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Postdoctoral Research Associate - Computational Social Science

University of Massachusetts Amherst
UMass Amherst

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Position Type
Employment Type
Full Time
Institution Type
Four-Year Institution

Job Details

Job no: 522057
Work type: Post Doc (Amherst Only)
Location: UMass Amherst
Department: Environmental Conservation
Union: Post Doc
Categories: Postdoctoral Research Associate, College of Natural Sciences

About UMass Amherst

UMass Amherst, the Commonwealth's flagship campus, is a nationally ranked public research university offering a full range of undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. The University sits on nearly 1,450-acres in the scenic Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts and offers a rich cultural environment in a bucolic setting close to major urban centers. In addition, the University is part of the Five Colleges (including Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, and Smith College), which adds to the intellectual energy of the region.

Job Summary

Drs. Charlie Schweik (Dept of Environmental Conservation and School of Public Policy) and Brenda Bushouse (School of Public Policy) seek to hire a Computational Social Science postdoctoral research associate with specific interests in the study of Institutional Analysis (meaning the study of governance and rules and norms of behavior) for a two-year appointment working on an NSF-funded project in its third year (NSF 2020900). The scholar will work with an interdisciplinary team from Nonprofit and Voluntary Action Studies, Public Policy, Computer Science, Anthropology, and Communications at UMass Amherst, UC Davis, and the University of Washington.

The candidate needs to be a systems-level thinker who can combine tools, methods, and data to answer questions in novel domains. Much of the data we work with are text, so experience using text as data is key (though using text-as-data methods is more important than producing methods for this position). This successful candidate is expected to contribute to the design of the research, collection of datasets, the innovative generation of analysis pipelines, and the production of papers for both conferences and journals.

About the Project

Open-source software communities are complex, dynamic, social systems and, because of their open access policies, provide a rich opportunity for investigating self-governing institutions, nonprofit governance, collective action, sociotechnical systems, and polycentricity. Data include complete communications and code over time for hundreds of self-governing projects that are affiliated with nonprofit organizations often referred to as “foundations”.

In this project we seek to discern the socio-technical structural and governance conditions under which Internet-based freely downloadable open-source software (OSS) projects are successful including both independent project development and incubation in nonprofit foundations. The overall goal is to advance knowledge of how to sustain voluntary contributions to the OSS commons for the ongoing development of OSS. The data availability creates major methodological opportunities at the intersections of machine learning, natural language processing, longitudinal data, institutional analysis, and the multi-tiered study of nonprofit governance and the governance of individual OSS projects that associate with these foundations.

Essential Functions

  • Assist the Principal Investigators in refining and planning research agenda and research priorities over the remaining two years of the funded project.
  • Coordinate and collaborate with the UC Davis team’s postdoctoral research associate on subprojects defined through the processes above.
  • Communicate regularly and effectively with Principal Investigators and other team members via weekly meetings and over email.
  • Lead research sub-teams of graduate and undergraduate students at UMass and assist the Principal Investigators in coordinating the team’s work.
  • Create or supervise the creation of datasets from digital records found in open-access, online repositories and create applicable measures from those data.
  • Utilize quantitative and qualitative analysis to address relevant research questions.
  • Write and present research to broad and specialized audiences.
  • Meet deadlines through strong project management skills.
  • Other Functions

  • Work collaboratively and effectively to promote teamwork, diversity, equality and inclusiveness.
  • Work in partnership with colleagues within the CNS community and across the campus to support the Dean’s strategic priorities.
  • Perform other duties as assigned in support of the mission and goals of the College of Natural Sciences.
  • Minimum Qualifications (Knowledge, Skills, Abilities, Education, Experience, Certifications, Licensure)

  • PhD in social sciences.
  • Strong quantitative analytical methods including competency in programming.
  • Expertise in data analysis and in particular, text-based analysis.
  • Background or demonstrated interest in Institutional Analysis (the study of governance).
  • Demonstrated ability to collaborate closely with cross-disciplinary teams, mentor graduate research assistants, and manage and evaluate the performance of undergraduate research assistants from both computer science and the social sciences.
  • Active research or demonstrated interest in nonprofit governance.
  • Interest in collaborating with computer and data scientists affiliated with our partner team at UC Davis.
  • Preferred Qualifications (Knowledge, Skills, Abilities, Education, Experience, Certifications, Licensure)

  • Demonstrates a proactive approach to advancing research projects.
  • Knowledge of the “Institutional Grammar” a plus.
  • Experience with qualitative analysis a plus.
  • Attention to detail in dataset creation and evaluation.
  • Demonstrated interest in Open-Source Software.
  • Physical Demands/Working Conditions

    • Typical office environment.

    Work Schedule

    • Monday – Friday; 8 hours/day; 40/week.
    • Prefer relocation to Amherst, MA; however, remote appointment is negotiable.

    Salary Information

    • $60,000/year plus benefits.

    Special Instructions to Applicants

    Along with the application, please submit a letter of application, a resume, a research sample (published or submitted full-length paper), and a code sample (ideally one that demonstrates an ability to tie together multiple technologies to produce a novel output in a different field). References will be checked at the finalist stage. Please be prepared to provide contact information for three (3) professional references).

    As part of a commitment to their own multicultural community, CNS seeks an individual with a demonstrated commitment to diversity and one who will understand and embrace university initiatives and aspirations. (

    UMass Amherst is committed to a policy of equal opportunity without regard to race, color, religion, caste, creed, sex, age, marital status, national origin, disability, political belief or affiliation, pregnancy and pregnancy-related condition(s), veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, genetic information, natural and protective hairstyle and any other class of individuals protected from discrimination in employment, admission to and participation in academic programs, activities, and services, and the selection of vendors who provide services or products to the University. To fulfill that policy, UMass Amherst is further committed to a program of affirmative action to eliminate or mitigate artificial barriers and to increase opportunities for the recruitment and advancement of qualified minorities, women, persons with disabilities, and covered veterans. It is the policy of UMass Amherst to comply with the applicable federal and state statutes, rules, and regulations concerning equal opportunity and affirmative action.

    Advertised: Apr 26 2024 Eastern Daylight Time
    Applications close: Jul 28 2024 Eastern Daylight Time


    The University of Massachusetts Amherst is one of the preeminent public research universities in America. Nestled in idyllic Amherst, Massachusetts—often called “The top college town in North America”—the campus is consistently ranked among the top public research universities in the nation, and offers a rich cultural environment in a rural setting close to major urban centers. 

    As one of the nation's top public research universities – as measured by national and international rankings, academic citations, and research funding – the campus spends more than $180 million on research each year, demonstrating its contribution to the nation’s position as a technological and economic leader. The university works in conjunction with academic, government, and private partners to translate new knowledge and scientific discoveries into technical innovations and scholarly works that create opportunities for students, faculty and the public. 

    Eight schools and colleges offer more than 85 undergraduate majors, 68 master’s and 48 doctoral degree programs, many counted among the top programs in the nation and world. UMass Amherst is also home to New England's premier honors college.

    The 1,159 full-time faculty members are dedicated teachers and world-renowned researchers and the campus has regularly been listed among the top performers in terms of faculty awards. With over 24,000 students from all 50 states and over 70 countries, the student body is the most academically successful in the history of the campus. Students participate in 240 organizations, 21 NCAA Division I athletic teams, extensive intramurals, living-learning residence halls, community service, and internships. With one of the largest residential life systems in the nation, UMass Amherst houses approximately 12,000 students on campus. The university is enjoying a facilities renaissance, including new buildings in the sciences, the arts, and recreation. UMass Amherst is part of the Five College consortium with Smith, Mount Holyoke, Hampshire and Amherst colleges.

    As an employer, the University of Massachusetts Amherst is a national leader in developing family-friendly policies, benefits and amenities designed to help faculty members develop both productive careers and satisfying personal lives. The university offers one of the nation’s most generous parental leave policies. The university is also part of the Academic Career Network, a regional consortium formed to serve dual-career couples and encourage greater diversity in the academy.


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