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UT Dallas researcher receives NSF grant to update conflict database

Political science professor to update correlates of war project data

University of Texas at Dallas


IMAGE: Dr. Vito D'Orazio is assistant professor of political science in the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences at The University of Texas at Dallas. view more

Credit: UT Dallas

The National Science Foundation has awarded a grant to a UT Dallas political science researcher to update a widely used database documenting uses of military force and threats of force among nations.

Dr. Vito D'Orazio, assistant professor of political science in the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences, will lead the project to extend coverage of the Correlates of War Projects' Militarized Interstate Dispute (MID) data through 2017.

"The idea behind the MID project is to provide data to study conflictual interactions between countries that fall short of war to improve our understanding of events that lead to war," D'Orazio said. "We hope the methods we're developing to collect this data will be useful to researchers collecting data on all types of conflict. The goal is to collect the data quickly and efficiently without sacrificing the quality of the measures produced."

The information historically has lagged several years behind because of a labor-intensive process in which researchers had to read, identify and code relevant news stories for the database, which covers 1816 to 2010.

D'Orazio aims to resolve a bottleneck in the workflow by changing the process. In a pilot project, he tested a faster method by crowdsourcing the work online. The researchers created algorithms to automatically classify documents and paid non-experts a small fee (up to 75 cents per story) to read and answer questions about news stories to identify possible militarized incidents and their features.

The NSF awarded $367,432 to UT Dallas over three years for the project. D'Orazio will work withpublic policy and political economygraduate student Dennis Okyere and faculty members from Penn State University.

D'Orazio joined UT Dallas this fall, adding to a growing team of experts in conflict studies. He is developing a new graduate class that will be offered in the spring that focuses on measuring concepts in social sciences.

"We don't observe international war much anymore, but we still want to know the processes that could lead to war. The end goal of conflict studies, if you're studying international war, is to learn so much about war that you can prevent it," D'Orazio said. "We believe in doing that quantitatively. The MID data set provides a measure of international conflict that we can use toward that goal."


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