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Thu, Nov 12

Measuring devastation with statistics

How do you count the dead during a bloody and destructive conflict? A Duke statistician may have some answers.

Current efforts to determine the death toll in Syria’s ongoing civil war are hampered by conflicting body counts and ambiguous levels of uncertainty. Beka Steorts, assistant professor of statistical science, has been working to develop statistical methods that can more accurately count the dead and paint a better picture of the devastation in Syria as a result. Her research lab on campus, which involves Duke graduate and undergraduate students, is investigating these death counts in collaboration with the Human Rights Data Analysis Group and other researchers across the country by analyzing hundreds of thousands of death records in multiple databases.

“The goal is to be able to come up with the death count in Syria and to understand the notion of uncertainty around the death count,” she said.

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