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Senior Developer (Human Rights Investigations and Research Tools), Human Rights Institute

  • Requisition no: 519997
  • Work type: Full Time
  • Location: Morningside
  • School/Department: School of Law
  • Grade: Grade 12
  • Categories: Other
  • Job Type: Officer of Administration
  • Bargaining Unit:
  • Regular/Temporary: Regular
  • End Date if Temporary:
  • Hours Per Week: 35
  • Salary Range:

Position Summary

The Security Force Monitor is part of the Human Rights Institute at Columbia Law School in New York. It researches and publishes detailed information about the command structures of the police, military and other branches of state controlled security forces around the world.  It also provides support to human rights researchers, litigators and investigative journalists seeking to hold these forces accountable for human rights abuses. The Security Force Monitor‘s data has been used by key media and civil society organizations including the New York Times, The Atlantic, and the Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights. You can find out more about our staff, our values, how we work, and who are partners are on our website:

Reporting to the Security Force Monitor Director, the Senior Developer will assist in the pursuit of justice for victims and survivors of violations of human rights and international criminal law.  Working closely with the Security Force Monitor investigation team, the incumbent will be responsible for creating tools that will be used to capture, explore and present rich data about how police, military and other security forces around the world are organized, how they conduct their operations and how these forces may be connected to human rights violations. The Senior Developer will be focus on coding tools that are tightly focused on helping colleagues acquire and analyze data in order to make sense of very complicated factual situations. This role will also have the opportunity to work in partnership with leading human rights organizations and institutions. The Senior Developer will play a key role in shaping the future technical direction of the Security Force Monitor and will engage in varied work, potentially ranging from:

  • Developing a tool that researchers can use to visualize how an army command chain changes over time
  • Web-scraping a government online database, and turning it into a more accessible version that can be used by our researchers
  • Working with an investigative journalist to create a set of street level maps plotting unlawful killings and known police locations and operations
  • Standing up a web-crawler to check for new news stories about specific military units
  • Thinking about improvements to WhoWasInCommand, and working with technical partners to implement them


  • Identifying appropriate and robust technical solutions to common data management and analysis challenge experienced by the investigation team (15%)
  • Building a range of tooling - from one-off scripts, through simple server-side applications to longer term infrastructure - for the effective management, analysis and visualization of a large and detailed graph-structured dataset with geographical and temporal elements. (65%)
  • Technical management of Security Force Monitor’s existing online assets and open source software, including the “WhoWasInCommand” application (10%)
  • Contributing to the definition and implementation of work with external technical partners and consultants (10%)

Minimum Qualifications

  • Bachelor’s degree or its equivalent required.  Advanced degree desirable. Must have 3-5 years of relevant work experience, preferably as a web application developer, data scientist or data journalist. 
  • Prior programing experience using a major language such as Python or Javascript.  Must have used a major web framework, such as Rails, Django or Phoenix,  designing schema with a database such as MySQL, Postgres, MongoDB or Neo4j,  working with datasets that were not always in good condition, and may be housed in different formats, and experiences making key software and architecture choices for an organization or project
  • Must be able to work with diverse constituencies and support an inclusive work environment.

Preferred Qualifications

  • Experience implementing mapping tools such as Geospatial analysis and visualization tools such as Leaflet, MapBox, ESRI/ArcGIS or QGIS

  • Experience with data wrangling libraries and tools such as Scrapy, Pandas or OpenRefine

  • Experience using Git-based development workflows

  • Experience using data visualization frameworks such as D3

  • Experience configuring and maintaining Linux virtual servers for use as web application hosting

  • Experience working with an outside technical contractor

  • As well as the specific skills specified above, the preferred candidate will:

  • Share the Institutes commitment to social justice and human rights

  • Know how to keep themselves, colleagues and contacts, and information safe online

  • Have an ability to collaborate successfully with people from a range of different backgrounds, in particular when communicating their technical ideas

  • Have a collegial and inclusive approach to work, showing curiosity in what other people in the team are doing

  • Have an ability to understand what your colleagues need help with, and how to support them, even when they cannot express the need clearly themselves.

Equal Opportunity Employer / Disability / Veteran

Columbia University is committed to the hiring of qualified local residents.

Applications open: Eastern Daylight Time
Applications close:

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