The careful study of conflict requires access to data to make substantive conclusions. Often, because of the nature of working in conflict zones or with government secrets, that data can be very difficult to acquire for academics and open-source analysts. The high barriers to entry for scholars and practitioners made serious unclassified research difficult to accomplish without substantial investment into upfront costs. The ongoing Empirical Studies of Conflict project (ESOC), a group of research institutions dedicated to improving access to data about sub-national conflict, recently launched its new website to help mitigate some of those issues. The site is an excellent source of pure data, scholarly papers and links to outside repositories.
One of the stated goals of the project is to “[h]arness the expertise of leading scholars and empower them with the detailed conflict data required to provide cutting edge analytical support and policy analyses to government agencies.” Both of the project’s directors come from a military background. Col. Felter was the former director of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, while co-director Jacob Shapiro is a Navy veteran and a professor at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. This site will be a facilitator for outside researchers who want to contribute relevant research to the defense and national security communities. It will certainly be an easy way for the Defense community to crowd-source thorny questions by providing the data for researchers to use (though in some cases the data may be sanitized for an open-source format)
Perhaps the most important outcome of this new resource is the democratization of conflict data. As mentioned earlier, usually this data is difficult to come by and requires the investment of a government agency or a university. With the inception of the ESOC website, this data will be easier to come by for scholars and those in the policy community, broadening the ability to do vital research on conflict dynamics. This will lead to more and better research and hopefully, some policy breakthroughs that will help the United States respond to sub-state conflict with more efficacy.
The website currently contains data on six countries; including Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Colombia. Praescient highly encourages you to scan the data sets, read some of the papers (written by some of the leading lights in Political Science research) and check out some of the external repositories as well. This new site is a great resource and a public good for those seeking to learn more about conflict dynamics and looking to contribute their own well-researched thoughts to the field.