Research Technician - Economics

  • Ocean Associates inc.
  • Remote
  • Aug 18, 2022
Full time Research

Job Description

Ocean Associates Inc. (OAI) is seeking applicants for a full-time position to collect commercial fishing cost information, provide data services, and assist in creating other deliverables to support the Social Sciences Branch of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, within NOAA Fisheries. OAI is a Virginia corporation established in 2003 that provides consulting and technical services to the U.S. government, non-governmental organizations, international organizations, and the private sector. We specialize in scientific program and project management, strategic planning, professional and technical services and stakeholder engagement, supporting government contracts.


The Social Sciences Branch (SSB) of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) carries out economic and social primary research, data collection, and analysis for NOAA Fisheries in the Greater Atlantic region. SSB staff are responsible for collecting primary data and providing estimates of economic and social impacts on fishing businesses and communities associated with fisheries management decision making, which inform management actions. These economic and social data are used in many of the frameworks and amendments to the region’s fishery management plans (FMPs) that require economic and social impact analyses. Without an accurate understanding of the financial costs faced by commercial fishing businesses, these analyses would suffer. SSB staff strives to provide accurate, timely, and relevant data and analyses about economic and social conditions in the Greater Atlantic region’s fishing communities to its stakeholder groups, which include fishing industry participants, fisheries management decision makers, fishing community organizations, academics, non-profit organizations and the interested public.

To collect financial costs faced by commercial fishing businesses, SSB staff conduct a voluntary survey of commercial fishing vessel owners. Data collected include general vessel information, operating costs (trip costs), fixed costs (non-trip costs), and crew costs for the indicated calendar year. Surveys were previously sent in 2007-2009, 2012, 2013, and 2016 to collect costs incurred by vessel owners in the previous year. Response rates for these surveys varied from a high of 29% in 2012 to a low of 6% in 2016.

The SSB is now preparing to implement a survey in 2023 to collect costs incurred by commercial fishing vessel owners during 2022. The survey will be administered largely based on the Dillman (2014) mixed-mode protocol, allowing individuals to respond by mail, online, or through a phone call or virtual interview. This survey will be sent to every owner of an active federally-permitted commercial fishing vessel in the Greater Atlantic region, spanning the Atlantic coast from Maine to North Carolina. Though some individuals own multiple vessels, only one vessel will be selected to survey, amounting to ~2,800 surveys sent.

In order to handle the anticipated volume of survey responses, the SSB Cost Survey Working Group (Cost Survey WG), consisting of three staff economists, is seeking to hire a Research Technician. This individual will be responsible for entering data from returned mail surveys, conducting virtual interviews/phone calls with vessel owners who choose that method of survey response, and performing QA/QC of survey data. The ideal candidate will possess a Master’s degree in economics, statistics, natural resource management, or related field with an emphasis on practical data usage. The duration of this position is expected to be 8 months, which will span beyond the fielding period of the survey to account for data entry and data quality assurance testing.


  • Data entry of cost surveys returned via mail
  • The employee will be responsible for receiving mailed paper surveys. They must have access to a mailbox or P.O. box, as surveys will be mailed to them in batches 1-2 times per week, contingent upon the number of mailed surveys returned. If the surveys are sent to a personal address, the employee will be required to sign fthe survey packages received.
  • All data will be entered using a government-furnished laptop, provided by the NEFSC/Cost Survey WG. Data will also be entered following protocols to protect Personally Identifiable Information and Business Identifiable Information.
  • The employee will be responsible for clearly understanding Department of Commerce approved methods of handling and protecting data, including Business Identifiable Information. The Cost Survey WG will provide the employee with resources on these approved methods.
  • Under guidance from the Cost Survey WG, and in collaboration with an external survey firm, the employee shall enter survey data according to an established codebook in the data format specified or using a specific data entry portal.
  • The employee will be required to mail all surveys back after the data are entered using postage paid packaging, which will be provided by the NEFSC/Cost Survey WG.
  • Conducting virtual interviews/phone calls with commercial fishing vessel owners and recording responses.
  • The employee will be responsible for scheduling and conducting virtual interviews and/or phone calls with vessel owners who choose to respond to the survey in that manner.
  • Coordinating with the independent survey firm to schedule interviews with participants who are recruited using the telephone recruitment calls conducted by the survey firm. The employee will be expected to be available to receive calls Monday-Friday (excluding Federal holidays) 9AM-5PM.
  • Flexibility will be required in scheduling telephone/virtual interviews to meet the needs of the survey participants, which may require conducting interviews outside normal business hours (9AM-5PM). Overtime work will not be permitted, such that each hour worked outside normal business hours shall result in a reduction of an hour worked within normal business hours.
  • In the event that the employee is unable to conduct the interview at the time requested by the survey taker, the employee will work with the Cost Survey WG to ensure the survey participant is accommodated.
  • Conducting interviews (both webinars and telephone options) using an approved web application that has recording capabilities. Each interview call is expected to last approximately 60 minutes.
  • Entering the data collected during the interview using the predetermined database using the portal/codebook once the interview is complete.
  • The employee will be responsible for setting up the interview/telephone call, sending email reminders, keeping their appointments up to date on their Google calendar associated with their NOAA email account, and sending reminder emails/calls to the participant.
  • If a vessel owner leaves a voicemail outside of the manned phone hours, the employee will be expected to call the vessel owner back within 24 hours (excluding weekends and federal holidays).
  • All interviews must be conducted in a professional and respectful manner with an understanding of the often contentious relationship between NOAA Fisheries and the commercial fishing industry.
  • The employee will be responsible for learning the survey questions, instruction sheet, and materials and be able to answer questions about the survey content to ensure that the correct data is being provided by the participant. The survey will be administered in the same fashion for each participant as to not introduce bias into the survey answers.
  • A voice recording of each interview will be kept and the employee shall remember to stop and start the recording, as well as notify the interview participant that they are being recorded for data quality purposes. The interview records shall be stored in a secure location on the NEFSC network in a password-entry folder to ensure confidential data is protected.
  • Quality Assurance and Quality Control (QA/QC) of data and materials
  • Ensuring that the surveys generated by the design team match the exact wording as the draft survey versions created by the Cost Survey WG.
  • Assisting the Cost Survey WG in reviewing the proofs (emails, notification letters, envelopes, and surveys) provided by the hired survey firm for correctness.
  • Survey drafts and bundled materials provided by the survey firm shall be reviewed to ensure that the correct vessel information, vessel gear, and owner mailing information corresponds to that of the sampling frame.
  • Performing follow-up phone calls with commercial fishing vessel owners on any data issues that may arise when entering survey data.
  • Conducting statistical analysis methods to inform QA/QC efforts, as recommended by survey literature.
  • Generating standardized reports on the QA/QC results, which will be reported back to the Cost Survey WG on a regular basis.
  • Communication and Deliverables
  • Attending and participating in regular meetings (in-person or virtually depending on the workstation of the individual) with the Cost Survey WG.
  • Providing regular updates to the Cost Survey WG on the above tasks.
  • Monitoring the progress of the activities conducted by the survey firm hired by the Cost Survey WG to track survey mailings and ensure the survey firm is following the protocols put forth by the Cost Survey WG.
  • Communicating with the survey firm and Cost Survey WG to track the full list of completed surveys by mode.
  • Answering any questions on the survey received from commercial fishing vessel owners over the phone.
  • The employee may have the opportunity to present preliminary survey results at an academic conference or other forums.

Equipment Responsibilities:

The employee is expected to provide/possess the following items:

  • Reliable internet connection (5-G preferred)
  • Private room or office for conducting telephone/webinar survey interviews with little to no background noise or distractions. Interviews are not to be conducted in a public area due to confidential data being collected.
  • Access to private mailbox or P.O. Box

Start Date: December 1, 2022. Training will occur from December 2022 through February 2023, and survey implementation is expected to occur in March-May 2023.

Location: All phone calls/interviews will be completed by the employee remotely. Completed mailed surveys will be sent from the NEFSC Main Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA to the employee’s residence or to a private, secure (locked) P.O. box. The employee’s residence must be within the Continental U.S., with preference for a location within New England or the Mid-Atlantic. Remote work is not permitted outside of the U.S.

The employee will participate in regular meetings with team members; these meetings may be joined either remotely or in-person at the NEFSC Main Lab in Woods Hole, MA. Other work tasks performed by the employee may be conducted either in-person or remotely.

Travel: Travel will be permitted. The employee may have the opportunity to present the results of the survey at an academic conference, such as the North American Association of Fisheries Economists Forum 2023 in Woods Hole, MA.

Salary and Benefits: This is a full-time position lasting 8 months. Overtime is not anticipated. Salary is commensurate with experience. Comprehensive benefits package.

Required Qualifications:

  • Master’s Degree in economics, statistics, natural resource management, social sciences or related field, with an emphasis on practical data usage
  • Data entry experience
  • Primary data collection experience
  • Strong communication skills via phone and email
  • Fluent in English
  • Strong attention to detail
  • Ability to work independently
  • Ability to meet with team members on a regular basis (either in-person or virtually)
  • Ability to work flexible hours; conduct interviews with vessel owners on weekday evenings
  • Alternatively, a Bachelor's Degree in one of the disciplines listed above will be considered if the candidate has 2-3 years of conducting interviews for primary data collection, along with the additional required skills listed above.
  • Ability to work effectively both individually and collaboratively in a team/group setting.
  • Ability to receive constructive feedback and implement appropriate action.

Preferred Qualifications

  • Experience in social science/ economic primary data collection
  • Experience conducting one-on-one interviews
  • Statistical analysis experience utilizing primary data
  • Experience working/communicating with the commercial fishing industry
  • Knowledge of commercial fishing gear/practices

If you are interested in being considered for this position, please APPLY THROUGH OUR ADP WEB PORTAL, AT THE LINK AT THE TOP RIGHT OF THIS PAGE.

Only qualified applicants that meet minimum experience or background requirements stated above need apply. When applying for this position you will be asked to upload your resume at the end of this online application.

Applicants should submit a resume that includes the following:

  • Cover letter that briefly describes how you meet the required and preferred qualifications listed.
  • Work history for past 10 years or since last full-time education.
  • Education.
  • Previous experience or training with similar requirements.
  • Three professional references.
  • Include your name in the document file name.
  • Upload your resume in readable, not scanned, PDF or Word format (PDF is preferred).





Salary is commensurate with experience. Comprehensive benefits package.