Senior Data Specialist

Type:2 years fixed-term contract (download here)
Main purpose of the job:To develop, implement and maintain procedures and systems to collate and curate data from Health and Demographic Surveillance Systems (HDSS) in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia to enable investigation of all-cause excess mortality associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Harmonised verbal autopsy assessment will be a secondary purpose. To achieve this, working effectively with data managers at involved HDSS sites will be required.
Location:Johannesburg with travel to Agincourt – Bushbuckridge (Mpumalanga Province) and Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI) field offices in Mtubatuba, KwaZulu-Natal Province.
Closing date:26 November 2021
Submit detailed CV Alternatively:
Advert reference number:AGIN_002_SDS

With funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the MRC/Wits Rural Public Health and Health Transitions Research Unit (Agincourt), with DSI/MRC-SAPRIN, are leading research to investigate mortality trends and all-cause excess mortality associated with the COVID-19 pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia using curated data from Health and Demographic Surveillance Systems (HDSS).

The MRC/Wits-Agincourt Research Unit is an exceptional health and population research centre based in the Wits School of Public Health. The School has several strong divisions including Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and a sister Demography and Population Studies programme.

The successful candidate will join a talented and hardworking team addressing some of the country and region’s most pressing health and development challenges. They will work with data managers from at least 10 Health and Demographic Surveillance System (HDSS) sites/networks in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia to extract, quality control, harmonise and analyse their mortality and cause of death data.

Key performance areas
  • To draw up the specifications for harmonised data sets to send out as requests to participating HDSS sites.
  • To lead, support and develop systems for checking, cleaning, and reporting back to HDSS sites about the quality, completeness and integrity of their mortality and cause of death data.
  • To interact effectively with site-based data managers and contribute to strengthening site-based systems and capabilities for data management.
  • To create (pooled) standardised data sets ready for use in comparative cross-site analyses
  • To develop a version control system to keep track of the most up-to-date versions of data, and retrieve versions used for published analyses.
  • To document and ensure that the harmonised data and transformation procedures used to make the analytical data sets can be understood and used by others
  • To perform analyses and contribute to peer-reviewed publications and technical reports, including as lead author.

Required minimum education and training

At least a Masters level qualification in Statistics / Biostatistics / Epidemiology / Demography / Data Analytics / Bioinformatics / Data Science / Computer Science or other highly quantitative and computational field. A doctoral qualification will be advantageous.

Desirable additional education, work experience and personal abilities
  • Experience in processing and analysing large complex longitudinal datasets.
  • Experience in relational database management.
  • Working knowledge of SQL (i.e., ability to write queries that involve joining tables, aggregating functions, updating, and inserting into existing tables).
  • High level computer programming language experience, such as C#, Java, Python.
  • Demonstrated knowledge and track-record of statistics, and proficiency using a statistical software package (STATA, SAS, R) for import, manipulation, and analysis of large datasets.
  • Experience with academic writing and publication. 
  • Team player able to work in a high-performing collaborative environment, and to support scientific investigations across disciplines.
  • Strong written and oral communication skills in English.
  • Ability to set priorities and work under pressure on a variety of tasks concurrently.
  • Valid South African Driver’s license.

Required minimum work experience
  • Minimum of 2 years Data management experience
  • Working experience in a low- or middle-income country

Click here to download the advert

To apply
Should you be interested in applying for this vacancy, please send an email to or
The subject heading of the email must read AGIN_002_SDS and the job title of the position for which you are applying.
Please include the following documentation:
– A cover letter (maximum one page) outlining your interest and suitability for the position.
– A detailed CV including three contactable referees.
– Certified qualifications and transcript.
– Certified ID copy and driver’s license.

In accordance with our Employment Equity goals and plan, preference will be given to suitable applicants from designated groups as defined in the Employment Equity Act 55 of 1998 and subsequent amendments

Postdoctoral Fellowship (download here)

The MRC/Wits-Agincourt Research Unit is a leading health and population research centre that supports a major research infrastructure including a health and socio-demographic surveillance system (HDSS) covering part of the Bushbuckridge sub-district of rural Mpumalanga Province. Taking a life course approach, in partnership with local communities and the public sector, the Unit undertakes interdisciplinary observational and intervention research collaborating with an exceptional network of scientists from South and sub-Saharan African, UK/European and North American institutions.

We seek to appoint one Postdoctoral Fellow to join our multidisciplinary team of Researchers, Data Scientists and Analysts to contribute to strengthening our Data Analytics capability and scientific output in research areas that include:

  • Adolescent health and development (including HIV and mental health)
  • Adult health and ageing (including non-communicable diseases, HIV, mental health and cognitive change)
  • Population trends, transitions, and social/environmental/economic determinants (including  migration)

Successful candidates will enjoy unparalleled opportunities for career development and professional growth.


Tenable for two years. The successful candidate will enjoy unparalleled opportunity across all stages of the research process, including ethics and public engagement, field science, research data management, and research-to-policy engagement. Support and mentoring will be provided to publish in peer-review journals.

The candidate will be nested within a focus research area depending on background, experience and interest:

  • Adolescent health and development (including HIV and mental health)
  • Adult health and ageing (including non-communicable diseases, HIV and mental health)
  • Population trends, transitions, and social determinants (including migration)
  • Applied Statistics, Informatics and Computing.

Position will be based in Bushbuckridge, Mpumalanga Province, where Wits offers several accommodation options, or the Wits School of Public Health in Johannesburg with travel to the Agincourt Research Centre in Bushbuckridge.

  • PhD awarded within past 5 years (or pending)
  • Background in relevant discipline(s), including Epidemiology, Statistics, Decision Sciences, Public Health, Economics, Demography, Population Studies, related Social Sciences, Clinical Sciences, Informatics and Computing
  • Evidence of high academic and scholarly potential
  • English language proficiency, strong conceptual and writing skills.

Closing Date: 26 November 2021

To apply for this position, please submit the following documents on or for internal applicants

Alternatively, you may email your application to Weekend Khoza at

For enquiries contact Dr Chodziwadziwa Kabudula on

Documents required with your application:
  1. A covering letter clearly indicating the position for which you are applying with a motivation detailing your suitability, paying close attention to the above criteria
  2. Detailed and up-to-date CV with names and e-mail addresses of three (3) current referees with at least two academic referees
  3. Examples of written or published work
  4. Certified copy of ID, or passport and work permit or permanent residence in South Africa, and driver’s license
  5. Certified copies of academic transcripts and qualification certificates

The University is committed to employment equity. Preference will be given to appointable applicants from the designated South African groups in terms of the relevant employment equity plans and policies of the University.

The University retains the right not to make an appointment, to re-advertise and to verify all information provided by candidates. Please note that correspondence will only be entered into with shortlisted candidates.