Role: Research Expert – Computational Optimization
Location: Office of Global Innovation
Work Type: Consultancy
Duration: 42 days; anticipated start date: 15 March 2017
Duty Station: NY

If you are a committed, creative professional and are passionate about making a lasting difference for children, the world’s leading children’s rights organization would like to hear from you.

For 70 years, UNICEF has been working on the ground in 190 countries and territories to promote children’s survival, protection, and development. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

UNICEF Office of Innovation is looking for a senior scientist, with a strong focus on optimization, to join our Science Team for 2 months. The consultant will help move forward our work on computational epidemic modelling and response and build capacity on optimization techniques and knowhow within UNICEF. We are looking for motivated and experienced researchers in data science related fields (computer science, applied mathematics or physics) and a deep interest in applying research towards humanitarian and development work.

UNICEF Office of Innovation combines several disciplines such as network science, natural language processing, data mining, machine learning, remote sensing, artificial intelligence or complex systems in research lines such as human dynamics, epidemiology, urbanization, migration or influence dynamics.

Candidates should expect to pursue research leading to both high level scientific publications and operational tools for UNICEF. Current lines of work range from epidemic modelling and response in emergencies such as Ebola and Zika, understanding urban dynamics and migration resilience in crisis such as the Syrian refugees, preparedness and early warning for natural hazards such as El Niño or understanding how children rights get embedded into legal and corporate policies. Current data sources include mobility and communication networks, social media and news, satellite images, financial and economic data, weather and environmental data along with a wide variety of traditional humanitarian and development indicators.

The Science Team interacts with world class scientists, on the ground responders, private sector data holders and tech leaders to push the Data Science agenda towards the problems that affect the most vulnerable children. Breakthroughs and working methodologies are streamlined to a dedicated Development Team to scale into operational tools that can make a real impact.

UNICEF Office of Innovation functions like a collection of startups in early-stage in which promising new technologies (e.g. data science, SMS technologies, UAVs, blockchain) are identified that have potential to impact UNICEF core operations (e.g. education, health, disaster response). Through our network of technology partners, UNICEF country offices and academic institutions, we construct pilots to quickly determine potential impact. The Office of Innovation provides support to UNICEF’s 135 country offices and consists of a flat team of technologists, designers, programmers, researchers and communication specialists. Requests for collaboration, advice and support are fielded from UNICEF programmes, other parts of the UN system and the humanitarian technology ecosystem.

UNICEF is seeking to hire a research scientist for a short term stint within the Science Team of the Office of Innovation, to help push its work on computational optimization, capacity building and advising on ongoing projects and efforts in computational optimization. The consultancy will have a strong focus on Computational Epidemiology and the value of optimization techniques to adjust and validate epidemiological models and the response to epidemics.

The ideal candidate will have a strong research record and a high desire to apply her/his skills to make a difference in real world problems affecting the most vulnerable. Candidates are expected to have a high capacity to conduct and push research forward as well as to coordinate and communicate on specific projects with and to very diverse groups of people. The candidate will be expected to be a key expert in optimization within the Science Team.

For doing so, the candidate will be expected to interact and collaborate with different partners from the UN, academia and the private sector, helping in strengthening and expanding the collaboration network.

Expected results: (measurable results)

  • Optimization of epidemic model: code and algorithm
  • Optimization of epidemic response: framework
  • Prepare draft for publication of methods on high quality scientific journal.
  • Raising the awareness of scientific approaches for UNICEF through internal presentations about Computer Science methods on Combinatorial Optimization and its applications.



Tasks End product / Deliverables Time-frame / Delivery date
1 Algorithm development Develop algorithm/pipeline for optimization of computational epidemic models End of month 1
2 Techniques and framework design, publications and communications – Validation techniques, framework design and first iteration for optimizing epidemic response

– Draft publication of methods

Presentation deck for internal dissemination about Computer Science methods

End of month 2


  • Monthly payment, based on monthly tasks and progress reports, approved upon monthly review with supervisor.
  • Consultant is responsible for his own health insurance
  • Consultant is eligible for standard DSA for all work-related travel.



  • PhD in Computer Science or related discipline with a strong focus on Optimization.
  • More than 8 years of experience post PhD.
  • Experience in Computational Biology and/or Epidemiology.
  • Competitive publication list with at least 10 international journal publications.
  • At least 1 year of private sector experience.
  • International experience
  • Good communication skills, including written communication


Fluency in English.

To view our competency framework, please click here.

Please indicate your ability, availability and daily/monthly rate (in US$) to undertake the terms of reference above (including travel and daily subsistence allowance, if applicable).  Applications submitted without a daily/monthly rate will not be considered.

UNICEF is committed to diversity and inclusion within its workforce, and encourages qualified female and male candidates from all national, religious and ethnic backgrounds, including persons living with disabilities, to apply to become a part of our organisation.

To find out more about the role, application requirements and to apply:
*application portal can only be accessed during the application period.

Application Period
Opening Date 21 Feb 2017 Eastern Standard Time
Closing Date 6 Mar 2017 Eastern Standard Time

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