Postdoctoral Associate, Local Innovation Group

MIT Job Number: 19675
Employment Type: Full-Time Temporary - one-year appointment
Employment Category: Exempt
Visa Sponsorship Available: Yes
Posted: 5/28/2021

Overview Statement

The MIT D-Lab Local Innovation Group, an interdisciplinary research group that studies processes of local innovation in community-based settings throughout the world, is recruiting a Postdoctoral Associate to join a sponsored research project focused on evaluation methodology. The Postdoctoral Associate will work closely with the study’s Principal Investigator to support the research, design, and field testing of mixed-methods instruments intended to assess components of local innovation capacity at the individual, group, and local system levels. These instruments will be designed to assess concepts such as self and collective efficacy, cross-boundary dialog, social learning, and social capital strengthening in communities with low literacy levels, where conventional survey-based data collection techniques may be ineffective.

Primary responsibilities of the postdoc include incorporating best practices from the existing literature on assessing local innovation capacity and related sub-capacities into the design of research instruments, designing protocols for field testing evaluation instruments, supporting local research partners in implementing field testing, analyzing data from the field tests, and implementing improvements resulting from field tests into the data collection instruments and evaluation methodology. The Postdoctoral Associate will contribute to the production of research outputs resulting from this project, including reports and at least one academic publication, and will provide related research support to the PI as needed. 

Characteristic Duties and Responsibilities

  • Review relevant literature from the fields of evaluation, rural sociology, development studies, agricultural innovation, and related fields to identify well-validated and promising approaches to operationalizing and assessing concepts of interest; identify and gather relevant existing research instruments to assess their suitability for this project.
  • Contribute to instrument testing protocol design: Support the study’s PI in designing research protocols for testing evaluation instruments in the field, incorporating criteria developed through review of relevant literature and through consultation with key project stakeholders at D-Lab and external to D-lab.
  • Design and/or adapt evaluation and research instruments for field testing: contribute to the design of new instruments and/or the adaptation of existing instruments to develop a package of instruments that will be field-tested by D-Lab research partners in three to four locations around the world. 
  • Provide technical support to research partners conducting field tests: Provide remote assistance and trouble-shooting to local research partners as they implement instrument testing, create guidance and training resources for field partners as needed to enable them to adhere to the research protocols, incorporate lessons learned from supporting local research partners into the project’s documentation and overall methodological guidebook. 
  • Conduct qualitative and quantitative data analysis on the results of field tests; use findings to iterate and improve research instruments, and provide research support to local partner organizations implementing field tests.
  • Provide research and project management support to the PI, including identifying and reviewing relevant literature, maintaining communications with local research partners, obtaining required international and domestic research permissions if applicable, and related tasks. 
  • Document the research process, produce findings, and communicate results: Gather and maintain documentation on the research process from local partners, analyze quantitative and qualitative data gathered during field research, generate findings and recommendations, and communicate these internally to the research team and externally, in the form of succinct, compelling, and professional project updates; contribute to the final project report to the research sponsor and at least one academic publication.



  • This position will report to the PI for the study and the lead researcher for D-Lab’s Local Innovation research group (Elizabeth Hoffecker, Research Scientist).


  • No supervision exercised. 

Travel requirement

  • The position will involve remote work for as long as D-Lab and the Local Innovation group are working remotely, which may include the duration of the appointment.  

Qualifications and Education

  • Subject-area knowledge: Doctoral degree in the social sciences, specifically the evaluation sciences, program/project evaluation, and/or mixed methods social research methods. Strong preference for additional subject-area training in topics related to international development, rural development, agricultural innovation, and/or capacity building, particularly in farming communities. At least one year of academic or professional research training and experience in mixed-methods program evaluation. Experience with non-experimental, participatory evaluation designs and Realist evaluation approaches preferred. 
  • Research skills related to instrument design and testing: academic and/or professional experience designing and testing research and/or evaluation instruments; skilled at performing literature searches and identifying and obtaining existing research instruments; skilled in techniques for analyzing quantitative and qualitative data generated by field tests; a strong interest in research and evaluation methodology in the development context.  
  • Project management experience: Two or more years of project management experience, preferably focused on evaluation research, demonstrating the abilities to plan projects with many moving parts, prioritize activities, implement plans within tight timeframes with thoroughness and attention to detail. Excellent follow-through and results orientation required. 
  • Language and communication skills: The ability to write and speak clearly, succinctly, and effectively in English, including when doing so for non-technical audiences. The ability to create and maintain rapport and effective working relationships with people in a diversity of occupations and country contexts. 
  • Mindset and values: Genuine interest in and respect for the challenges faced by rural, poor, and marginalized people; a passion for research methodology, particularly respectful, relevant, and “right-sized” approaches that work for the rural poor; a proactive, enthusiastic, and creative approach to methodological challenges in evaluation research.

Salary Range



MIT job number 19675.

In addition to applying via the MIT website with cover letter and CV, interested candidates must also email these documents with a writing sample showcasing relevant prior methodological work to Elizbeth Hoffecker. Candidates who pass the initial screen will be required to submit three letters of recommendation.

Candidates who proceed to the next round will be asked to submit a past work sample featuring evaluation research conducted either as part of academic training or professional work experience.