Syria Casualties Project-Center for Human Rights Science - Carnegie Mellon University

Syria Casualties Project

Carnegie Mellon University's Center for Human Rights Science (CHRS) is partnering with the Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG) to improve mass casualty estimation and will start with the ongoing uprising in Syria.  This project will focus on two major challenges of combining incomplete casualty records from multiple governmental and non-governmental organizations and using them to estimate total deaths:

1) Record linkage and de-duplication of deaths within and between lists--i.e., when the same death is recorded more than one time within a list, or is recorded in multiple lists that are to be joined.  These redundancies can be caused by slight variations in spelling of names, dates, places, etc.; incomplete data that makes it difficult to determine whether two cases are the same or not; or data entry errors.

2) Developing better methods to estimate the number of deaths that go unreported by all of the organizations compiling lists.

This partnership is explicitly structured to be mutually beneficial.  Carnegie Mellon researchers will gain access to real-world data that they can use to improve statistical methods for merging complex datasets, while the human rights community will gain freely available, ready-to-use tools that can be applied in Syria and other conflicts around the world.

Patrick Ball

Executive Director, Human Rights Data Analysis Group


Patrick Ball has spent more than twenty years conducting quantitative analysis for truth commissions, non-governmental organizations, international criminal tribunals, and United Nations missions in El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Haiti, South Africa, Chad, Sri Lanka, East Timor, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Kosovo, Liberia, Perú, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Syria.

Patrick began working in the human rights field in El Salvador in 1991. From 1993 to 2003, he worked in several capacities in the Science and Human Rights Program at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, where he began recruiting colleagues to build HRDAG. From 2003 to 2013 he continued to develop HRDAG from within Benetech, a nonprofit technology company in Silicon Valley. A great deal of his, and HRDAG’s, work has been to support truth and reconciliation commissions through database development and data analysis.

Patrick provided testimony in two cases at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the first in the trial of Slobodan Milošević, the former President of Serbia. He provided technical advice to the Special Court in Sierra Leone and the International Criminal Court, and submitted expert reports to human rights trials in Guatemala.

In April 2005, the Electronic Frontier Foundation awarded Patrick with their Pioneer Award. In June 2004, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) gave him the Eugene Lawler Award for Humanitarian Contributions within Computer Science and Informatics, and in 2002, he received a Special Achievement Award from the Social Statistics Section of the American Statistical Association. He is a Fellow at the Human Rights Center at Berkeley Law of the University of California-Berkeley; and a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Democracy and Conflict Resolution (IDCR) at the University of Essex. He has been profiled by The New York Times Magazine, Wired, Foreign Policy,, and the Christian Science Monitor, and he has been featured in a PBS film.

Patrick received his bachelor of arts degree from Columbia University, and his doctorate from the University of Michigan.

Maria Cuellar


Maria is a PhD student in Statistics and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University. She received her Bachelor's degree in Physics from Reed College in 2009. In 2011, she started the Bus ConCiencia Project, a mobile laboratory that takes science experiments to remote and impoverished villages in Chile. She was also a field coordinator for the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) in Santiago, Chile.

William F. Eddy

John C. Warner Professor (Emeritus), Department of Statistics

Office: 132F Baker Hall

Phone: bi412-268-2725



Bill is the John C. Warner Professor of Statistics (Emeritus) at Carnegie Mellon University, and he also holds appointments in the departments of Biological Sciences and Machine Learning, the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition, and the Center forCognitive Brain Imaging.  Bill earned an A.B. degree in Statistics from Princeton University, and M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D. degrees in Statistics from Yale University.  Bill is an elected fellow of the  American Statistical Association, the Institute of  Mathematical Statistics, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and is an elected member of the International Statistical Institute.  He has been designated a lifetime National Associate by the National Academy of Sciences. When he completed his second three-year term as chairman of the Committee on National Statistics in 2010, he became the only person to have chaired both statistics committees at the National Academies, having previously chaired the Committee on Applied and Theoretical Statistics. Bill has published over 100 research papers and authored or edited 20 books and monographs. While his early research was theoretical probability and statistics, he has focused in the last two decades on applied problems, most recently in brain imaging.

Stephen Fienberg

Maurice Faulk University Professor, Department of Statistics

Stephen E. Fienberg is Maurice Falk University Professor of Statistics and Social Science at Carnegie Mellon University, and co-director of the Living Analytics Research Centre (jointly operated by Carnegie Mellon and Singapore Management University), with appointments in the Department of Statistics, the Machine Learning Department, the Heinz College, and Cylab.  He joined the faculty of Carnegie Mellon in 1980 and served as Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences 1987-1991.  He received his Ph.D. in Statistics from Harvard University in 1968, and has taught at the University of Chicago, the University of Minnesota, and York University, where he served as Vice President Academic.

Fienberg is Editor-in-Chief of the Annals of Applied Statistics, co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of the online Journal of Privacy and Confidentiality, and founding Editor of the Annual Review of Statistics and its Applications.   He is a member of the U. S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS), and a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Academy of Political and Social Science.  He currently co-chairs the NAS-NRC Report Review Committee and is a member of the NAS Council.

Fienberg’s research includes the development of statistical methods, especially tools for the analysis of categorical data and multiple systems estimation. His current work also includes new methods for record linkage and privacy protection of statistical databases.   He is the author or editor of over 20 books and 400 papers and related publications.  His 1975 book on categorical data analysis with Bishop and Holland, Discrete Multivariate Analysis: Theory and Practice, and his 1980 book The Analysis of Cross-Classified Categorical Data, originally published by MIT Press, are both Citation Classics and were recently reprinted by Springer.

Emily Furnish

Undergraduate Student, International Relations and Politics


Emily Furnish is a senior undergraduate (Class of 2014) pursuing a Bachelor of Science in International Relations and Politics at Carnegie Mellon University. She is a Science and Humanities Scholar, and plans to graduate with a Physics Minor and French Concentration. Her senior thesis will examine the histories of Egypt and Saudi Arabia to find historical precedents to the Arab Spring, and then focus on a comparison of each country's resolution to the political upheaval. Aside from a background in the Middle East, she has also studied the histories of France and Haiti intensively.

Zachary Kurtz

Ph.D Student, Department of Statistics

Office: 8113 Wean Hall

Phone: 302-540-1382


Zach is a graduate student in the Department of Statistics at Carnegie Mellon University.  He works on statistical techniques for estimating the sizes of populations based on multiple incomplete surveys.  Applications of his research include estimating the number of people killed in violent conflicts as well as estimating the coverage of the U.S. Decennial Census.  His research is funded in part by the NSF.  Prior to attending CMU, Zach earned an M.S. in Mathematics from the University of Delaware and worked for two years at the Federal Reserve Board in Washington, D.C., as a research assistant.

Megan Price

Director of Research, Human Rights Data Analysis Group


As the director of research at the Human Rights Data Analysis Group, Megan Price designs strategies and methods for statistical analysis of human rights data for projects in a variety of locations including Guatemala, Colombia, and Syria. Her work in Guatemala includes serving as the lead statistician, since 2009, on a project in which she analyzes documents from the National Police Archive; she has also contributed analyses submitted as evidence in two court cases in Guatemala. Her work in Syria includes serving as the lead statistician and author on a recent report, commissioned by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR), on documented deaths in that country.

Megan earned her doctorate in biostatistics and a Certificate in Human Rights from the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. She also holds a master of science degree and bachelor of science degree in Statistics from Case Western Reserve University.

Mauricio Sadinle

Ph.D Student, Department of Statistics

Mauricio Sadinle received a bachelors degree in Statistics from National University of Colombia in Bogota. He worked during three years at the Conflict Analysis Resource Center - CERAC, a research center devoted to the study of armed conflicts and violence in general.  Mauricio is currently a PhD student in the Department of Statistics at Carnegie Mellon University under the supervision of Stephen E. Fienberg. Some of his research interests are related to the integration of multiple samples for population size estimation, specially in the context of human rights violations where the integration task is challenging due to the samples being subject to missing information and measurement error.

Stella Salvatierra

Visiting Scholar, Department of Statistics

Phone: +34-615-058806


Stella is Associate Professor of Statistics at the School of Economics and Business Administration, University of Navarra, Spain. She received both a M.Sc. and Ph.D. in Statistics from Carnegie Mellon University. Her principal research interest is related to multivariate statistical methods for classification and discrimination, especially for large data bases.

Rebecca Steorts

Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of Statistics


Beka is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Statistics at Carnegie Mellon University. Her research and teaching focus on methods and application in Bayesian statistics. Her research also involves developing models and algorithms for applications in social science, including ones that involve working with high dimensional data. Such areas include complex surveys, small area estimation, multiple record linkage, and Markov chain Monte Carlo algorithms. Much of her research focuses around applications to the Census Bureau including working on the Small Area and Poverty Estimates Program (part of the American Community Survey) as well as understanding how to match multiple lists using  the National Long Term Care Survey and more generally Census Bureau data. Beka is also part of a collaborative project at CMU working to improve the quality of civilian casualty in times of conflict, where multiple record linkage and deduplication methods are explored. Her research is currently funded  by two grants from the NSF. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Florida in Statistics in 2012.

Samuel Ventura

Ph.D Candidate, Department of Statistics


Samuel Ventura is a 4th year PhD student in the Department of Statistics at Carnegie Mellon University. Sam’s previous research involves classifier/prediction aggregation and clustering methods for deduplication and record linkage, particularly for deduplicating records of inventors in the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s patent database. Sam is advised by Rebecca Nugent from the Department of Statistics. Sam graduated from Carnegie Mellon in May 2010 with a B.S. in Computational Finance and Statistics, and he received his M.S. in Statistics from Carnegie Mellon in May 2011.