Research Agenda

The Pearson Institute is forming an ambitious research agenda that aims to inform the way policymakers, the military, nongovernmental organizations, and others understand and respond to violent conflict around the world. Together, they are asking questions that matter and applying the best available methodologies to generate data-driven insights. This agenda examines such issues as the complex dynamics that contribute to weak states, institutions, and social order.

A Temporary Home.

MAFRAQ, JORDAN - OCTOBER 23, 2015: Za’atari Syrian Refugee Camp, about six miles Mafraq, Jordan, opened in July 2012. The campis a temporary home to 80,000 Syrian refugees.



Penetrating Questions

In the years following the 9/11 attacks, scholars have begun to ask penetrating questions about the changing nature of violent conflict and the insurgent groups who incite it. Insights from this research can help stakeholders understand the scope and depth of these conflicts, and also point to innovative new resolution strategies. Armed with data-driven findings about what works and what does not, officials can begin to make fact-based decisions about public policies and funding.

New Empirical Approaches

Research at The Pearson Institute draws on proven methodologies employed in a variety of other policy domains—health, education, economics, and environmental policy to name a few. These data-driven approaches begin with theoretically important questions and strong hypotheses guided by rigorous theory. This then leads to randomized control trials, statistical analyses, and sophisticated modeling as well as the careful assembly of new data sets based on field data or experiments. Disciplined research design enables scholars to move beyond correlation-based conclusions to discover causal relationships that can provide a reliable foundation for effective public policy.

Roger Myserson

Roger Myerson, recipient of the 2007 Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economics Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel

and the Glen A. Lloyd Distinguished Service Professor in Economics and the College

“Methodology is absolutely essential to bringing academic discourse about public policy to a more constructive level. But we also want those policy questions considered by people who do not have a stake in any particular answer. I think it is an important part of building better public policy for our country and for the world.”

Rigorous Inquiry

Recent developments within the social sciences have opened new empirical pathways for exploring what causes violent conflicts and how policy decisions impact them. Researchers are increasingly recognizing that today’s most complex conflicts have multiple, interrelated causes that require cross-disciplinary study by political scientists, psychologists, and others, along with strategies that turn raw data into insight. The Pearson Institute is exploring the complex causes and consequences of global conflict through exacting, quantitative research, and with the spirit of free, rigorous, and open inquiry long championed by the University of Chicago and Harris Public Policy.

Relevance to
Public Policy

In recent years a growing number of governments and organizations—including the United Kingdom, the United Nations, and the United States—have called for evidence-based approaches. The Pearson Institute and The Pearson Global Forum were conceived and structured specifically to bridge this critical gap between research and policymaking. 

A group of Anti-Balaka (Christian self-defense militia) fighters hide in the bush near Bangui.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC - NEED DATE: The day after this image was taken the Christian vigilante group Anti-Balaka (or Anti-Machete) militia launched a major attack on the outskirts of Bangui, the capital, against the mainly Muslim Seleka (meaning “Union” in the local Sango language) militia. The attack led to an estimated 600 dead and 160,000 people being displaced.


PANOS PICTURES / William Daniels