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When the OECD released their 2015 Fragility Report I remember looking at the penta-Venn Diagram of the different states of fragility and wondering why Afghanistan was not fragile in institutions, which was supposed to capture corruption among other governance issues. This question eventually led to a Monkey Cage post on my attempt to replicate their measures of fragility.
The latest Freakonomics episode, How Many Doctors Does It Take to Start a Healthcare Revolution, Jeffrey Brenner, executive director and founder of the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers, uses Princeton, NJ as an example of over active hospital financing. The Coalition is currently working JPAL on an RCT of an care management program targeting healthcare system “super-utilizers” identified by healthcare “hotspotting”. From the transcript:
Alternative internet tabloid title: “7 Ways Afghanistan Kicks America’s Butt!”
In mid-November the international community was still seriously concerned about Ebola and its effects on West Africa. Some prominent figures even called Ebola a threat to international peace. My realist/cynical side figured the calls might simply be an attempt to raise awareness and aid, but I was intrigued by the question, has disease ever led to war?
I’m happy to introduce UCDPtools, an R package for accessing data from the Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP). UCDPtools includes UCDPindex that makes it easy to move around the websites and codebooks for the 15 UCDP datasets and the function getUCDP() that loads the datasets into R and fixes obvious errors and variable names.
In exploring the GDELT dataset around disasters, I found an interesting trend around the tragic Typhoon Haiyan. Looking at events geolocated in the Philippines before and after the typhoon, I found a steep rise in the number of optimistic comments, clearly overtaking a rise in the number of pessimistic comments.
Last month the NFPA released several reports on fire losses in 2012. The report Catastrophic Multi-death Fires in 2012 covers the seventeen incidents that had five or more deaths. These incidents make up .001% of the total fires for the year and 2.9% of the total deaths.
I recently attended the PSU GDELT Hackathon where I got a chance to contribute to the R package GDELTtools. The experience inspired me to clean up and share my own explorations of GDELT. My colleague Anna Schrimpf presented a research plan looking at the incentive structure that NGOs like Amnesty International face when choosing which issues to focus on. I found her research agenda fascinating and wondered if it could be applied to different types of conflict.
The title is hyperbolic, but it gets to a shortcoming of the UN Security Council’s Resolution 2118 on Syria’s chemical weapons passed last week. It was inspired by reported responses to the resolution.
US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power - This resolution makes clear there will be consequences for noncompliance.
In the last two weeks a happenstance agreement on Syria's chemical weapons has changed the discussion from 'what should we do' to 'what just happened'. Here's another attempt to break down the underlying questions and arguments. I do not think we will see again the kind of policy debate we saw around possible strikes, so my review of news and events here has more information than arguments.
I like work in OneNote to keep things organized, but moving text to other platforms can run into some formatting issues. Here’s my self-guide for moving a OneNote page to html for this wordpress blog.
I’ve been tasked with helping students understand the Syria crisis and US policy options. Below is the outline of basic facts, key questions and arguments, and interesting sources. The goal was to lay out many of the smaller debates that (ideally) contribute to any policy decision on Syria. Of course many points have been simplified as the infamous Afghanistan powerpoint came to mind.
While reading Damon Coppola’s Introduction to International Disaster Management, I was struck by the unequivocal denouncement of cost-benefit analyses of disaster mitigation with respect to human life. In listing three criticisms of the process of determining risk acceptability, number two reads:
Setting a dollar figure (in cost-benefit analyses) on a human life is unethical and unconscionable . . . Because of the controversial nature of placing a value on life, it is rare that a risk assessment study would actually quote a dollar figure for the amount of money that could be saved per human life loss accepted. Post-event studies have calculated the dollar figures spent per life during crisis, but to speculate on how much a company or government is willing to spend to save or risk a life would be extremely unpalatable for most.
The emphasis is not mine. I had two initial reactions. First, setting a dollar figure on human life is common practice in many settings. The EPA is a common example, and currently has their carefully defined value of statistical life set at 7.4 million (in 2006 dollars). In an oft cited article, Viscusi and Aldy review over 100 articles that measure how individuals value morbidity risk.
Published in The Washington Post, 2014
Nearly two months after Afghans cast their presidential ballots, the electoral battle continues with the possibility of spiraling into violence. Why have the candidates continued to fight?
Recommended citation: Scherer, Thomas Leo (2014, August 12). "Why the Afghanistan Election Still Isn’t Over", The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2014/08/12/why-the-afghan-election-still-isnt-over/
Published in Foreign Policy, 2015
Taken cumulatively, the research suggests that while Ebola’s impact on West Africa is unquestionably immense, war is unlikely.
Recommended citation: Scherer, Thomas Leo (2015, February 02). "Is Ebola the New Powder Keg?", Foreign Policy. http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/02/02/is-ebola-the-new-powder-keg/
Published in The Washington Post, 2015
In my attempts to replicate the assessment, I found that the OECD misclassified a large number of states, a mistake that could have real-world repercussions.
Recommended citation: Scherer, Thomas Leo (2015, May 17). "The OECD’s fragility index is surprisingly fragile and difficult to reproduce", The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2015/05/17/the-oecds-fragility-index-is-surprisingly-fragile-and-difficult-to-reproduce/
Published in USIP Insights, 2015
The effects of economic interventions on violence and stability outcomes are largely unknown.
Recommended citation: Kapstein, Ethan and Thomas Leo Scherer (2015, June). "Economics and Peacebuilding: A Crucial Connection", USIP Insights. http://www.usip.org/economics-and-peacebuilding-crucial-connection
Published in Princeton University, 2015
Governments select into UNPKOs that help them stay in power for longer
Recommended citation: Scherer, Thomas Leo. "Peace for Keeps: Peacekeeping and Civil War Outcomes." Princeton, NJ : Princeton University. (2013). https://dataspace.princeton.edu/jspui/handle/88435/dsp015138jh267
Published in World Bank Policy Research Working Paper, 2018
This paper presents a novel methodology for observing private sector activity using mobile phone metadata.
Recommended citation: Scherer, Thomas Leo (2018, January 021). "Insecurity and Industrial Organization: Evidence from Afghanistan". World Bank Policy Research Working Paper. http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/929591516198334068/pdf/WPS8301.pdf
Published in The Nonproliferation Review, 2018
The alleged benefits of NFU may be overstated, at least for crisis stability in asymmetric crises.
Recommended citation: Alexander Lanoszka & Thomas Leo Scherer (2017) Nuclear ambiguity, no-first-use, and crisis stability in asymmetric crises, The Nonproliferation Review, 24:3-4, 343-355 https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10736700.2018.1430552?journalCode=rnpr20
Analyzing crisis dynamics through event data
Expanding IR datasets through wikidata
From my dissertation, on how UN Peacekeeping Operations affect civil war outcomes. I argue that UNPKOs benefit host governments, and that this is largely due to a selection effect as host governments select into beneficial UNPKOs. I examine the importance of government consent in UNPKO deployment, the relationship between UNPKO presence and government tenure, and the mechanisms through which a government may benefit from a UNPKO.
How are economics and conflict connected broadly? How about in terms of unemployment and violence? What’s the evidence?
Undergraduate course TA, Cornell University, 2004
Teaching assistant for chemistry and mathematics during Cornell’s Prefreshman Summer Program, 2004 and 2005.
Undergraduate course TA, Princeton University, Political Science, 2011
Preceptor (TA) for Professor Jacob Shapiro.
Undergraduate course TA, Princeton University, Political Science, 2011
Preceptor (TA) for Professor Gary Bass.
Undergraduate course TA, Princeton University, Political Science, 2013
Preceptor (TA) for Professor Marc Ratkovic.