Our Research


Facebook Team

Professor Graham
Team Lead: Taylor Dufour

What is a social science research lab doing that could possibly relate to a corporation as prominent as Facebook? Facebook sought out a partnership with SPEC because they knew that a social science lab could provide them with a new, diverse approach to the issues they wanted to investigate.


Arctic Projects

Professor Markowitz
Team Lead: Madison Seeley

Why do some powerful states project military force to compete over resources while others do not? Analyzing how states react to exogenous environmental shock in the Arctic, this project argues that domestic institutions and economic interests influence why some states project power to resolve disputes, while others act within the confines of international law.


IPE Data Resource

Professor Graham
Team Lead: Sarah Lu

Quantitative scholars in international relations often draw repeatedly on the same sources of country-year data across a diverse range of projects. The IPE Data Resource seeks to provide a public good to the field by standardizing and merging together variables from 89 IPE data sources into a single dataset, increasing efficiency and reducing the risk of data management errors.


Video Team

Professor Graham
Team Lead:Sarah Orsborn

Video Team synthesizes the critical arguments of published research by faculty affiliated with SPEC lab into short academic explainer videos. These videos make research findings more readily accessible for students, policymakers, and other academics


Trade Policy

Nicolás Albertoni
Team Lead: Emily Heurig

The prevalence of trade protectionism has increased substantially since the 2008 financial crisis, which contrasts sharply with global trends in the preceding 50 years. New research is needed to understand the causes and consequences of the shift. The SPEC Lab’s Trade Policy team studies these new patterns in global trade policy. More specifically, the team has already performed a quantitative analysis of the nature of the country-to-country spread of protectionism, and now is conducting qualitative research through country-case analysis.


Outreach Team

Nicolás Albertoni
Team Lead: Nicolás Albertoni

The Outreach team focuses on the promotion of the SPEC Lab and its work internally within USC, as well as externally within the greater scope of academia.


Truth, Justice, Reparation

Kelebogile Zvobgo
Team Lead:Nastaran Far

Since 1970, scores of states have established truth commissions to account for abuses perpetrated in inter and intra state conflict, and under authoritarian government. Despite their prevalence and potential consequence, there are crucial, fundamental questions about truth commissions that have yet to be asked and answered in the interrelated literatures of human rights, transitional justice, democracy and democratization, and conflict resolution and peacebuilding, notably:

  1. Why do some countries with a history of political violence adopt truth commissions while others do not?
  2. To what degree do the powers of truth commission vary across countries, and why?
  3. To what extent are truth commissions effective? In particular, to what extent are their recommendations implemented?

Comparative Wealth

Team Lead: Katina Yong

This project aims to compile lists of the wealthiest individuals, year by year, over at least a 20-year period, in three countries: China, US and Russia. It will collect information on each individual member of the list—how they acquired their fortunes, the nature of their ties to government, and their fates when they fall off the list (were they arrested? Did they die? Did they simply lose part of their wealth owing to a business downturn?). As the project develops, we believe it will provide insight to the impact of politics on personal net worth.



Professor Graham
Team Lead: Alix Ziff

The Power-sharing Team works with Professor Graham and PhD Student Alix Ziff, to update the Inclusion, Dispersion, and Constraint power-sharing data set. Research assistants code diverse variables to demonstrate and explain variation in power-sharing institutions that exist in countries around the world. In this first stage of the project, the undergraduate research team has begun to extend the data while providing invaluable feedback for refining the codebook.


Resource Curse

Megan Becker, Jonathan Markowitz
Team Lead: Isabelle Nazha

The Resource Curse team has worked with Professor Markowitz and Professor Becker on a qualitative replication study of Michael Ross’ seminal paper on the connection between natural resources and civil war. His paper uses information from thirteen cases to uncover the mechanisms that connect natural resource wealth to the onset, severity, and duration of civil wars.


Global Justice

Team Lead: Claire He

This semester, the Global Justice Project will be focusing on research in the global anti-human trafficking movement. The key questions that we are asking this semester concern the idea of corporate social responsibility---what are corporations doing to combat human trafficking, and why are corporations trying to combat human trafficking? We will also be developing a podcast, titled Bending Towards Justice, in which Dr. Lynn Ta will be interviewing judges, activists, and law professors on the work they do to promote justice.