Research Opportunities

Gov 92r

Gov 92r allows you to conduct research in the Government department for academic credit. It is graded SAT/UNSAT. If you are interested in any of these projects, please contact the supervisors directly. You will need to submit the Gov 92r form (available in CGIS K151 and here) to the Government Undergraduate Office in CGIS K151 before you can register for the course on my.harvard.

Fall 2019

Danielle Allen
Historical Settings for Educational Video Game

We are currently developing a video game about the Declaration of Independence for middle and high school students called "Portrait of a Tyrant." The game will be piloted in the 2019-20 academic year in school districts in Massachusetts. It is set in the years leading up to July 4, 1776, and each level explores a different location, to emphasize the notion that the Declaration was the product of thirteen diverse colonies. The research assistant(s) will collect information on real events, locations, and individuals relevant to help polish and ensure complete accuracy for the historical setting in the game. They will also help bring to completion the archival resource set that supports the development of a historically plausible context for the main character, Briana, a mixed-race teenager navigating situations in which she is unfamiliar and often unwelcome.
Prerequisites (courses and/or methodological skills):  At least one course in American history and/or politics preferred, as well as experience working with primary sources and conducting historical research.
Contact: If you're interested, send a CV, 2 references, and a short paragraph on why this project interests you to: Michael Blauw, Pedagogy Manager, Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics,


Arvid Bell and Kelly O’Neill
Mapping Red Horizon: Exploring Space, Force, and Great Power Relations in Eurasia

This project explores the idea that space and power are deeply intertwined.

As the global balance of power between the US, China, Russia, and the EU shifts, a comprehensive understanding of the Eurasian space is becoming increasingly important to scholars and policy-makers alike. The growth of the geospatial information industry has allowed us to map not only political borders and disputed territories, but also the progression of conflict in real-time. This new era of big data has dramatic implications for how we view, interpret, and manage conflict in Eurasia and worldwide.

In this project, you will examine conflicts in the Eurasian space from a negotiation analysis perspective, train in geospatial thinking to explore conflict with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) tools, and embark on a mapping project to create your own interpretation of conflict in the Eurasian sphere. Approaching global conflict from both a political and a geographical perspective will give you a more nuanced understanding of the forces that shape diplomacy, force, and power projection in the early 21st century.

This course is a collaborative geopolitics & cartography studio. You will, in collaboration with other students, focus on one or more of the following actors: China, Russia, US, and EU. From your assigned actor’s perspective, you will think systematically about the different kinds of space one has to understand in order to master Eurasian conflict negotiation. Issues to be explored include natural resources, military installations and capabilities, information infrastructure, and transportation networks that impact how people and things move across the globe.

Maps from this project will be used in the 2019 iteration of Red Horizon: Force and Diplomacy in Eurasia, an immersive crisis management negotiation exercise and wargame to be held on the Harvard University campus from December 13th to 15th. Exercise participants will rely on the maps created by you when they make military and political decisions in the simulation scenario. You will also be given the opportunity to participate in Red Horizon as a “wargame specialist” and to advise participants (many of them are senior U.S. government officials) on the most effective use of maps and other decision-making support tools. You will hence be responsible for explaining the power of your maps and other tools to the exercise participants. You will contribute to the realism of the Red Horizon exercise by maintaining the immersive environment as a communications officer, strategic planner, or military analyst.

Students should be available for meetings with the instructors throughout the fall semester, as well as participate in three special sessions: (1) Wednesday, October 30, 6-8pm; (2) Saturday, November 23, all day; (3) Saturday, December 14, all day. If you are not available on one or several of these dates, please indicate so in your application.

Pre-requisites (courses and/or methodological skills): No prior experience with mapping or background in Eurasian studies is necessary. By taking this course, students can expect to gain competence in both regional knowledge in Eurasia, as well as, in GIS skills.

Contact: If you’re interested, send a CV and a short paragraph on why this project interests you to:

Kosuke Imai
Quantitative Social Science

We will build exercises that can be used in conjunction with Quantitative Social Science: An Introduction (Princeton University Press, 2017).  Together with the instructor, students will find articles of interest published in social science journals, replicate the original analyses, and develop questions and solutions.  Through this process, students will learn how social scientists conduct data analyses to answer substantive questions.  
Prerequisities (courses and/or methodological skills): Introductory probability and statistics courses (e.g., Gov 50).  Proficiency in R programming.
Contact: If you're interested, send a CV and a short paragraph on why this project interests you to: Prof. Imai 

David Kane
Tools for Data Science Education

I teach two courses: Gov 1005: Data and Gov 1006: Models. Together, they will enroll hundreds of students in 2019-2020. The purpose of this project is to create tools and resources --- using R, Git, GitHub, and DataCamp --- which make these courses more effective.
Prerequisities (courses and/or methodological skills): Gov 1005 or the equivalent.
Contact: If you're interested, send a CV and a short paragraph on why this project interests you to:


Joshua Kertzer
Group Decision-Making in the US National Security Council

How do governments make decisions on national security policy? This project seeks to answer this question through a newly collected set of meeting records and briefing materials produced by the US National Security Council during the Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford administrations. Researchers will assist the project by turning images of archival documents into text-searchable files through specialized software. In so doing, researchers will learn about the history of US foreign policy decision-making, the structure of the US National Security Council, as well as cutting-edge tools used in text analysis and archival research.
Prerequisities (courses and/or methodological skills): None.
Contact: If you're interested, send a CV and a short paragraph on why this project interests you to: and


Horacio Larreguy
The Effect of Education on Political Engagement Across Regime Type: Evidence from Sub-Saharan Africa

The student will contribute to this book project exploring the relationship between education and political engagement in Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe by researching the politics of each country, with a particular focus on how voter mobilization work and how that might differ with their level of education. The student will reflect this work in two essays between 20 and 30 pages.
Prerequisities (courses and/or methodological skills): None.
Contact: If you're interested, send a CV and a short paragraph on why this project interests you to:

Horacio Larreguy
Media coverage of corruption revelations in Mexico

Between 2016 and 2019 we partnered with a local NGO to randomly disseminate information about mayoral incumbent corruption to media outlets in Mexico. Our goal is to understand whether media outlets published the information, whether there are spillovers to other markets and how these spillovers vary with the local media market structure. We are looking for several research assistants to help us with the data collection from the websites of the universe of media outlets in Mexico.
Prerequisities (courses and/or methodological skills): We are interested in two types of research assistants: 1) one that wants to do automated searches; and 2) one that has more a qualitative focus and wants to do things manually. If the former, knowledge of Python (and ideally scrapping) or willingness to learn it is necessary. Knowledge of Spanish is always ideal, but it is required for the latter for obvious reasons.
Contact: If you're interested, send a CV and a short paragraph on why this project interests you to:

Payam Mohseni
Iranian Regional Security Policy and Sectarian De-Escalation in the Middle East

This project focuses on sectarian politics in the Middle East and Iran’s regional foreign policy. In specific, attention will be paid to the “Axis of Resistance” comprising of Iran, Iraq and Syria as well as various non-state actors such as Hezbollah, Iraq’s Hashd al-Shaabi and other militia actors.  We will be looking at larger geo-political struggles, social transformations, and political thought affecting Axis players. Researchers may also be required to undertake analysis of Saudi and GCC state foreign policies, as well as Sunni Salafi movements in the Middle East. Responsibilities will include news and analysis monitoring, collecting and synthesizing secondary scholarship, and attending and summarizing talks/events pertaining to the research project.
Prerequisities (courses and/or methodological skills): Reading proficiency in Arabic or Persian preferred but not required.
Contact: If you're interested, send a CV and a short paragraph on why this project interests you to:

Pia Raffler
Does Debate Participation Matter?

We are interested in exploring whether debate participation hurts or promotes electoral success. A growing number of countries hold Presidential debates, including in the developing world. Whether candidates participate is a strategic decision, of which we do not yet understand the ramifications. People in the debate world wonder about this as well.
Our goal is to construct a dataset with presidential elections, whether a debate took place, and if so, who participated in it. In addition, we want to collect time series polling data of each case where a debate took place, ideally before and after the debate. This would allow us to estimate the effect of debate participation on voter sentiment through a difference-in-difference analysis. Where polling data is not available, we may resort to Twitter data, but we will cross that bridge once we get to it.
We have already started collecting this data for Africa, but we need someone to help us with the Latin American countries. In the process, the student will learn about a host of data sources on which she or he will have to tap.
Prerequisities (courses and/or methodological skills): Knowledge of Spanish is required.
Contact: If you're interested, send a CV and a short paragraph on why this project interests you to: Pia Raffler and Horacio Larreguy  

Thomas F. Remington
Monopoly Rents and Inequality in the PRC

As part of a larger research project comparing wage and income inequality in the United States, Russia, and China, I wish to analyze the effect of market concentration on the distribution of profits realized from market domination. A growing literature focused on the United States has found that market power enables corporations to distribute above-competitive profits to top managers, owners, and political allies. I would like an RA to search for articles dealing with these issues in the context of contemporary China.  Ability to do research in Chinese-language sources as well as English-language sources is a plus. Description of RA duties: RA will search for articles relevant to the topic.  For each relevant article, the RA will provide a summary, indicating the data sources used by the author, and a link to the original publication. I will meet with the RA once a week to review the data collection process and findings.  We will discuss similarities and differences between China and the United States with respect to the findings. 
Prerequisities (courses and/or methodological skills): None.
Contact: If you're interested, send a CV and a short paragraph on why this project interests you to:

Daniel M. Smith
Candidates and Elections in Comparative Perspective

This project involves the collection of candidate-level and legislator-level biographical and electoral data from several democracies. The RA will be involved in collecting and cleaning the data and, in the process, will learn about the electoral systems, candidate selection methods within parties, and patterns of representation in each of the countries included in the study.
Prerequisities (courses and/or methodological skills): None. Japanese, Norwegian, Italian, French, Spanish, or Swedish language skills would be especially helpful and welcome, but not required. The student should be familiar with Excel, and will be encouraged to learn how to use either Stata or R over the course of the semester. Other data management skills are helpful, but not necessary.
Contact: If you're interested, send a CV and a short paragraph on why this project interests you to: Professor Daniel M. Smith:


George Soroka
Assessing Status-Seeking Behavior: Are China and Russia Revisionist Powers?

This is a project I am collaborating on with a scholar from Wheaton College. We are interested in the extent to which contemporary China and Russia may be considered revisionist powers, meaning whether or not they seek to challenge the international system as it now exists in their quest for great-power status. The two case studies we will be focusing on are the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) on the Chinese side and the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) on the Russian side. The position will consist of data gathering and assistance with content analysis of documents and speeches.  
Prerequisities (courses and/or methodological skills): Knowledge of Russian or Chinese. Familiarity with computer-based content analysis techniques and web-scrapping preferable but not required.
Contact: If you're interested, send a CV and a short paragraph on why this project interests you to: