Job Opening: Research Project and Data Assistant (Research Assistant III, non-lab)

The Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies (HCPDS) is a university-wide initiative dedicated to interdisciplinary research focused primarily on the quantitative social science of population change, socioeconomic development, and public health. Our goal is to produce population-based evidence that will better inform policies needed to create healthy and resilient societies.

Job Summary

We are seeking a full-time Research Assistant to support ongoing studies of cognitive aging and dementia in South Africa. Our work aims to understand how cognitive function in older age is shaped by biological aging and lifespan social experience. We use a variety of methods to tackle issues related to reliable measurement of cognitive function across countries and cultures. The work is grounded in our ongoing NIH-funded flagship project, Health and Aging in Africa: A Longitudinal Study in South Africa (HAALSA). The HAALSA study team examines the biological, social, and economic factors and public policies that interact to influence the course of major diseases and disorders among older adults in South Africa, including dementia and cognitive decline, cardiometabolic disease, and HIV. HAALSA began as a community-based longitudinal cohort study nested within the health and socio-demographic surveillance system (HDSS) in Agincourt, South Africa, where the study team has completed three waves of survey and biomarker data collection. HAALSA has recently been renewed for the next 5-year period, which will include continuation of our community cohort study in Agincourt, as well as the launch of the first nationally representative longitudinal HAALSA survey across South Africa. The community and national surveys each include a sub-study with in-depth cognitive assessment focused on the epidemiology of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias in HAALSA. The studies are designed to be aligned with the international Health and Retirement sister studies (HRS), and the HRS Harmonized Cognitive Assessment Protocol (HCAP), while also addressing research questions specific to aging in the South African context.

Under minimal supervision, the RA will support HAALSA and HAALSA-HCAP research procedures and data management. The position will require high level of attention to detail in data management, and strong communication, multitasking, prioritization skills.

Candidates are asked to visit the project and HCPDS websites for more information.

Duties and Responsibilities

  • Process (receiving data collected electronically), organize (merging and creating analytic data sets), summarize (summary statistics using Stata or similar software), and analyze data (basic regression analysis using Stata or similar software).
  • Monitor HAALSA-HCAP project fieldwork progress, helping to ensure benchmarks are reached and timelines adhered to.
  • Assist with scoring neuropsychological tests to evaluate reliability and creating summary measures.
  • Organize and track processes related to translation of study surveys and tools.
  • Oversee licensing requests for cognitive assessment tools.
  • Communicate and collaborate with affiliated research personnel at other locations or institutions, including the field team in South Africa.
  • Prepare HAALSA-HCAP datasets and codebooks for public release.
  • Collate, organize, draft and/or edit material for the preparation of research papers, manuscripts, progress reports, articles or other documents for publication and/or presentation with the view to being a co-author on such papers.
  • Assist with logistics related to survey launches and field staff trainings.
  • Assist in assessment or judgment of data validity.
  • Provide administrative project support by way of coordinating team meetings and calls, assisting with study documentation and SOPs, helping with submission to Harvard and Wits IRBs
  • Learn new research methods or new software as needs for the project arise.
  • Perform other duties as assigned.

PLEASE NOTE: Short-listed candidates may be required to take a data skills assessment. The position is based in Cambridge, MA with a hybrid schedule of 2-3 days a week on site (specific days and schedule will be determined with the RA’s supervisor). This position starts in early summer 2024 and has a 1-year term appointment from date of hire with the possibility of extension. Travel to South Africa up to two times per year for 2 weeks in durations, may be required.

Preferred Qualifications

  • A Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in global public health, biostatistics, epidemiology, psychology or related field is preferred. At least 3 years of related experience is required; a combination of education and experience may be considered.
  • Experience with statistical software such as STATA (strongly preferred), R, SAS, and/or other statistical software is required
  • Demonstrated experience with research project coordination
  • International work/travel experience
  • Experience in working with complex longitudinal data sets such as HRS, SHARE, and related international sister studies or experience working on NIH studies
  • Experience with data collection and management in a research setting
  • Prior oversight of teams and/or capacity building experience
  • Excellent organizational, interpersonal, writing, and communication skills
  • Ability to resolve problems and issues that arise
  • Ability to work independently and also effectively as part of a diverse, multidisciplinary team.
  • Culturally sensitive with excellent interpersonal skills to facilitate team-based work and interaction with research. participants
  • An interest in lifecourse, aging, or dementia research is a plus.

Application Process

This position is posted on the Harvard Jobs website and is open to both internal and external candidates. If you have any questions, please email Laura Price, Deputy Director at