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Why raw data doesn't support analysis of violence

This morning I got a query from a journalist asking for our data from the report we published yesterday. The journalist was hoping to create an interactive infographic to track the number of deaths in the Syrian conflict over time. Our data would not support an analysis like the one proposed, so I wrote this reply. We can't send you these data because they would be misleading—seriously misleading—for the purpose you describe. Here's why: What we have is a list of documented deaths, in essence, a highly non-random sample, though a very big one. We like bigger samples because we think that they must be closer to true. The mathematical justificat...

HRDAG and #GivingTuesday 2017

Help us hold human rights violators accountable!

Data on Kosovo Killings

The data on killings in Kosovo are in four files. All of the files are comma-delimited ASCII. The fields in each file are described below. If you use these data on Kosovo killings, please cite them with the following citation, as well as this note: “These are convenience sample data, and as such they are not a statistically representative sample of events in this conflict.  These data do not support conclusions about patterns, trends, or other substantive comparisons (such as over time, space, ethnicity, age, etc.).” Patrick Ball, Wendy Betts, Fritz Scheuren, Jana Dudukovich, and Jana Asher. (2002). AAAS/ABA-CEELI/Human Rights Data ...

Learning Day by Day: Quantitative Research at the AHPN

Working at the Historic Archive of the National Police (AHPN) of Guatemala, there are many skills I learned on the job. My many years of work on the team that studies the recovered documents have been like a custom-made course in how to do quantitative research. The Archive documents I study are the result of 36 years of creation during civil war (1960 to 1996). Many of these documents are simply administrative—but we are able to use them to understand patterns that occurred during the conflict, to get a sense of what mattered to the National Police and what didn’t. Our quantitative research shows us the Police behavior in broad strokes. ...

Happy Ada Lovelace Day!

As an organization that uses science to advocate for human rights, the goals and issues represented by Ada Lovelace Day are very near and dear to our hearts.  Additionally, we are lucky to work with and be advised by some pretty kick-ass ladies in STEM (see our People page to learn more about these amazing women (and men)). I brainstormed a list of women I could write about, as Finding Ada suggests we celebrate today by blogging about a STEM heroine.  I considered Anita Borg (she has her own institute!), who advocated tirelessly for women in computer science.  I thought about Sally Wyatt, keynote speaker and organizer of the fascinating workshop...

HRDAG and #GivingTuesday 2018

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500 Tamils forcibly disappeared in three days, after surrendering to army in 2009

A new study has estimated that over 500 Tamils were forcibly disappeared in just three days, after surrendering to the Sri Lankan army in May 2009.

The study, carried out by the Human Rights Data Analysis Group and the International Truth and Justice Project, based on compiled lists which identify those who were known to have surrendered, estimated that 503 people had been forcibly disappeared between the 17th– 19th of May 2009.


When It Comes to Human Rights, There Are No Online Security Shortcuts

Patrick Ball. When It Comes to Human Rights, There Are No Online Security Shortcuts, Wired op-ed, August 10, 2012. Wired.com © 2013 Condé Nast. All rights reserved.


The Day We Fight Back

Today, February 11, is the day of national protests against the National Security Administration. The critical threat is mass surveillance. In the words of The Day We Fight Back, “Together we will push back against powers that seek to observe, collect, and analyze our every digital action. Together, we will make it clear that such behavior is not compatible with democratic governance. Together, if we persist, we will win this fight.” (more…)

Indirect Sampling to Measure Conflict Violence: Trade-offs in the Pursuit of Data That Are Good, Cheap, and Fast

Romesh Silva and Megan Price. “Indirect Sampling to Measure Conflict Violence: Trade-offs in the Pursuit of Data That Are Good, Cheap, and Fast.” Journal of the American Medical Association. 306(5):547-548. 2011. © 2011 JAMA. All rights reserved.


Predictive policing violates more than it protects

William Isaac and Kristian Lum. Predictive policing violates more than it protects. USA Today. December 2, 2016. © USA Today.

William Isaac and Kristian Lum. Predictive policing violates more than it protects. USA Today. December 2, 2016. © USA Today.


10MM Images from Guatemala’s National Police Go Online: Disappearances, STD Experiments, More


Reflections: Challenging Tasks and Meticulous Defenders

I have made it my personal objective to amplify HRDAG's message of being extra careful and scientifically rigorous with human rights data.

How to Become a Data Scientist: My Lessons at HRDAG

I will use the skills and culture I learned from HRDAG’s team to understand how the conflict has affected the people in my country.

The AHPN: Home of Stories Old and New

Access to the records contained in archives is a concern shared by many. Archives support memory and free access to them strengthens democratic processes. Everyone should be allowed to see first-hand the records contained in an archive and be free to interpret them as needed. Access to archives can increase knowledge on various topics and opens opportunities for different fields of knowledge. (more…)

Reflections: A Love Letter to HRDAG

On the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, HRDAG executive director Megan Price tells us why she loves her work, and why she feels hopeful about the future.

Megan Price Elected Board Member of Tor Project

Today The Tor Project announced that it has elected a new Board of Directors, and among them is HRDAG executive director Megan Price. The Tor Project is a nonprofit advocacy group that promotes online privacy and provides software that helps users opt out of online tracking. Megan and Patrick have long maintained that encryption and privacy are essential for enabling human rights work. Patrick's ideas are described in Monday's FedScoop story about encryption, human rights, and the U.S. State Department. “Human rights groups depend on strong cryptography in order to hold governments accountable," says Patrick. "HRDAG depends on local human ...

HRDAG Testimony in Guatemala Retrials

HRDAG analysis presented by Patrick found that 5 percent of the indigenous Maya Ixil population was killed in a 15-month period.

Setting the Record Straight on Predictive Policing and Race

William Isaac and Kristian Lum (2018). Setting the Record Straight on Predictive Policing and Race. In Justice Today. 3 January 2018. © 2018 In Justice Today / Medium.

William Isaac and Kristian Lum (2018). Setting the Record Straight on Predictive Policing and Race. In Justice Today. 3 January 2018. © 2018 In Justice Today / Medium.


Yezidi Activists Teach HRDAG about Human Rights – updated

UPDATE (21 Dec 2014): Juan Cole is reporting that the Kurdish militia (the peshmerga) have retaken Shingal (also known as Sinjar) mountain where many Yezidi people have been trapped since 3 August 2014. They are now moving to liberate other Yezidi towns south of the mountain. The Yezidi people trapped on the mountain are now free. There is no word yet on the thousands of Yezidi people enslaved by ISIS. ORIGINAL (19 Nov 2014): Farhad (not his real name) got the call from ISIS on his personal cell phone just after lunch: we have your sister, and we will give her back if you pay us $6000, plus $1500 for the driver. Carrying little more than his ...

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