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 with the development and refinement of quantitative methodologies for social science research. I have worked on topics related to political communication dynamics and social influence online, but also on the micro-foundation of conflict and terrorism as well as urban violence and crime. The projects I pursue aim to address substantive and policy-relevant questions using micro-level data and state-of-the-art quantitative methodology. This includes statistical methods for the analysis of data gleamed from digital media as well as computational (agent-based) modeling and the analysis of highly-resolved geographical data. I have also developed a number of software packages for data analysis and visualization that are available as open source tools to the research community. For further details on my background, research and ongoing projects, please also visit my personal website.


Funding for New Interdisciplinary Project on Media Bias

The Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften has awarded a 3-year research grant for an interdisciplinary research project entitled "Fake News and Collective Decision Making: Rapid Automated Assessment of Media Bias". The project will be carried out jointly by the team of Karsten Donnay (Politics and Public Administration) and Bela Gipp (Computer Science).

Weitere Meldungen

Research Interests

Micro-foundations of social (interaction) dynamics:

social influence through traditional and online media
media bias and its influence on collective decision making
political instability and conflict
malnutrition prediction and early warning

Advanced quantitative methodology:

statistical analysis of micro-level data on social processes
large-scale data processing and big data analytics
causal inference in spatiotemporal data
geospatial analysis and geographic information systems (GIS)
(agent-based) computational modeling

Curriculum Vitae


since 11/2016         Assistant Professor of Computational Social Science, Department of Politics and Public Administration, University of Konstanz
2010 - 2014      Postdoctoral Researcher, National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), University of Maryland
2015 - 2016    Visiting Lecturer, Department of International Relations & Political Science, Graduate Institute Geneva
2014 - 2016    Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of International Relations & Political Science, Graduate Institute Geneva
2014 - 2015     Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Humanities, Social and Political Science, Chair of Computational Social Science, ETH Zürich


2010 - 2014                  Dr. sc., Department of Humanities, Social and Political Science, Chair of Computational Social 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 and Mathematics, TU München


Peer-reviewed Articles

Seth Frey, Karsten Donnay, Dirk Helbing, Robert W. Sumner and Maarten W. Bos. (2019). The Rippling Dynamics of Valenced Messages in Naturalistic Youth Chat. Behavior Research Methods 51(4): 1737–1753.

Karsten Donnay, Eric T. Dunford, Erin C. McGrath, David Backer and David C. Cunningham. (2019). Integrating Conflict Event Data. Journal of Conflict Resolution 63(5): 1337–1364. [R package].

Felix Hamborg, Karsten Donnay and Bela Gipp. (2018). Automated Identification of Media Bias in News Articles: An Interdisciplinary Literature Review. International Journal on Digital Libraries DOI: 10.1007/s00799-018-0261-y

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.