Senior Policy Associate (Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions)

Duke University
Durham, NC, United States
Position Type: 
Organization Type: 
University/Academia/Research/Think tank
Experience Level: 
5-7 Years
Degree Required: 
Advanced Degree (Master's or JD)


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Job Description

Occupational Summary

The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions is seeking a Senior Policy Associate for the IoW Project.

In the United States, water data have been collected by multiple federal, state, and local agencies for decades, yet we are still unable to answer fundamental questions about our water systems in a timely way: How much water is there? What is its quality? How is it used? Because the data have been collected by different agencies, for different purposes, at different scales, and are scattered across multiple platforms with different standards, they are rarely used beyond their original purpose. The Internet of Water (IoW) is a bold vision for how to improve water data infrastructure to fundamentally transform water management. “Internet of Water” describes a federation of data producers, hubs, and users, currently in its earliest stages of development.

A primary mission of the IoW is to facilitate the sharing and integration of water data between producers, users, and hubs. This includes articulating a clear vision for policies and procedures to share data, demonstrating the value of integrating water data, coordinating efforts among data hubs, and providing technical and non-technical resources for data producers and data hubs alike.

The Data Architect will enable the opening of data, primarily from state and local water management agencies including, but not limited to water utilities, conservation districts, and irrigation districts. In addition the Data Architect will create templates, tools, and resources, as well as provide training, engagement, and technical assistance. This person will work directly with the Executive Director to prioritize pressing needs and focus areas for making data more discoverable, accessible, and usable. This position will be housed at the Nicholas Institute in Durham, NC with the expectation that they must be able to travel on occasion. This position has an initial term-limit of two years with the potential for continuity based on the performance and sustainability of the project.

Work Performed

  • Plan and conduct independent and collaborative research with data producers and hubs to identify, document, and recommend metadata requirements for making publicly collected and reported water data more discoverable, accessible (particularly through web services), and standardized. Collaborate with the Engagement & Outreach position to publish results internally and on the web. Provide active leadership in engaging with university faculty, external stakeholders, and policymakers by actively leading in the development and operation of IoW working groups and attending relevant on-campus and off- campus meetings, gatherings and events.
  • Assume principal leadership role in coordinating efforts with multiple data producers and hubs to develop a more standardized process for sharing and integrating data between these groups and across the IoW by presenting and negotiating plans for cooperative or sponsored research projects. Serve as a point of contact for the IoW area with foundation program officers officers and other external stakeholders, including representatives of nonprofits, corporations, and corporate philanthropies.
  • Develop, secure, and manage research funding independently, serving as the principal leader on data projects. Independently assist state and local government in performing cost analysis of system changes and feasibility studies. Manage projects and report to Duke offices charged with project monitoring, as well as to funders regarding project progress, performance, completion, and impacts.
  • Provide leadership and expertise for the IoW in developing plans for database solutions by designing open templates, schema, tools, and procedures that can be readily adopted by IoW participants to make their data discoverable, accessible, and interoperable. Interpret research results of projects and prepare publications. Provide and deliver oral and written presentations to relay project information to target audiences. Plan for and actively pursue opportunities for communication to external stakeholders. 
  • Take initiative in collaborating with other cross discipline data producers and hubs on strategic program initiatives, with special attention given to finding ways to integrate work across various program areas. Serve as the Institute’s principal representative for the IoW through travel to meetings, conferences, and donor solicitations, and deliver formal presentations as appropriate. Respond directly and independently to requests for information, including legislative drafting, from government officials and other key audiences. 
  • Recruit, supervise, train and mentor multiple graduate student research assistants and interns. 
  • Identify and create opportunities for publicizing the IoW’s work, including informing external stakeholders about IoW projects and output. 
  • Identify and put into place new opportunities for involving Duke student’s in IoW’s projects and follow through with implementing means to ensure student involvement. Depending on expertise and specific duties, procure, design, and operate technical models or tools in assigned program areas. 
  • Take the lead in planning and conducting meetings, workshops, conferences, and events related to the IoW, working to directly engage faculty and stakeholders in the planning and execution of the events. Communicate understanding of scientific and policy-based approaches to the IoW’s target audiences through written and oral presentations.

Minimum Requirements 

Education/Training: Master’s degree in Computer Science, Data Science, or Water Engineering. PhD preferred.

Experience: Five years of progressive experience in architecting, designing, and developing modern software solutions across multiple technology platforms, incorporating an API-first paradigm.

A degree higher than a master’s degree or significant technical expertise may substitute for two years of experience.


  • Management, organizational and interpersonal skills
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills
  • Familiar with agile development
  • Familiar with water resources and water-related data, and data standards development
  • Experience in software development with a variety of languages (for example, Python, Java, C, C++, Ruby, and PHP).
  • Front-end web development experience.
  • Design, build, and maintain efficient, reusable, open, and reliant code
  • Ability to translate data held in Microsoft Excel and Access into an open and usable resource on the web.
  • Experience in full-stack software development that incorporates a mix of SAAS apps, cloud services and mobile apps to provide a full solution.
  • Exceptional critical thinking skills with the ability to decompose complex problems, prioritize issues, and implement sensible solutions.
  • Data mining using state-of-the-art methods
  • Willingness and ability to engage water agencies and managers
  • Ability and willingness to travel