As of today, the Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG) is an independent* non-profit! It’s been a long time coming, and we’re delighted to have gotten to this point. HRDAG is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that applies rigorous science to the analysis of human rights violations around the world; for more information, see our About Us page.

Benetech has spun out the scientific and statistical part of the Human Rights Program to HRDAG. The spinout includes (as staff) me — Patrick Ball — and Dr Megan Price, as well as our many part-time scientific and field consultants (a list is here). The software and technology component of our work — the Martus project — is staying at Benetech.

The spinout was part of the original plan when Rafe, Miguel, JanaD, Kristen and I moved our work from the American Association for the Advancement of Science to Benetech in November, 2003. It’s taken us longer than we anticipated to move, in large part because Benetech has been a great home. However, it now makes sense for us to separate so we can focus on slightly different topics. The Benetech Board has blessed our move, and we foresee lots of subcontracting back and forth. In particular, I will be spending approximately 10% of my time in 2013-2014 advising Martus.

Little will change for our partners. Martus will continue at Benetech, and our scientific and statistical projects will continue at HRDAG. HRDAG’s work will be organized in three areas: (i) teaching the human rights community about the appropriate use of statistics through lectures, articles, workshops, and proposal and report reviews (“outreach”); (ii) integrating statistical analysis in human rights monitoring and reporting, including publications and expert testimony in trials (“creating knowledge”); and (iii) collaborating with academic researchers to develop new techniques that contribute to human rights understanding (“R&D”). Our work includes active projects in Guatemala, Colombia, the DR Congo, an analysis of conflict-related mortality in Syria, as well as several potential projects in India.

*On independence: for the next one to two years, HRDAG will function as a project within Community Partners, an organization that provides fiscal sponsorship to small and transitioning non-profits. Their sponsorship means that we will continue to have 501(c)(3) non-profit status as we move toward becoming an independent non-profit group. The sponsor will provide a range of support, but most critically, auditing and other assistance with responsible nonprofit stewardship.

Our new advisory board includes three people: Dinah PoKempner from Human Rights Watch; David Banks, a professor of statistics from Duke University; and Audrey Chapman, a professor of ethics from the University of Connecticut. These folks have known our work for over 15 years, and have been invaluable mentors during that time.

We also have a science committee supporting our statistical work. This board includes Fritz Scheuren from NORC; Nick Jewell from UC Berkeley; Louis-Paul Rivest from Université Laval; and Jennifer Hoeting from Colorado State.

Megan and I are very happy about the transition. Benetech has been a great home and very helpful throughout the transition. Our donors have provided thoughtful guidance. We look forward to continuing old projects, launching new ones, developing and learning new methods, and most of all, using our skills to support the international human rights movement’s unceasing pursuit of accountability and justice for grave crimes.

Our work has been used by truth commissions, international criminal tribunals, and non-governmental human rights organizations. We have worked with partners on projects on five continents.