PRIO-GRID: A Unified Spatial Data Structure

Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Tollefsen, Andreas Forø; Håvard Strand & Halvard Buhaug (2012) PRIO-GRID: A Unified Spatial Data Structure, Journal of Peace Research 49(2): 363–374.

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Contributions to the quantitative civil war literature increasingly rely on geo-referenced data and disaggregated research designs. While this is a welcome trend, it necessitates geographic information systems (GIS) skills and imposes new challenges for data collection and analysis. So far, solutions to these challenges differ between studies, obstructing direct comparison of findings and hampering replication and extension of earlier work. This article presents a standardized structure for storing, manipulating, and analyzing high-resolution spatial data. PRIO-GRID is a vector grid network with a resolution of 0.5 x 0.5 decimal degrees, covering all terrestrial areas of the world. Gridded data comprise inherently apolitical entities; the grid cells are fixed in time and space, they are insensitive to political boundaries and developments, and they are completely exogenous to likely features of interest, such as civil war outbreak, ethnic settlement patterns, extreme weather events, or the spatial distribution of wealth. Moreover, unlike other disaggregated approaches, gridded data may be scaled up or down in a consistent manner by varying the resolution of the grid. The released dataset comes with cell-specific information on a large selection of political, economic, demographic, environmental, and conflict variables for all years, 1946–2008. A simple descriptive data assessment of population density and economic activity is offered to demonstrate how PRIO-GRID may be applied in quantitative social science research.

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