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About me

Posts

Fragility and Transparency

less than 1 minute read

Published:

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.

Freakonomics, Princeton Hospitals, and Healthcare Costs

4 minute read

Published:

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:

Ebola and Conflict addendum: rainfall and HIV/AIDS

1 minute read

Published:

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?

1 minute read

Disaster Optimism: Phailin vs. Haiyan

less than 1 minute read

Published:

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.

Violence and NGO Attention with GDELT

2 minute read

Published:

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.

Syria for Students: Part 2

2 minute read

Published:

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.

Onenote to Wordpress

less than 1 minute read

Published:

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.

Syria for Students

5 minute read

Published:

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.

Human Life in a Cost-Benefit Analysis

4 minute read

Published:

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.

3 minute read

publications

Why the Afghan election still isn’t over

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/

The OECD’s fragility index is surprisingly fragile and difficult to reproduce

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/

research

talks

Peace for Keeps

Published:

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.

Economics and Peacebuilding

Published:

How are economics and conflict connected broadly? How about in terms of unemployment and violence? What’s the evidence?

teaching

Chemistry and Mathematics

Undergraduate course TA, Cornell University, 2004

Teaching assistant for chemistry and mathematics during Cornell’s Prefreshman Summer Program, 2004 and 2005.

Violent Politics

Undergraduate course TA, Princeton University, Political Science, 2011

Preceptor (TA) for Professor Jacob Shapiro.

Causes of War

Undergraduate course TA, Princeton University, Political Science, 2011

Preceptor (TA) for Professor Gary Bass.