Karsten Donnay

Prof. Karsten Donnay

Computational Social Science

I am Assistant Professor of Computational Social Science in the Department of Politics and Public Administration. Previously I was a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of International Relations & Political Science at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland, and the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) at the University of Maryland, USA. In 2014, I completed my PhD in the team of Prof. Dirk Helbing (ETH Zürich). My external PhD advisers were Prof. Ravi Bhavnani (Graduate Institute, Geneva) and Prof. Scott E. Page (University of Michigan).

In my research, I combine a substantive interest in political science—studying social processes such as urban violence and crime, conflict and terrorism, or social influence through traditional and new media—with the development and refinement of quantitative methodologies for social science research. I have a background in both natural sciences and social sciences and in my research aim to help bridge the gap between substantially relevant social science research and novel quantitative approaches adopted from the natural, engineering and computer sciences. For further details on my background, research and ongoing projects, please also visit my personal website.

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New Article in Journal of Conflict Resolution

The article "Integrating Conflict Event Data" co-authored by Karsten Donnay, Eric Dunford, Erin McGrath, David Backer and David Cunningham introduces a new automated, transparent and reproducible methodology for the integration of event data sets. The article outlines ways in which the quantitative study of conflict profits from integration, lays the conceptual foundations for the approach, develops the methodology and illustrates it for selected cases.


Research Interests

Micro-foundations of social (interaction) dynamics:

urban violence and crime
asymmetric intra-state conflict and terrorism
grievances and political instability
social influence through traditional and online media

Advanced quantitative methodology:

systematic, robust and reproducible integration of spatiotemporal datasets
statistical analysis of micro-level empirical data
mapping social processes using geographic information systems (GIS)
causal inference in spatiotemporal data
Big Data approaches for social science research
(agent-based) computational modeling

Curriculum Vitae


since 11/2016   Assistant Professor of Computational Social Science, University of Konstanz
2015 - 2016 Postdoctoral Researcher at START, University of Maryland
2014 - 2016 Postdoctoral Researcher, Graduate Institute Geneva
2014 - 2015 Postdoctoral Researcher, ETH Zürich
2010 - 2014 PhD Computational Social Science, Political Science, ETH Zürich


2010 - 2014       Dr. Sc., Department of Humanities, Social and Political Science, ETH Zürich
2008 - 2009 Dipl.-Phys., Department of Physics, TU München
2007 - 2008 Graduate Studies, Department of Physics, McGill University
2004 - 2007 Undergraduate Studies, Department of Physics & Mathematics, TU München


Peer-reviewed Articles

Karsten Donnay, Eric T. Dunford, Erin C. McGrath, David Backer and David C. Cunningham. (2018). Integrating Conflict Event Data. Journal of Conflict Resolution (Online First), doi: 10.1177/0022002718777050.

Karsten Donnay. (2017). Big Data for Monitoring Political Instability. International Development Policy 8.1 (Online).

Viktoria Spaiser, Thomas Chadefaux, Karsten Donnay, Fabian Russmann and Dirk Helbing. (2017). Communication Power Struggles on Social Media: A Case Study of the 2011-12 Russian Protests. Journal of Information Technology & Politics 14(2): 132–153.

Dirk Helbing, Dirk Brockmann, Thomas Chadefaux, Karsten Donnay, Ulf Blanke, Olivia Woolley-Meza, Mehdi Moussaid, Anders Johansson, Jens Krause, Sebastian Schutte and Matjaz Perc. (2015). Saving Human Lives: What Complexity Science and Information Systems can Contribute. Journal of Statistical Physics 158(3): 735–781.

Ravi Bhavnani, Karsten Donnay, Dan Miodownik, Maayan Mor and Dirk Helbing. (2014). Group Segregation and Urban Violence. American Journal of Political Science 58(1): 226–245 [received the AJPS Best Article Award 2015].

Sebastian Schutte and Karsten Donnay. (2014). Matched wake analysis: Finding causal relationships in spatiotemporal event data. Political Geography 41: 1–10 [R package].

Karsten Donnay and Vladimir Filimonov. (2014). Views to a war: systematic differences in media and military reporting of the war in Iraq. EPJ Data Science 3:25.

Matjaz Perc, Karsten Donnay and Dirk Helbing. (2013). Understanding Recurrent Crime as System-Immanent Collective Behavior. PLoS ONE 8(10):e76063.

Ravi Bhavnani and Karsten Donnay. (2012). Here’s Looking at You: The Arab Spring and Violence in Gaza, Israel and the West Bank. Swiss Political Science Review 18(1): 124–131.

Contributions to Books

Karsten Donnay, Andrew M. Linke, and Ravi Bhavnani. (2017). Generalizing Findings from Micro-Level Research on Peace and Conflict: Challenges and Solutions. In David Backer, Ravi Bhavnani, and Paul Huth (eds.) Peace and Conflict 2017. New York, NY: Routledge.

Karsten Donnay and Ravi Bhavnani. (2016). The Cutting Edge of Research on Peace and Conflict. In David A. Backer, Ravi Bhavnani, and Paul K. Huth (eds.) Peace and Conflict 2016. New York, NY: Routledge, p. 4–18.

Karsten Donnay, Elena Gadjanova and Ravi Bhavnani. (2014). Disaggregating Conflict by Actors, Time, and Location. In David A. Backer, Paul K. Huth, and Jonathan Wilkenfeld (eds.) Peace and Conflict 2014. New York, NY: Routledge, p. 44–56.


Karsten Donnay. (2015). Why interdisciplinary research enriches the study of crime Comment on ‘Statistical physics of crime: A review.’ by M.R. D’Orsogna and M. Perc. Physics of Life Reviews 12: 26–27.


Karsten Donnay. (2014). Disaggregating Civil Conflict: Theoretical, Methodological and Empirical Contributions. PhD Thesis, ETH Zurich doi:10.3929/ethz-a-010259246.