Job opportunity: Research associate in urban risk


Where: London

Conveners: Cassidy Johnson

The Bartlett Development Planning Unit (DPU) at University College London (UCL) is an international centre specialising in academic teaching, practical training, research and consultancy in the fields of urban and regional development and planning. It is concerned with promoting sustainable forms of development, understanding rapid urbanisation and encouraging innovation in the policy, planning and management responses to the economic, social and environmental development of cities and regions, especially in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East.

Job summary

Department: Development Planning Unit

Post: Research Associate

Hours: Full time

Reports to: Dr Cassidy Johnson

Grade: Grade 7, point 29

Salary range: £ 33,353 per annum inclusive of London Allowance

Contract: Fixed term contract for 28 months, starting 1 October 2015 or as soon as possible thereafter

Based in DPU’s vibrant hive of activity, a full time post doctoral research associate is required to work across two research projects related to urbanization, risk and resilience in Africa. The post-holder will work 75% of time on the £3.3million ESRC-DFID programme of research entitled Urban Africa: Risk Knowledge (Urban ARK). Urban ARK is a major investment by DFID and ESRC into urban resilience in Africa. It is structured around five urban settlements of varying size, social and economic context, hazard profile and development trajectory: Nairobi and Mombasa (Kenya), Ibadan (Nigeria), Niamey (Niger), Karonga (Malawi), and Dakar (Senegal). Urban ARK’s international and interdisciplinary research is arranged in four key work packages. The post holder will work closely with project Co-Investigators Dr. Cassidy Johnson, Prof. Adriana Allen, and Caren Levy as well as other DPU staff to support the DPU-led work package on Governance, Planning and Urban Development.

The post holder will work 25% of time on the AXA Outlook project entitled Metrics for policy action in urban areas: Characterizing risks facing low-income groups. AXA Outlook projects are aimed at supporting researchers with the means to engage public in science on key emerging risks affecting civil society. The project addresses issues related to the environmental hazards and risks from lack of basic water and sanitation in informal settlements. Collaborating with a community of  practitioners, researchers and policy-makers in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and internationally, the project aims to bring into policy debate how to collect data and measure the environmental risks that people face and to enable local decision-makers to make informed planning decisions for risk reduction. The post holder will work closely with the Principal Investigator, Dr Cassidy Johnson in conducting research, hosting workshops and other engagement activities in the UK and overseas. The postholder will join an active research environment in DPU of PhD students, research associates and academic staff members. The post-holder will be invited to contribute to the DPU’s Environmental Justice, Urbanisation and Resilience research cluster, as well as other DPU research clusters. Furthermore, UCL hosts a wide community of academic activity related to risks and natural hazards, including the UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction and EPICentre in UCL Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering.

The appointment includes the following responsibilities:

  • Assist in the everyday management of the research projects under the guidance of Dr. Cassidy Johnson and
    Professor Adriana Allen. This includes budget monitoring and reporting and dealing with other similar logistic
  • Travel to meetings and undertake field-work in East and West African countries.
  • Prepare research materials (such as questionnaires for structured interviews, household surveys, etc) and process data in consultation with project partners.
  • Support research assistants in-country to gather and analyse data using social science methods.
  • Process, map spatially and analyse primary and secondary information
  • Contribute to or prepare literature reviews, the development of progress and final reports, and project publications as well as other outputs.
  • Assist in the design and regular update of dedicated project websites and coordinate and maintain the projects’ dissemination strategy
  • Contribute to the integration and communication of findings with project partners
  • Help generate communication and dissemination material about the projects, including presenting at conferences.
  • The postholder will carry out any other duties as are within the scope, spirit and purpose of the job as requested by the line manager or Head of Department/Division
  • The postholder will actively follow UCL policies including Equal Opportunities and Race Equality policies
  • The postholder will maintain an awareness and observation of Fire and Health & Safety Regulations
  • The postholder will show a commitment to UCL’s policy of equal opportunity and the ability to work
    harmoniously with colleagues and students of all cultures and backgrounds

Note: this job description reflects the present requirements of the post. As duties and responsibilities change
and develop the job description will be reviewed and be subject to amendment in consultation with the

Person specification:


  • PhD or equivalent in the general area of urbanisation in developing countries
  • Quantitative and qualitative research skills
  • Strong interdisciplinary analytical skills and capacity in managing and organising information
  • Proven ability to complete research projects
  • Excellent skills in Excel, Access and Website Content Manager (or equivalent software)
  • Excellent organisational skills and a flexible approach to working as part of a team that is both interdisciplinary and operating from several locations around the world
  • Self motivation and proven experience of working under own initiative
  • Excellent scientific writing and communication skills in English, including attention to detail


  • Specialisation in fields of risk, disaster and/or climate change
  • Knowledge of local governance, urban development and poverty in Africa
  • Relevant peer reviewed publications
  • Experience in the management of research or development projects, including budget management
  • Proficiency in French or Kiswahili
  • Spatial mapping skills, including GIS
  • Using video and other multi-media communications in development work

Contractual details

The appointment will be made for 28 months in the UCL Research Associate scheme and will initially be paid on salary grade 7, point 29. The successful applicant will be subject to the usual UCL probationary procedures. Further information and applications Please apply online, quoting reference number 1487429. Informal enquires  about the post may be made to Dr. Cassidy Johnson, Development Planning Unit by email, tel. 020 7679 1111. Enquiries about the application process and/or the Development Planning Unit may be addressed to Nkenji Okpara, Departmental Manager, tel: 020 7679 1117.

Source: The Bartlett Development Planning Unit

Photo Credit: DPU

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