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October 26, 2006
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Watson Institute for International Studies
Global Security Matrix Launched as Tool to Assess Threats

Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies launched the Global Security Matrix, a web-based analytical and educational tool that visually represents threats to security. The Matrix maps security threats and vulnerabilities around the world and includes interactive features. The Global Security Matrix can be accessed at

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies has launched the Global Security Matrix, a web-based analytical and educational tool that visually represents threats to security. The Global Security Matrix dynamically maps threats across types of actors, including people, nations, transnational networks and global society, as well as categories of risks, such as terrorism, environmental degradation and pandemics.


Security experts and students provide rankings of these and other categories individually and in the aggregate. Visitors to the interactive Web site discuss the implications online, as well as listen to podcasts from a new lecture series titled “Beyond Terror: Innovating Global Security for the 21st Century.” It can be accessed at

“There is a need to get beyond terror and traditional models of risk assessment in international relations – to expand the categories of actors and of threats, risks and vulnerabilities,” said James Der Derian, director of the Institute’s Global Security Program, who conceived and spearheaded development of the matrix. “As we do so, we also have new technical capabilities to view the results in an interactive way that is of analytical as well as pedagogical use.”

Experts participating in the ranking to date have included David Kennedy, a Harvard Law School professor; Peter Hayes, professor of international relations at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology; and Mary Kaldor, professor of global governance at the London School of Economics. Early aggregate rankings rate resource conflicts and the environment among the highest categories of insecurity, in contrast with the current political and media focus on terrorism.

Der Derian and research assistants Jesse Finkelstein and Masha Kirasirova, both members of the Class of 2005, first developed a prototype of the matrix in 2005. The model was presented at several international conferences, validating demand for such a tool. During the last year, grants from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Scholarly Technology Group at Brown have funded expansion of the matrix into the current multidimensional, indexable database with conceptual and descriptive essays, key news briefings, podcasts, threat-ranking system and blog.

The matrix has been demonstrated in Denmark, England, Germany and Sweden and will be featured on the International Security Network, a leading Web site on security news and information based in Zurich, as well as the Watson Institute Web site.

The matrix was designed by John Caserta, a Providence, R.I., graphic designer, using Macromedia Flash, XHTML, and two SQL databases. A teacher at the Rhode Island School of Design who specializes in data visualization and information design, Caserta is known for his work with media companies including The New York Times, National Geographic, NBC Olympics, and the Chicago Tribune. Additional members of the Global Security Matrix project team include Brown students Lena Buell, Claire Harlam, Christina Kim, Natalie Rubin, and Rebecca Steingut; Global Security administrative assistant Ellen Darling; and Scholarly Technology staff members Kerri Hicks and Elli Mylonas.