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SDR Deposit of the Week: Disputed boundaries

Screenshot of Disputed Boundaries data set

It's one thing to talk about an area of land under dispute, and it's another thing entirely to see it on a map. Professor of Political Science Kenneth Schultz demonstrates the validity of this statement with his recent work, "Mapping Interstate Territorial Conflict," which was published in December in the Journal of Conflict Resolution.

Other scholars had previously assembled information about disputed borders around the world, but Prof. Schultz is able to shed new light on these territorial conflicts by converting that information into a digital geospatial data set containing precise maps of contested regions. Rendering the data in this way not only permits better visualization and measurement of disputed areas but also allows analysts to spatially join information about demographic and physical characteristics that are thought to be sources of conflict.

And to make the data set discoverable by other researchers and accessible by them for use in their own research, Prof. Schultz has opted to deposit the content into the Stanford Digital Repository (SDR) and to make the geospatial files accessible via Stanford Libraries geospatial portal, Earthworks.

"I heard about Earthworks and SDR after presenting some of this research at a conference on campus," said Prof. Schultz. "It was important to me to make the data available through Earthworks because this is a remarkale platform for previewing and downloading spatial data sets. The use of geospatial data is a relatively new development in my field, and making the data easily viewable and accessible was important."

In addition to having the geospatial content viewable in Earthworks, other data related to the geospatial data set and the published paper are also available via the SDR. The two sets of data are cross-linked to each other to make them easier to find.

In the published article, Prof. Schultz demonstrates how useful the new data set can be to advance scholarship on the causes and consequences of interstate conflict. He uses it to differentiate alternative mechanisms for why territorial disputes dampen international trade, to "cast doubt on the role of oil deposits in fueling territorial conflict," and to "examine the harmful legacy of territorial conflict on local development in formerly contested regions along the El Salvador-Honduras border."

"The release of these data is connected to the publication of an article describing the data set and illustrating its potential uses," said Prof. Schultz. Using the SDR "not only allowed me to make the data available to interested scholars but also helped meet a requirement for publishing that article."

Stanford Libraries is happy to be hosting this unique and valuable data set for Prof. Schultz. When asked if he would consider using this service again, he said, "I am already in the process of developing additional data and will definitely use Earthworks again when the time comes."

If you have research data that you are interested in sharing with other researchers -- whether or not it contains geospatial content -- please contact the Stanford Digital Repository at We'll be happy to get you started!