New chapter on conflict prediction

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.