Do you find research on conflict prediction hard to understand, keep up with, and geeky? Well, the basic principles are very straightforward. In this new handbook chapter, I offer an easy introduction, plus some critical reflection.
Corinne Bara, 17 August 2020
I first discuss the evolution of a conflict prediction paradigm, which is characterized by a commitment to the scientific method, and a consensus on that and how the performance of predictions is to be evaluated. After explaining the standard procedure employed to forecast the onset of war, I discuss the considerable variation between projects on the outcome that is predicted; the spatial and temporal units for which a prediction is made; the type of predictors that are used; and the computational method that links these predictors with the outcome. This variation is reflective of a young field in which rapid methodological development is in full progress.
After these more introduction-like parts, I look at debates on the possibility and desirability of conflict prediction, and the open question of how academic civil war prediction can and should influence policy-making. Generally, debates on the social desirability of prediction and the ethical concerns and risks of making (both right and wrong) predictions are conspicuously absent in the discipline. I argue that this may be a consequence of the minor direct policy impact the field has had so far, compared to fields where predictions are regularly acted upon.