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Multiple Systems Estimation: The Matching Process

<<Previous post: Collection, Cleaning, and Canonicalization of Data Q8. What do you mean by "overlap," and why are overlaps important? Q9. [In depth] Why is automated matching so important, and what process do you use to match records?  Q8. What do you mean by "overlap," and why are overlaps important? MSE estimates the total number of violations by comparing the size of the overlap(s) between lists of human rights violations to the sizes of the lists themselves. By "overlap," we mean the set of incidents, such as deaths, that appear on more than one list of human rights violations. Accurately and efficiently identifying overlaps between ...

Lessons at HRDAG: Making More Syrian Records Usable

If we could glean key missing information from those fields, we would be able to use more records.

Core Concepts

Inaccurate statistics can damage the credibility of human rights claims—and that's why we strive to ensure that statistics about human rights violations are generated with as much rigor and are as scientifically accurate as possible. But, what are the pitfalls leading to inaccuracy—when, where, and how do data become compromised? How are patterns biased by having only partial data? And what are the best scientific methods for collecting, managing, processing and analyzing data? Here are the data pitfalls that HRDAG has identified, as well as some of our approaches for meeting these challenges. We believe that human rights researchers must take ...


In July 2009, The Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG) concluded a three-year project with the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission to help clarify Liberia's violent history and hold perpetrators of human rights abuses accountable for their actions. (This work was conducted by HRDAG while with Benetech.) In the course of this work, HRDAG analyzed more than 17,000 victim and witness statements collected by the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission and compiled the data into a report entitled "Descriptive Statistics From Statements to the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission." The report is included as an annex to the final ...

String matching for governorate information in unstructured text

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Seeking the Truth with Documentation

The need to establish the truth around events is central to goals of transitional justice, particularly securing accountability, establishing legitimate and effective justice mechanisms, and laying the foundations for a peaceful society. Documentation to provide verifiable and widely accepted accounts of such events is a critical component of establishing this truth, or the multiple truths that may exist for a population. It is difficult to overstate the important role of documentation in transitional justice efforts. If some of what follows sounds familiar, echoing points of previous posts, it is no coincidence.  Documentation, in a word, is the ...

Where Stats and Rights Thrive Together

Everyone I had the pleasure of interacting with enriched my summer in some way.

Scraping for Pattern: Protecting Immigrant Rights in Washington State

With HRDAG's help, the University of Washington Center for Human Rights team has been able to analyze the scraped text and search for key words such as “jail” in order to gain insight into where immigration arrests are being made.

Learning to Learn: Reflections on My Time at HRDAG

So much of what I learned at HRDAG was intangible, and I'm grateful to have been able to go deep.

How Many People Will Get Covid-19?

HRDAG has authored two articles in Significance that add depth to discussions around infection rates.

Epidemiology has theories. We should study them.

With so many dashboards and shiny visualizations, how can an interested non-technical reader find good science among the noise?

Always Learning

The data science field is always changing, which means that I'll always be learning.

Training with HRDAG: Rules for Organizing Data and More

I had the pleasure of working with Patrick Ball at the HRDAG office in San Francisco for a week during summer 2016. I knew Patrick from two workshops he previously hosted at the University of Washington’s Centre for Human Rights (UWCHR). The workshops were indispensable to us at UWCHR as we worked to publish a number of datasets on human rights violations during the El Salvador Civil War.  The training was all the more helpful because the HRDAG team was so familiar with the data. As part of an impressive career which took him from Ethiopia and Kosovo to Haiti and El Salvador among others, Patrick himself had worked on gathering and analysing ...

New results for the identification of municipalities with clandestine graves in Mexico

The goal of this project is identify Mexican municipalities with a high probability of having clandestine graves. Knowing where to search will help to create better public programs regarding missing persons in Mexico.

Reflections: It Began In Bogotá

It was July of 2006, I’d spent five years working at a local human rights NGO in Bogotá, and I had reached retirement age. But then a whole new world opened up for me to discover. Tamy Guberek, then HRDAG Latin America coordinator, whom I had met at the NGO, approached me about becoming part of the HRDAG Colombia team as a research/administrative assistant. Over a cup of suitably Colombian coffee, the deal was quickly "signed.” My responsibilities ranged from fundraising to translations, from support in data gathering for estimates on homicides and disappearances in various regions of Colombia to editorial support to different Benetech-HRDAG ...

The case of Ana Lucrecia Orellana Stormont

When working with documents in an archive, every document offers the opportunity for statistical study and quantitative research. But a document can also offer the discovery of a story. That is the case with the disappearance of Ana Lucrecia Orellana Stormont, who was reported missing on June 6, 1983, at the age of 35. Ana Lucrecia, a professor of psychology at the University of San Carlos, was scheduled to attend a meeting with Edgar Raúl Rivas Rodríguez at the Plaza Hotel in Guatemala’s capital city. Edgar, who also went missing, was a teacher at the School of Political Science at the University. (Ana Lucrecia’s case is explained more fully ...

HRDAG and the Digital Commons

One of the three main goals of HRDAG is education and outreach, and to that end we use Creative Commons licenses for all of our blogposts and, whenever possible, for our publications. Using a Creative Commons license makes it clear that educators are free to use HRDAG's publications, in their entirety, and with the peace of mind that they are doing so with our blessing. Also, the use of the Creative Commons license allows us to participate in and encourage the creation of a digital commons, which we feel helps to advance another one of our goals, the creation of knowledge. We feel that it’s important to offer up our publications for use and reuse ...

Communiqué de presse, Tchad, January 2010

Une Nouvelle Etude Démontre qu’ Hissène Habré supervisait les Prisons de la Police Politique où des Milliers de Personnes Sont Décédées. 10ème Anniversaire de l’Inculpation de l’Ancien Dictateur Tchadien Janvier 29, 2010, N’Djaména, Tchad, Palo Alto, CA, Etats-Unis – A l’occasion du 10ème anniversaire de la première mise en accusation d’Hissène Habré au Sénégal, le Groupe d'Analyse des Données de Droits Humains de Benetech (GADDH) a réalisé une nouvelle étude qui démontre que l’ancien dictateur tchadien était bien informé des politiques et des pratiques de sa police politique. Cette étude pourrait s’avérer ...

Casanare, Colombia

Text in English [popup citation="Tamy Guberek, Daniel Guzmán, Megan Price, Kristian Lum and Patrick Ball. (2010). Benetech/Human Rights Data Analysis Group database of lethal violence in Casanare."] Estimaciones de Homicidios y Desapariciones en Casanare Casanare es un departamento extenso y rural de Colombia con 19 municipios y una población de casi 300.000 habitantes. Ubicado entre las faldas de los Andes y las planicies orientales, Casanare tiene una larga historia de violencia. Diversos grupos armados han hecho presencia en Casanare, entre ellos paramilitares, guerrillas y el ejército colombiano. Muchos habitantes del Casanare han sido vícti...

Press Release, Timor-Leste, November 2006

Palo Alto, CA, November 12, 2006 –The Benetech® Initiative congratulates the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR) and the Timorese people for the official release of the CAVR's final report Chega! in Australia today. The 2,500 page report uncovers previously unknown findings about past human rights abuses in Timor-Leste between 1974 and 1999. In particular, the report uncovers widespread and systematic human rights violations in Timor-Leste during the period 1974-1999. Benetech's statistical analysis establishes that at least 102,800 (+/- 11,000) Timorese died as a result of the conflict. Approximately 18,600 (+/- 1000) ...

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.