Carnegie Mellon University
July 15, 2016

CHRS Affiliates Participate in Statistics and Human Rights Panel

International Biometrics Conference in Victoria, Canada

On July 15, CHRS program manager Robin Mejia spoke at the International Biometrics Conference as part of a panel she organized on statistics and human rights. The panelists’ talks covered a range of human rights and statistical challenges.


  • Alicia Carriquiry, distinguished professor of statistics at Iowa State, explained how scientifically unfounded forensic science techniques send innocent people to prison and highlighted the challenges in developing statistically defensible statements about the probative value of many kinds of evidence. Carriquiry is the PI of the NIST Forensic Science Center of Excellence, in partnership with faculty in statistics at Carnegie Mellon.
  • Nicholas P. Jewell, professor of statistics and biostatistics at UC Berkeley described the development of interest in the lives of civilian populations during war as well as early efforts to document civilian casualties and the development of modern methods.
  • Megan Price, executive director of the Human Rights Data Analysis Group and a research fellow at the Center for Human Rights Science, discussed two projects that demonstrated the need for statistical thinking in modern day human rights analyses. Price described developing a protocol to sample documents from a musty storehouse full of abandoned stacks of papers and old filing cabinets, after the warehouse was discovered to hold the archives of Guatemala’s national police from the country’s civil war years, noting how that work has been used in court cases, and a project to estimate the death toll in Syria for the United Nations.
  • Robin Mejia, manager of CHRS’s Statistics and Human Rights Program, discussed ongoing work with the Salvadoran NGO Asociación Pro-Búsqueda de Niñas y Niños Desaparecidos to characterize the disappearances of children that occurred during El Salvador’s civil war. Over 900 children were disappeared during the conflict, and, to date, more than 300 of these children, now young adults, have been found: in orphanages, raised in military families or sent abroad in international adoptions.