Take Action

Home | Faculty & Research Overview | Research

Research Details

Quantifying the future lethality of terror organizations, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science


As terror groups proliferate and grow in sophistication, a major international concern is the development of scientific methods that explain and predict insurgent violence. Approaches to estimating a group’s future lethality often require data on the group’s capabilities and resources, but by the nature of the phenomenon, these data are intentionally concealed by the organizations themselves via encryption, the dark web, back-channel financing, and misinformation. Here, we present a statistical model for estimating a terror group’s future lethality using latent-variable modeling techniques to infer a group’s intrinsic capabilities and resources for inflicting harm. The analysis introduces 2 explanatory variables that are strong predictors of lethality and raise the overall explained variance when added to existing models. The explanatory variables generate a unique early-warning signal of an individual group’s future lethality based on just a few of its first attacks. Relying on the first 10 to 20 attacks or the first 10 to 20% of a group’s lifetime behavior, our model explains about 60% of the variance in a group’s future lethality as would be explained by a group’s complete lifetime data. The model’s robustness is evaluated with out-of-sample testing and simulations. The findings’ theoretical and pragmatic implications for the science of human conflict are discussed.




Yang Yang, Adam Robert Pah, Brian Uzzi

Date Published



Yang, Yang, Adam Robert Pah, and Brian Uzzi. 2019. Quantifying the future lethality of terror organizations. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.


Explore leading research and ideas

Find articles, podcast episodes, and videos that spark ideas in lifelong learners, and inspire those looking to advance in their careers.
learn more


Review Courses & Schedules

Access information about specific courses and their schedules by viewing the interactive course scheduler tool.


Discover the path to your goals

Whether you choose our Full-Time, Part-Time or Executive MBA program, you’ll enjoy the same unparalleled education, exceptional faculty and distinctive culture.
learn more