Lead Data Architect, CivilServant

Join us to grow society's ability to discover effective ideas for a fairer, safer, more understanding internet.

by J. Nathan Matias, Sept 12, 2017

Umbrellas, Belgrade Serbia.

This position has been filled.

CivilServant (civilservant.io) is seeking a Lead Data Architect to help us advance knowledge by discovering effective ideas for a fairer, safer, more understanding internet. This is a one-year, full-time contract position that could be remote or based in Boston at MIT. The lead data architect will join the founding team and lead work to develop architectures to securely and reliably manage large-scale, user-led A/B tests using APIs from multiple online platforms. You will also guide the growth of other developers; support the operation, maintenance, and evolution of the CivilServant infrastructure as it continues to grow; and help shape the organization's technical direction.

The CivilServant nonprofit achieves its mission by supporting citizen behavioral science online. We also provide public-interest evaluation and audits on the impact of AI and other social technologies on the common good. CivilServant has already worked with communities of tens of millions of people to test ideas that prevent online harassment, reduce the spread of misinformation, and manage political conflict online (video here). In 2018, CivilServant aims to support up to 100 new field experiments for improving life online, using our open source software for platform-independent, publicly-accountable randomized trials.

CivilServant is directed by J. Nathan Matias, a visiting scholar at the MIT Center for Civic Media and postdoc at Princeton University in the departments of Psychology and the Center for Information Technology Policy. The project is being incubated by Global Voices, a borderless, largely volunteer community of more than 1,400 writers, analysts, online media experts, and translators working in 167 countries and 40+ languages. The MIT Center for Civic Media, who are hosting this position, develop and study ways that citizens can create meaningful change using media and data.

Roles and Responsibilities

As lead data architect, you will lead design and development of the open source CivilServant infrastructure, collecting data that could support meaningful, measurable improvements in the online lives of millions of people. You will also lead long-term design of a new, citizen-led A/B testing system capable of supporting thousands of new studies per year. Your role will be to:

  • develop and maintain our current software for large-scale social experiments
  • architect and deploy scalable infrastructures for collecting data from platform APIs
  • manage the design process and project timelines of fault-tolerant systems that are validated through reliable testing infrastructures
  • manage and mentor additional developers as CivilServant grows
  • collaborate with system administrators to design and manage data ethics and privacy

New development on CivilServant occurs when we integrate with new platform APIs and develop new studies with communities. Our researchers will collaborate with you to extend data collection and interventions for new studies. While this is a one year position, we are looking for candidates who can take a growing leadership position in CivilServant as it develops, contingent on performance and funding.


First and foremost, we are looking for:

  • An experienced data engineer with a track record of developing and maintaining reliable, fault-tolerant systems that collect data and respond in real-time. This includes:
    • At least three years' professional experience with data systems development, including on GNU/Linux or Unix systems
    • Proficiency developing scalable, privacy-sensitive data architectures with Cassandra or similar datastores
    • Some experience with our current technology stack (Python, MySQL, redis)
  • A software architect capable of establishing processes for a remote, diverse team to reliably-estimate and deliver achievable software goals within startup resources
  • A good listener and strategist, able to collaboratively imagine creative solutions to challenging problems
  • A clear communicator with a passion for thinking through the social and ethical implications of technology design

Desirable, But Not Required

Finally, it would be desirable if you have:

  • Substantial experience from industry or research with large-scale online behavior
  • Familiarity with US ethics procedures for human subjects resources
  • A bachelor's degree in computer science, engineering, or other data-related field. Candidates who come to engineering through nontraditional paths may also be supported

Since our research focuses on issues of fairness, safety, and global understanding, we strongly encourage women, people of color, and people of any sexual identity to apply.

MIT is an equal employment opportunity employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment and will not be discriminated against on the basis of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, disability, age, genetic information, veteran status, ancestry, or national or ethnic origin.

How To Apply

To apply, please send an email to civilservant.research@gmail.com and include PDFs or text files of your cover letter, resume, and links to any portfolio or code repositories that you would like to share with us.

Credits: Umbrella photo CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 by Matej Duzel.