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Job Title:
Associate Director, Science, SL-1330-00, $135,468 - $203,700 annually
Type of Position:
Federal- Career/CareerConditional
Job Location:
Cambridge, MA
Posting Opening Date:
Posting Closing Date:

AREA OF CONSIDERATION:  This position is open to all U.S. Citizens or U.S. Nationals (a resident of American Samoa and Swain Island).


The SAO Associate Director, Science (ADS) plays a central leadership role in the scientific activities and development of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO), in partnership with Harvard University (HCO), as one of the world’s premier centers for astronomy and astrophysics.   The ADS reports to the SAO Director, interacts with the Deputy Director, and serves on the joint SAO-HCO Executive Management team.


  1. Reports to and works with the Director, Deputy Director, and the CfA Executive Management team in the development and oversight of science programs for the SAO and makes decisions regarding policy and execution of science programs in the context of the SAO scientific strategic plan.
  2. Contributes to an innovative and forward-looking science strategic plan in a dynamic funding landscape.  Identifies and communicates new funding opportunities for SAO scientific programs, aligned with the overall SAO and CfA strategic plan and vision.  Promotes new proposals for external and internal funding of science programs.
  3. Provides broad leadership to the SAO science programs to support the CfA mission and enhance organization agility, accountability, and transparency.  Develops/adapts science programs to give the greatest support for programs consistent with legislation, regulations, and policy requirements of the Institution and funding agencies.  Serves on national committees to oversee major observatories, review major programs, and establish future directions for the field of astrophysics and closely-related disciplines.
  4. Provides a fair and balanced representation to the Director and the Executive team of the SAO science divisions, their science priorities, goals, needs, and accomplishments.  Obtains feedback from science division leads, telescope directors scientific program representatives, etc. on priorities and needs.   Manages effective and efficient communication within the scientific divisions on policy, procedures, operations and budget matters. 
  5. Develops and monitors cross-division science programs and collaborations through new and ongoing activities, workshops and communication.  Builds consensus on the prioritization of cross-division science programs with Division leads and scientists across the CfA, while keeping the Executive Management team aware of progress and key developments.
  6. Tracks new scientific developments and suggests new avenues of investigation, research methods and techniques.  Maintains an awareness of the frontiers of knowledge in the areas of astronomy, astrophysics, and closely-related fields.
  7. Serves as the liaison with the Harvard Astronomy Department in pan-CfA scientific and research proposals, projects, activities, and events.   Serves as the liaison with the SAO and HCO Councils on scientific oversight, activities and initiatives. 
  8. Represents SAO/ CfA science programs to external agencies and organizations, in place of the Director or Deputy Director, as required.
  9. Ensures effective communication of science progress and outcomes through the CfA newsletter and other internal channels.  Ensures effective external communication of science results and discoveries through media and other outlets.  Ensures the CfA media team is apprised of major science results and discoveries, and these results/discoveries are communicated to the broader public.
  10. Aids the advancement team in communication of CfA science discoveries.  Aids in the stewardship of scientific donations, providing regular science progress reports for advancement-funded activities and programs.
  11. Works closely with supervisors in the development and advancement of CfA early-career researchers and students.
  12. Plans, initiates, and directs the development and utilization of modern management techniques, methods, and controls. Manages and supervises a large scientific staff within scientific divisions.   Manages, fosters, and facilitates positive and engaging interactions among scientists across the CfA.
  13. Maintains close and harmonious working relationships with senior supervisory staff, including the CfA Director, the CfA Deputy Director, other Associate Directors, and the leads of scientific divisions to assure integration of short-and long-range plans consistent with the SAO scientific, research and telescope strategic plans and vision.  Maintains close working relationships with other senior staff members.
  14. Establishes a positive and engaging leadership style that emphasizes open, transparent and clear communication via written and oral messaging.  Coaches and counsels staff and encourages a supportive team-based approach to project planning and implementation, introducing and readjusting operations to meet strategic plan initiatives, priorities and/or changing needs. 
  15. Develops and monitors policies to achieve management objectives in areas such as strategic workforce management, diversity, and equal employment opportunity within the science divisions. Promotes policies and procedures that foster inclusive workforce participation. Relates well to people from varied backgrounds and different situations; is sensitive to cultural diversity, race, gender, disabilities, and other individual differences. Complies with all laws, regulations, and agency policies regarding the treatment and acceptance of all individuals and is proactive in workforce diversity and inclusion initiatives.   Acts in ways that protect civil rights.


Specialized Experience: One year of directly related experience (Federal or other) equivalent to GS-15. Specialized experience would include activities such as managing/overseeing  scientific programs at a large scientific organization or university, including but not limited to effective science budget management and the achievement of key performance milestones. Additionally, experience as a liasion with scientific staff to coordinate and develop synergistic research activities, collaborations and initiatives is required.

In addition to meeting the specialized experience, candidates will be rating based on their knowledge, skills and abilities in the following:

Scientific/Technical - Outstanding scientific track record and expertise in any field of astrophysics.  Broad and deep understanding of the scientific research, expertise and skills available at the CfA.  Ability to fairly and equitably represent all scientific divisions at the CfA at the executive level.  Extensive experience in scientific proposal preparation for multiple funding agencies.  Successful implementation, budget management, and personnel management for major scientific projects.  Detailed knowledge of the US Decadal Survey for Astronomy, national and international grant funding agencies, programs and deadlines. 

Financial Management- Mastery of the principles and practices of budget formulation and prioritization of science goals and priorities.  Experience allocating science budgets within a constantly changing and constraining budget environment.  Ability to consider all science needs and to allocate funding to priorities in a fair and balanced manner, without regard to the own science field of the ADS.

Advanced knowledge of techniques for monitoring and managing expenditures to ensure cost effectiveness including the use of cost benefit analysis to set priorities, and knowledge of SAO financial processes and procedures.

Personnel Management:  Significant experience in large-scale management of scientific teams with effective collaboration methods to achieve scientific goals.  Extensive knowledge of performance management systems, recruitment policies and practices, and personnel policies and procedures.  Proven ability to manage personnel effectively, while creating a positive and inclusive work environment.  Proven ability to influence and engage others in effective management techniques and in building an inclusive and positive work environment.  Exceptional ability to delegate tasks and engage staff in contributing towards scientific and organization goals.

Communication skills— Outstanding ability to express information effectively in all formats, including on-line and during video conferencing, taking into account the audience and nature of the information.  Exceptional ability to listen to others, attend to nonverbal cues, and respond appropriately and respectfully. 

Experience refers to paid and unpaid experience, including volunteer work done through National Service programs (e.g., Peace Corps, AmeriCorps) and other organizations (e.g., professional; philanthropic; religious; spiritual; community, student, social). Volunteer work helps build critical competencies, knowledge, and skills and can provide valuable training and experience that translates directly to paid employment. You will receive credit for all qualifying experience, including volunteer experience.

Part-time and/or unpaid experience related to this position will be considered to determine the total number of years and months of experience. Be sure to note the number of paid or unpaid hours worked each week.

There is no education substitution for experience.

Special Instructions for Foreign Education: If you are qualifying by education and/or you have education completed in a foreign college/university described above, it is your responsibility to provide transcripts and proof of U.S. accreditation for foreign study. For instructions on where to fax these documents, see the "Required Documents" section of this announcement.

Important Note:

The review of your resume will determine your final rating and should provide sufficient information regarding how your education and experience relate to this position, including the major duties and qualifications criteria listed.


Minimum Education Requirements:
A) Degree in one or a combination of astronomy, physics, mathematics, space science or electronics, including course work in differential and integral calculus and 12 semester hours in astronomy or physics;  OR

B) A combination of education and experience equivalent to A above including at least 30 semester hours of courses equivalent to a major in any combination of astronomy, space science, physics, mathematics, and electronics with required course work as shown in A above.  

APPLICATION PROCEDURE: We will only accept applications on line for this position.  For complete information about this position and the online application procedures, please visit USAJOBS

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