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Senior Program Specialist

Job Summary

Working as a member of one or two multi-disciplinary teams under the guidance of the Program Leader (PL), Associate Director (AD) if applicable, and Director Program Area (DPA), the Senior Program Specialist:

  • Identifies critical research issues in the areas covered by the Program Initiatives (PIs), and assists in the further elaboration of the PIs’ current research strategy;
  • Under the supervision of the PL, develops, monitors, manages, and evaluates research projects;
  • Takes the lead in managing a  portfolio of PI and corporate projects in the range of 10-20 projects and Research Support Projects (RSPs) values up to $5-7 million;
  • Liaises with program colleagues in Ottawa and the regional offices on issues of program and project development and management;
  • Plays a leading role in the identifying, developing and managing IDRC’s contacts with other international agencies and Canadian institutions;
  • Initiates Centre-wide public relations efforts and  knowledge dissemination and utilization activities, including participation in IDRC, public and scientific fora;
  • Participates with the PL in identifying and contacting external contacts to support specific program directions and projects;
  • Participates in revenue generation and in the identification of donor partners;
  • Assists the PL with the preparation for team meetings; and
  • Represents IDRC internationally.

Primary Duties or Responsibilities

Program Development

  • Identifies opportunities that will contribute to meeting the objectives of the PI(s) in terms of relevance, quality, policy impact, capacity building and in terms of visibility (reputation) of the program and the Centre;
  • Participates, in the elaboration of research themes through, inter alia, team meetings, internal committees, in-house research, seminars, and workshops;
  • Ensures that a regional perspective is brought to bear on program planning at the PI and Program Area level;
  • Establishes contact and exchanges information with institutions, with researchers from research centres in the South and the North and with the international donor community; and
  • Keeps up to date with, and contributes to, research and current developments in the disciplines / areas covered by the PIs and in the regions where the PIs work and at the international level.

Project Development

  • Assesses proposals, including conceptual, methodological, operational, evaluative, and financial aspects;
  • Identifies and develops research proposals in accordance with Centre policies;
  • Incorporates, at the project design stage, plans for dissemination and utilization of research results;
  • Explores the potential for support and participation by the Canadian research community;
  • Develop partnerships with other funding agencies to support project activities;
  • Negotiates with researchers and policy makers to increase the use they make of research as input in policy formulation;
  • Identifies and encourages links with other Program Initiatives and between regions; and
  • Prepares project documents for approval.

Project Management

  • Manages, in consultation with the Resources Branch staff, the preparation of contracts and grant letters, materiel purchases, travel arrangements, analysis of financial statements, adjustment of budgets and schedules, and project closures;
  • Provides technical supervision, including analysis of interim reports, participation in workshops, literature searches, identification and administration of resource persons/consultants in support of projects;
  • Reviews final project reports of research results, and negotiates revisions and/or additional research requirements;
  • Assists in coordinating the research activities of collaborative projects between Canadian and developing country researchers;
  • When traveling, liaises with Canadian diplomatic representatives, to inform them of PI projects and programming in countries where Canada has diplomatic accreditation;
  • Plans and manages project evaluations; and
  • Prepares project completion reports. 

Research Utilization and Centre Representation  

  • Assists researchers in writing, editing, and publishing research results;
  • Participates in public and scientific fora; and
  • Participates in strategic networking with other donors, lenders, research institutions and policy makers.

Centre-wide Collaboration

  • Participates in regular PI meetings, and when required in other Program Area, Branch and Corporate meetings and committees;
  • Contributes to knowledge dissemination and utilization;
  • Contributes to Centre-wide public relations efforts, working with the Communications Division;
  • Collaborates with regional specialists (in Ottawa and Regional Offices (ROs)) in the identification and evaluation of emerging and key development trends and priorities in a particular region; and
  • Collaborates with Centre supported projects working in the same research and development areas as the PIs to create synergies between them.


  • Directly supervises more junior professional staff which may include Professional Development Awardees, Research Award Recipients and Summer Students; administrative and support staff (applies particularly to Program Officers (POs) based in regional offices; and guides and acts as mentor for some junior professional staff which may include program Officer (level K and M) and Research Officers; and
  • Indirectly supervises staff from the Resources Branch assisting with the administration of a Program Initiatives project.