Classroom Insights: Understanding Terrorism with Statistics

 In an excerpt from his Policy Modeling class, Prof. Edward Kaplan walks through how statistical models can clarify questions about the best ways to fight terror plots.


Terrorism is fought on the front lines with police work, security measures like the all-too-familiar airport scanner, and intelligence operations. But it is also fought on the level of policy analysis and decision making. Take the question of resource allocation: Should a government facing suicide bombing attacks invest in increasing intelligence operations or in security measures to stop bombers at the last minute? Which will save more lives? What data can provide a firm basis for making and evaluating this decision?

Edward Kaplan’s research applies the tools of operations research and statistical modeling to these kinds of questions. In this excerpt from his Policy Modeling course, Kaplan, the William N. and Marie A. Beach Professor of Management Sciences, uses queuing theory to sift through data on terror attacks in the United States and get a better understanding of how many undetected plots may exist at any given time. 

Edward H. Kaplan
William N. and Marie A. Beach Professor of Operations Research, Professor of Public Health & Professor of Engineering