different – and more effective.


The United Nation University (UNU) is a global think tank with a mandate to help policymakers access the best available evidence to fight global problems. UNU has recently received funding from the UK government’s Modern Slavery Innovation Fund and the International Labour Organization to build a Knowledge Platform to support efforts to end forced labour, modern slavery, human trafficking, and child labour by 2030, one of the targets in the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The Knowledge Platform aims to rapidly accelerate and scale up the global scientific knowledge and evidence base on modern slavery risk and vulnerability factors, and on factors in the effectiveness of prevention and response interventions, while also facilitating global uptake of the resulting insights by policymakers, business and other practitioners. The two-year project will lead to the development of an online Knowledge Hub, which will be designed as a global public good and will generate research, policy and practice impact related to modern slavery.

About UN University

The United Nations University is a formal UN agency with a mandate from the UN General Assembly to contribute, through research and capacity building, to solutions to the pressing global problems that are the concern of the United Nations and its Member States. The UNU Office at the United Nations in New York is a think tank charged with conveying research-based policy ideas from UNU and beyond to key policymakers at the United Nations. Led by Dr James Cockayne, it has established a global profile in recent years on research and policy development on modern slavery, human trafficking and SDG 8.7, for example through input into the first ever UN Security Council Resolution on human trafficking in conflict.

About you

You are a creative data science professional with an established track record of working with complex, fragmented, and noisy data sets to develop policy-oriented analysis. You have a history of working with, and preferably leading, small teams to develop new data sources, integrate diverse data from different sources, and generate accessible data visualisations. You have a demonstrated interest in issues relating to SDG 8.7, illicit economies, sustainable development, or international peace and security, and understand and model the values of the United Nations.


The Data Science Lead will work closely with the Project Manager and will lead on the data aspects of the project. She/he will be responsible for managing relationships with external data providers; overseeing the development of data handling, storage, integration, and presentation within the project; and will lead in the development of data-related analytical products and tools.

The responsibilities of the successful candidate will include:

  • working with the Project Director and Project Manager to develop and execute plans and processes for sourcing, securing, receiving, processing, handling, and presenting relevant data
  • developing knowledge products related to (1) methodologies for identifying global, national, and other incidence of the forms of exploitation covered by SDG 8.7; (2) vulnerabilities and risk factors; (3) monitoring and evaluation of programmes related to SDG 8.7; and (4) geographic and/or sectoral typologies or typology methodologies
  • leading on the strategy, design, and rollout of the data aspects of the project’s Knowledge Hub
  • ensuring data science quality control across all project activities, including during the development and roll-out of an online, open-access, peer-reviewed journal (in the second year)
  • working with the project team to help produce written reports, working papers, concept papers, blogs, and policy advocacy materials with an aim to communicate complex technical issues to a policy- and advocacy-oriented audience
  • supporting the project’s monitoring, evaluation, and learning efforts
  • collaborating with the Project Director, the Project Manager, and the rest of the project team to develop a long-term sustainability plan for the project, including by developing a strategic roadmap
  • engaging and consulting with global networks of government, civil society, private sector, and research community actors, amongst others

Required qualifications and experience

Required qualifications and experience include:

  • advanced university degree in demography, computer science, information science, economics, statistics, mathematics, or a related field
  • minimum of five (5) years of relevant work experience, including a minimum of three (3) years of professional experience in research or data analytics
  • experience working with large and complex datasets strongly preferred
  • background in applied statistics and modelling required
  • strong ability to establish priorities, multitask, and work within tight timelines
  • excellent English-language oral and written communication skills
  • solid interpersonal and problem-solving skills demonstrated by the ability to work in a multicultural environment with sensitivity and respect for diversity
  • genuine interest in and understanding of modern slavery
  • demonstrated experience using R, Python, Java, Scala, or similar programming languages to clean, analyse, and transform large datasets; proficiency in the use of statistical packages such as R, Stata, MatLab, or equivalent


Remuneration will be commensurate with qualifications and experience of the successful candidate.

Duration of contract

The successful candidate shall be hired as a fixed-term contractual personnel for a period of one year, renewable for up to one more year. The successful candidate will not hold international civil servant status nor be a “staff member” as defined in the United Nations Staff Rules and Regulations.

Applications from suitably qualified woman candidates and those from developing countries are particularly encouraged.

Starting date

As soon as possible – preferably by 2nd week of July 2017