Welcome to Predictive Heuristics

Welcome to Predictive Heuristics, the Ward Lab‘s blog. The Ward Lab consists of a group of researchers at Duke University, led by Michael Ward. Its current instantiation at Duke University since 2009 is considerably enhanced by a terrific group of colleagues and students (and lab alumni). All of our work aims in some sense at prediction, either for theory building or decision making. The lab has expanded in size and scope over time, and we now have a diverse set of members working on a broad array of projects:

  1. Modeling of protests, insurgencies, rebellions, ethnic and religious violence, as well as international and domestic crises in 167 countries and predicting same for six months–yes, in the future (DOD funded);
  2. The prediction of IEDs (explosions, locations, discoveries) in Afghanistan and other countries (ONR funded);
  3. The study of how network dynamics affect the evolution of conflict and cooperation (ONR);
  4. How ensembles can be used to combine predictions (ONR);
  5. The use of textual analysis protocols to encode large scale events, such as militarized interstate disputes (NSF);
  6. The use of machine learning techniques to characterize the regime characteristics of contemporary polities (NSF);
  7. Use of advanced techniques for predicting missing data in “big data”;
  8. Prediction of Coups and other rapid regime changes;
  9. Examination of the latent networks among contemporary political parties, especially how they respond to global crises;
  10. Creation of techniques for simultaneously studying the onset, duration, and cessation of events;
  11. and many others found at mdwardlab.com.

These efforts are united by two common threads: the use of advanced (social science) methods, and a focus on predictions to aid decision-making and policy. Social science data and modern computational techniques have both exploded to the point that it is now possible to use them in principled ways to gain leverage on predictive tasks. Indeed, prediction is the gold standard for understanding, not something that has to stand in contradistinction to it. Predictive heuristics is a way of combining these new data and new techniques with the goal of helping decision making and improving what many social scientists call “theory”– a term that gives certain lab directors hives.

Many lab members have their own blogs, and others (Ward) have been thoughtfully placed in the control group: the group without blogs.  Apparently, Ward has been reassigned to the treatment group.  This will not be a blog about squirrels gnawing though his cable lines, but will focus on the substance and methods employed by lab members to do social science research.  The goal of this blog is to provide an outlet for updates on lab-wide projects, such as W-ICEWS, as well as projects by individual lab members. There is no formal structure, although we aim for posts with a bi-weekly, not annual nor hourly, frequency

For those specifically interested in our global forecasts of conflict, check out our website.

This is an experiment for us, and we’ll be supplying it for the foreseeable future.  There is apparently no price equilibration in the blogsphere but we hope that you will find it worth the price.

Finally, we invite anyone interested in contributing a guest post on a topic related to predictive heuristics to contact us at info@mdwardlab.com.

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