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I'm Looking To Hire A Social-Science-Savvy Researcher (Applications Now Closed)
It could be you! But you do need some basic quant chops
Pictured: A team of Journalists producing Journalism.
I’ve been really, really gratified at how this newsletter has grown recently. To increase its breadth and quality, I’d like to hire a part-time researcher for the next year or so, 15 hours a week for $32 per hour (more details below). This person will mostly help me with Singal-Minded — the title of Assistant Editor is theirs if they want it — but I might also sometimes ask them for research help with my Callin show or the freelance articles I sometimes write. Every once in a very long time I might ask them to work on something Blocked-and-Reported-related, but the vast majority of the work this person does will be for my solo projects. (There’s more info about me and my work here if you’re new to either.) This person can in theory work from anywhere, though time zones very far from New York City, where I’m based, might make it difficult. Anywhere in U.S. time zones is no problem at all.
The most important quality I’m looking for in an applicant is the ability to navigate social-science research. This is really, really important. This person needs to be able to read and generally understand the average new behavioral-science article published in Nature or the average new polling results published by Gallup. They need to understand what an odds ratio and a p-value and a confounding variable and (statistical) reliability and validity and effect sizes are. They need to understand the stuff that frequently goes wrong in this sort of research and how to differentiate a fairly solid study from one that has some obvious holes.
I don’t want to overstate this: I don’t need you to be able to recite, on the spot, the precise mathematical definition of all of the aforementioned terms, or anything like that. But you do need to know, in your bones, why and when they matter and how they tie into public debates about science. So I’m basically looking for someone who is at least as good at this stuff as I am: good enough. Meaning you can grok the basics of new research fairly easily, mostly without outside help, but, just as importantly, you can figure out which questions to ask the genuine experts when something isn’t clear or seems fishy. After all, according to Science, 76.382% of doing journalism is knowing which smart people to ask about something and what to ask them. For this particular job, this stuff isn’t optional. At some point in the application process there will likely be a pretty straightforward, brief, can’t-really-be-faked evaluation of the applicant’s abilities on this front. So even if you’d be great at everything else I describe below, you should probably only put your time into applying if you have gotten this far into the job description without wincing. (Note that I do not need you to have much skill in economics, as that’s not a subject I cover much.)
Okay, so that’s the most important thing out of the way. More specific stuff this person will be doing, in order of taking up the least time to taking up the most:
-give my articles a final read before I post them to check for any obvious errors (I recognize I’m not hiring a professional copy-editor here, so I can’t reasonably expect you to notice every tiny little misplaced apostrophe — this is just a matter of getting another set of eyes on articles I’ve already reread multiple times and which are otherwise ready for publication)
-complete boring but mostly easy and quick admin work like scheduling open-thread posts on Singal-Minded or collecting the month’s best comments or (less frequent and slightly more time-consuming) listening to and correcting AI-generated interview transcripts
-research story ideas I’m curious about — these assignments will range from “Get me a page summing up this controversy by the end of the week, please” to “Spend 20 hours over the next month looking into this new clinical psych intervention, please” or even, less often, “I’m a bit light for the next two weeks — please find me three potential story ideas for the newsletter”
While it’s not as important as the aforementioned quantitative skills, I do need someone who can write well — or at least well enough to communicate their findings helpfully to me and to sometimes compose very straightforward, short posts on this here newsletter without major errors, such as “Here Were Your Best Comments This Month” posts that’ll simply involve interspersing some readers’ comments with a sentence or two summing up each one. Along those same lines, I need someone who is at least moderately interested in following the news, or who at least has an ability to quickly catch up on newsy subjects with which they have little initial familiarity. The second(ish) round of the application process will probably involve a brief assignment summing up information for me.
THE PAY AND THE HOURS
I’m ideally looking for someone who can agree to work for me for 15 hours a week during at least 46 weeks out of a 52-week span, at $32/hour. This is a part-time gig so there are no other benefits (other than, uh, free subscriptions to premium Singal-Minded and BARPod), but that sorta flows both ways: I’ll be very flexible when you have other stuff going on and if you want or need to take a week off here or there. I’m also open to some on-the-spot scheduling tweaks like you taking a week off, then making up the hours the following couple weeks. The overwhelming vast majority of the work this person does will not be time-sensitive, and admin-y posts that go up at a specific time can be pre-scheduled.
But overall, I need someone who can almost always give me 15 hours of work a week, telling me beforehand when they’ll be available (and ideally on a regular schedule — say, you work on Singal-Minded stuff Monday mornings and Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons, or whatever), for a minimum of 46 weeks out of 52, and if you want to work more weeks, up to 52, that’s fine too. I can only guarantee this position for a year — this is a first-time thing for me and I need to see how it goes. It might be re-uppable but it might not be. Also, if I get an otherwise fantastic applicant who can only work for about, say, nine months, I’m not going to shoot myself in the foot by not hiring them over a 2-3 month difference. So don’t hesitate to apply. But overall, I really don’t like dealing with the hiring process (specifically, I hate not being able to hire people), so I want to do this as few times as possible.
THE SLIGHTLY WEIRD APPLICATION PROCESS YOU SHOULD FOLLOW IF YOU WANT ME TO ACTUALLY REVIEW YOUR APPLICATION
I have complicated views on the role of bias in American hiring that I’m not going to lay out here. The compromise I’ve made about how to balance various competing concerns is to do the first round of applications fairly blind.
So if you want to apply, please follow these directions exactly:
Send an email with the subject line JOB APPLICATION to email@example.com.
The first line of the body of your email should be a five-character code of some combination of uppercase numbers and letters. Anything your heart desires. 12823 works. So does GOPAT. Or LOL45. As long as it’s somewhat random/unique, it’ll serve its purpose, which is to allow me to review your first-round application without encountering any specific biographic infromation about you, including your name.
Then leave a space in the body of your email, then write up to 500 words explaining why you have the quant skills for this job, but without mentioning any proper names of institutions. If you have a master’s in statistics from Harvard University, just say you have a master’s in statistics. If you don’t have a quant-y degree but have completed some coursework along those lines, mention it, please. If you don’t have much formal training in quant-y areas at all but feel like you’ve picked up enough skills to do this job, use the space to explain how, and to give some examples of how you’ve applied these skills either to real-world problems or to your own curiosity.
I’ll be evaluating both your summary of your quant skills and how cleanly you communicate in a space-constrained format.
Don’t attach a resume or anything else. Maybe down the road, but not now.
Applications are due by midnight, Tuesday, December 21, Eastern time, or a little less than two weeks from today.
I’m positive some people, both applicants and onlookers, will find the semi-blind process I’ve chosen here, in which I’m asking people to mention their degrees (if they have them) but leave out proper names, weird or less than optimal. That’s okay! There are some genuine tradeoffs entailed in trying to debias hiring processes, and this is what I’m comfortable with and the best I can do as one person hiring one person for one part-time position. I am not claiming it is a perfect system.
I am hoping to contact finalists by early January, but either way, once I do, I will put a large, unmissable notice at the top of this post notifying everyone that if they haven’t received an email from me, they are no longer in the running. Please don’t email me to ask me if I’ve contacted the finalists yet, because if that notice isn’t up, I haven’t. From recent experience, this process can sometimes drag on much longer than it should. I apologize if that happens — I’ve been on the other side of it and it isn’t fun. But life is very busy. I will do my best to keep to my goal of figuring this out very early in the new year, and it’s obviously in my interest to get this researcher started as quickly as possible.
Thank you. I’m open to taking questions about this position but only if they really, really haven’t been covered by anything above, so please double check before emailing me. Good luck!