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Research Scientist

New York City (United States of America) | Washington D.C.

TITLE Research Scientist



TRAVEL Minimal


SECTION & UNIT Office of Innovation

CONSULTANT REPORTING TO Senior Adviser, Innovation

Background & Rationale

UNICEF Office of Innovation is hiring a research scientist to join our Science Team. We are looking for motivated interdisciplinary researchers in data science related fields (computer science, applied mathematics or physics) and a deep interest in applying research towards humanitarian and development work.

UNICEF Office of Innovation combines several disciplines such as network science, natural language processing, data mining, machine learning, remote sensing, artificial intelligence or complex systems in research lines such as human dynamics, epidemiology, urbanization, migration or influence dynamics.

Candidates should expect to pursue research leading to both high level scientific publications and operational tools for UNICEF. Current lines of work range from epidemic modelling and response in emergencies such as Ebola and Zika, understanding urban dynamics and migration resilience in crisis such as the Syrian refugees, preparedness and early warning for natural hazards such as El Niño or understanding how children rights get embedded into legal and corporate policies. Current data sources include mobility and communication networks, social media and news, satellite images, financial and economic data, weather and environmental data along with a wide variety of traditional humanitarian and development indicators.

The Science Team interacts with world class scientists, on the ground responders and private sector data holders and tech leaders to push the Data Science agenda towards the problems that affect the most vulnerable children. Breakthroughs and working methodologies are streamlined to a dedicated Development Team to scale into operational tools that can make a real impact.

UNICEF Office of Innovation functions like a collection of startups in early-stage in which promising new technologies (e.g. data science, SMS technologies, UAVs, blockchain) are identified that have potential to impact UNICEF core operations (e.g. education, health, disaster response). Through our network of technology partners, UNICEF country offices and academic institutions, we construct pilots to quickly determine potential impact. The Office of Innovation provides support to UNICEF’s 135 country offices and consists of a flat team of technologists, designers, programmers, researchers and communication specialists. Requests for collaboration, advice and support are fielded from UNICEF programmes, other parts of the UN system and the humanitarian technology ecosystem.


UNICEF is seeking to hire a research scientist to be a key member of the Research Team of the Office of Innovation. The ideal candidate will have a strong research record and a high desire to apply her/his skills to make a difference in real world problems affecting the most vulnerable. Candidates are expected to have a high capacity to conduct and push research forward as well as to coordinate and communicate on specific projects with and to very diverse groups of people.

The candidate will be expected to be the main driver of 2 major research projects per year within the Science Team.

For doing so, the candidate will be expected to interact and collaborate with different partners from the UN, academia and the private sector, helping in strengthening and expanding the collaboration network.

Expected results: (measurable results)

  • Publication of high quality scientific papers submitted to first tier journals showcasing application of data science to solving problems affecting children;
  • Development of data compilation and clean working code to allow for replication of methodologies;
  • Development of a visualization/interaction prototype supporting the scientific work;
  • Raising the profile of scientific approaches for UNICEF through internal and external communications
  • Increased investments from the Innovation Fund to support data science-related pilot projects


-Submit a work plan to Office of Innovation and Lead Research Scientist for review and feedback -Submit a comprehensive list of data sources and partners and data compilation, cleaning and merging to support research and through partnerships created around the Magic Box and other. brief summary of technical assessment and recommendations for proposals submitted from relevant fields to the Innovation Fund

(End of month 1)

-Develop algorithms, methods and studies to push forward the use of Big Data for Development and Emergencies, with special focus on children. Deliverable: code and technical documentation of developed methodologies

(End of month 2)

-Extend analysis of the methodologies and its application to development and emergencies. Deliverable: technical report on findings and impact

(End of month 3)

-Develop visuals and applications, including the web interface and/or visual materials, to help operationalise and disseminate the research work. Deliverable: pilot tool/interface/visual

(End of month 4)

-Draft a scientific paper (4-8 pages) on findings, methodologies and experience on the use of Big Data for development and emergencies

(End of month 5)

-Submit a draft technical report (2-4 pages) to inform UNICEF policy and programs around the use of Big Data for development and emergencies particularly with reference to the Magic Box project

(End of month 6)

-Submit a comprehensive list of data sources and partners and data compilation, cleaning and merging for second project

(End of month 7)

-Develop algorithms, methods and studies to push forward the use of Big Data for development and emergencies, with special focus on children. Deliverables: code and technical documentation of developed methodologies.

(End of month 8)

-Submit a final scientific paper (4-8 pages) on findings, methodologies and experiences on the use of Big Data for development and emergencies.

(End of month 9)

-Present findings on Big Data for development and emergencies to Innovation team leads and share presentation materials with relevant partners (internal and external) for feedback.

(End of month 10)

-Submit a handover report (4-8 pages) on Big Data for development and emergencies, including all the finalised technical reports and scientific papers, to Innovation co-leads and lead Research Scientist, summarising the experiences and lessons learned on the main areas of research: Nowcasting, Human Mobilisation and Emergencies and/or efforts to optimize investments for UNICEF

(End of month 11)

-Technical guidance note for the Innovation Fund on Data Science

(End of month 11.5)

-Attend and participate in weekly meetings with other UNICEF Divisions/Sections (DRP, Data, EMOPS and C4D)


TOTAL 11.5 months


● Strong scientific background: PhD or Masters (or completing PhD) in Data Science related field such as computer science, applied mathematics, information technology, physics or software engineering.

● Experience in two or more of the following (or strongly related to them): network analysis, complex systems, remote sensing, machine learning, deep learning, remote sensing, natural language processing, optimization or data mining.

● Fair Data Analysis experience: able to showcase some relevant scientific publications or similar work; and experience with analytical tools and languages such as R, Python, shell scripting.

● Some experience in working with mapping technologies and spatial data (e.g. shapefiles, GIS)

● Some development experience, with special interest on web based applications (e.g. HTML5, Javascript, R flexdashboard…) and data visualization libraries (e.g. D3.js)

● Familiarity with data gathering acquisition e.g. web scraping, APIs, and data cleaning and preparation.

● Ability to work in a team, in a diverse work environment and on several projects in parallel.

● Ability to communicate findings and complex ideas verbally and in writing to a wide range of audiences. Good writing skills.

● Fluency in English

● Strong social skills and a good sense of humor.

Applicants are requested to send their submissions to with subject line: RESEARCH SCIENTIST by 3 December 2016, 5:00pm EST.

Applications must include:

● Cover letter

● CV

● P-11 form

● 2 selected scientific publications of the applicant portfolio with a small description of why they were selected for this application

● Link to google scholar profile, github profile, medium or blog site (if available)

● Indicate where you heard about this advertisement

Please indicate your ability, availability and daily/monthly rate (in US$) to undertake the terms of reference above. Applications submitted without a daily/monthly rate will not be considered.

NOTE: Files should not exceed 5.0MB limit

UNICEF is committed to achieving workforce diversity in terms of gender, nationality and culture. Individuals from minority groups, indigenous groups and persons with disabilities are equally encouraged to apply. All applications will be treated with the strictest confidence.

Before applying, please make sure that you have read the requirements for the position and that you qualify.
Applications from non-qualifying applicants will most likely be discarded by the recruiting manager.
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  • Organization: UNICEF - United Nations Children’s Fund
  • Location: New York City (United States of America) | Washington D.C.
  • Grade: Junior - Internationally recruited position - Junior level
  • Occupational Groups:
    • Scientist and Researcher
  • Closing Date: 2016-12-03

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