Human Rights Watch (HRW)

Head of Open Source Investigations

Job Summary

The person will develop a team that works closely with HRW researchers to identify, collect, process, and use information from open or public sources in support of human rights investigations.

  • Minimum Qualification: Bachelor
  • Experience Level: Senior level
  • Experience Length: 3 years

Job Description

DEPT: Program Department

Based in one of Human Rights Watch’s major offices


Human Rights Watch (HRW) is seeking an experienced practitioner to build and lead a new unit on online open source investigations. The person will develop a team that works closely with HRW researchers to identify, collect, process, and use information from open or public sources in support of human rights investigations. This includes collecting information from structured datasets and unstructured information (i.e. social media scraping), enriching data (geolocating media, reconciling entities), verifying evidence, preserving sources (public & local archiving), and presenting open source material in compelling ways. 

In the short term, the successful candidate will be responsible for conducting open source investigations in collaboration with HRW research teams, leading trainings on open source techniques, identifying how to integrate this work into existing research and workflows, and developing a strategic plan to build the unit. In the medium to longer term, they will be responsible for implementing this plan by helping to fundraise, hiring staff for the unit, mainstreaming familiarity with and use of open source work throughout the organization, and developing an internal ethics and security framework in consultation with relevant staff. 

The unit head should have experience planning, conducting and leading open source and social media human rights investigations, both independently and in a team, including the identification, preservation, verification and analysis of open source material. They will be responsible for developing a strategy to conduct this research with the highest regard for ethical and security concerns. 

This position is based in one of HRW’s major offices and reports to the Associate Program Director.



We do not expect applicants to promptly meet all of the responsibilities described below. We expect this candidate to grow into their role and to help make it their own.

  1. Conduct rigorous, secure and ethical open source human rights investigations, both independently and in collaboration with HRW research teams;
  2. Contribute to research design and implementation to promote innovative and effective investigations.
  3. Develop and promote high standards for HRW’s identification, collection, collation, analysis, and effective use of open source material.
  4. Develop and implement a plan to grow and lead HRW’s open source investigations work through consultations with researchers, advocates and communications staff, as well as leaders in the open source investigations field;
  5. Train and support HRW staff on open source investigation techniques, including considerations for ethics, security and self-care;
  6. Collaborate with colleagues who conduct investigations with non-traditional human rights techniques, such as remote sensing and data analysis;
  7. Maintain relationships with partner organizations and practitioners in the open source investigations field; stay up to date with innovations in the field;
  8. Represent HRW in professional networks related to open source research and digitally oriented human rights investigations;
  9. Develop strategies and support mechanisms to address the psychological risks of working with disturbing material, in consultation with HRW’s mental health counselors, program directors, and external experts in secondary trauma;
  10. Work with HRW’s security team to protect the physical and digital security of our staff, partners and interlocutors;
  11. Work with the Communications division to present open source investigation findings in clear and compelling ways;
  12. Work with the Development department on fundraising by drafting reports to donors, promoting the work of HRW, and identifying potential new funding sources;
  13. Travel internationally as needed to participate in meetings and trainings provided by HRW and other organizations, including on security, management and stress and resilience;
  14. Lead, motivate, and mentor direct-reports, including communicating clear expectations, setting performance objectives, providing regular and timely constructive feedback, ensuring balanced workload, providing guidance on professional growth, and monitoring staff well-being as it pertains to self-care; and
  15. Perform other responsibilities as required.



Education: A level of education that when combined with professional experience will show you have the capability to contribute meaningfully to HRW's investigations. Candidates who have relevant academic degrees are encouraged to apply, but this is a plus - not a requirement. 

EXPERIENCE:  A proven record of conducting and presenting open source investigations that are effective, innovative and ethical is required.



  • Experience planning and conducting online open source investigations is required.
  • Demonstrated knowledge of photo and video verification techniques is required.
  • Knowledge of digital forensic techniques is desired.
  • Basic knowledge of geolocation techniques is required; advanced knowledge is desired.
  • Expert understanding of social media platforms, trends, and social media monitoring is required.
  • Knowledge of emerging technologies and techniques related to open source and social media investigations, including the development and evaluation of new tools, is required.
  • Knowledge of and experience with human rights investigations are highly desirable.
  • A knack for storytelling using a combination of text and visuals is highly desirable.
  • Strong presentation and public speaking skills are desired.
  • Successful track record in fundraising is desirable.
  • The ability to multi-task effectively and work well under tight deadlines is required.
  • Excellent ability to work collaboratively and respectfully with others in multicultural teams, across organizational boundaries and multiple time zones, and with employees at all levels is required.
  • Field experience and a track record of working with civil society groups, including collaboration with communities facing social, cultural and/or economic exclusion, is highly desirable.
  • Strong oral and written communication skills in English are required; proficiency in other languages is highly desirable.
  • Strong commitment to human rights and the mission and programs of HRW is required.



HRW seeks exceptional applicants and offers competitive compensation and employer-paid benefits. HRW offers a relocation assistance package and will assist employees in obtaining necessary work authorization, if required; citizens of all nationalities are encouraged to apply.



Please apply immediately by visiting our online job portal at and attaching a letter of interest, a resume or CV, and an example (attachment or link) of your online open source investigations work. No phone calls or email inquiries, please. Only complete applications will be reviewed and only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.


If you are experiencing technical difficulties with your application submission, please email Due to the large response, application submissions via email will not be accepted and inquiries regarding the status of applications will go unanswered.


Human Rights Watch is strong because it is diverse. We do not discriminate in hiring practices and actively seek a diverse applicant pool. We encourage candidates of all abilities, ages, gender identities and expressions, national origins, races and ethnicities, religious beliefs, sexual orientations, and those with criminal records to apply. We welcome all kinds of diversity. Our employees include people who are parents and nonparents, the self-taught and university educated, and from a wide span of socio-economic backgrounds and perspectives on the world. Human Rights Watch is an equal opportunity employer.


Human Rights Watch is an international human rights monitoring and advocacy organization known for its in-depth investigations, its incisive and timely reporting, its innovative and high-profile advocacy campaigns, and its success in changing the human rights-related policies and practices of influential governments and international institutions.

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