Director, Research and Data
Vital City is a new policy venture that provides practical and enduring solutions, deeply rooted in research and evidence, to public safety problems. We believe that a strong social fabric is the key to public safety. We seek to shift the debate from one that starts with the police as the default response, necessary though police are, to one that starts with thriving neighborhoods and civic institutions.
Vital City produces a policy journal, original research, short films, public convenings and more. Through these media, we seek to bring to life the best ideas about how New York and other cities can be healthy, vibrant and safe. We aim to make these solutions – and the facts and science behind them – accessible to all, as knowledge and debate are the cornerstones of a strong democracy. The ideas we publish come from a variety of sources, and reflect thinking across the political spectrum. What ties the ideas together is a commitment to the best of the liberal democratic tradition: belief in progress, a dedication to the collective work of changing society for the better and a commitment to humility, curiosity, and empiricism in the process.
Vital City is looking for a Director of Research and Data (“Director”). The Director will translate and transmit the best ideas to the public and to decision makers in the public sphere. As a key part of our founding team, the Director will help launch into the public sphere ideas and evidence to improve our civic life. We are seeking a curious, open-minded, creative, energetic, entrepreneurial and collegial person to develop this key piece of the venture.
The Director will be responsible for developing three areas of activity and building the team, whether Vital City employees or partners, to do the following:
- Build a publicly available dataset that initially links the key information related to the operation of criminal justice system (e.g. crime complaints, arrests, arraignments, pretrial proceedings, jail admissions and demographics) and then combine it with datasets related to social distress (e.g. employment, health outcomes, school achievement and crime);
- Translate and disseminate the most promising ideas coming out of the worlds of research and practice into terms that public policy decision makers can use: that is, communicate key ideas briefly and directly, and working with other partners, show the operations necessary to implement the idea, or a set of ideas including the projected costs and results.
- Identify, analyze and communicate key trends in and drivers of safety, for example, the rise in shootings during the pandemic and the prognosis for a decline; the operations of NYS bail law and its impact on safety and fairness; the drivers of “disorder” and the potential solutions. This work may be communicated through white papers, fact sheets, convenings, op-eds or other approaches.
We recognize that this job may attract people from the overlapping worlds of data science and research and their skills may be concentrated more heavily in one area than another. We encourage all to whom this kind of project is attractive to apply, with the understanding that the Director will build– and have the knowledge and capacity to supervise – a team that consists of Vital City employees and/or contractors with the ability to:
- Provide expert research advice to further Vital City’s mission, including producing data and analysis of current conditions, engaging with other researchers in the field, writing or proposing short papers and analyses of key trends, organizing and promoting thinking across different disciplines on key topics of interest.
- Centralize, integrate, and develop a Vital City data solution which will be accessible to the public to assist in promoting the analysis and understanding of civic safety.
- Write programs and code to: scrape, import, inspect, clean, validate, normalize, merge, and restructure case-level administrative data for analysis.
- Extract data from warehouses, repositories, API’s, and other back-end systems, as needed.
- Conduct data and systems reviews as needed.
- Compare and analyze statistical information to identify patterns, relationships, problems and possible solutions.
- Advise on the development of all data streams, ETL’s, and integrations for the data storage solution.
Skills & Qualifications
- An MS, MA or PhD in economics, sociology, data analytics, data science, data/information management or a related field that requires strong quantitative skills. A PhD is strongly preferred.
- At least four years of experience performing data management/programming work in an applied research setting.
- Exceptional skills and experience in quantitative research, including machine learning techniques and other advanced quantitative methods.
- Experience working with municipal or state-level administrative data, including procurement and interpretation, and an ability to use an array of datasets for the direct and indirect measurement of social phenomena. Experience with criminal justice data, especially New York criminal justice databases preferred.
- Excellent data management and analysis skills, including experience cleaning, coding, merging, and analyzing large and complex quantitative data files in languages such as Python, R, and/or SQL (experience with SPSS, SAS, and/or STATA is also helpful).
- Experience with data linking algorithms, advanced statistical modeling (including causal, quasi-experimental, descriptive and spatial analyses, as well as ML exploration), GIS, and data visualizations. Ability to communicate complex statistical data and concepts to a variety of audiences in emails, memos, reports, slides, and oral presentations.
- Demonstrated ability to work in a fast-paced environment while maintaining quality, adhering to deadlines and maintaining collegiality.
- Excellence in writing, editing and researching.
- Demonstrated project and staff management experience, delivering understandable research materials from design to publication in coordination with colleagues.
Vital City is a start-up enterprise in the process of developing its systems and infrastructure. We are looking for someone who will be comfortable (and good-humored) working in our dynamic environment, as well as in conceptualizing the work and building a team to carry it out.
Please send the following to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Research Director” in the subject line:
- Resume or CV.
- Contact information for three references.
- An analysis of which you are most proud and that you believe aligns with Vital City’s direction and goals or demonstrates a clear ability to contribute to the effective improvement of public policy.
- A short piece (not more than 500 words) describing why you believe you are a good fit for Vital City. It should demonstrate your ability to help promote the goals of Vital City – i.e. translating the most promising ideas so they can be used by policy makers, and providing relevant, accessible facts and science to support the knowledgeable public so key to a strong democracy.
Applicants are strongly encouraged to read Vital City’s publications prior to applying, and especially in preparation of their application materials.
All applications will be held in strict confidence.
Application period will close on November 28, 2022.
Location: Remote, though residency in New York City is highly desirable.
Salary range: $120,000-160,000, commensurate with education, experience and location.