Rice political scientist wins Deutsch Award for international relations and peace research

Rice political scientist wins Deutsch Award for international relations and peace research

Rice News staff

Brett Ashley Leeds, the Albert Thomas Associate Professor of Political Science, has won the Karl Deutsch Award for her work on military alliances and states’ compliance with international commitments. The award is presented annually by the International Studies Association.


Leeds’ research looks at more than 600 alliances from 1816 to 2003 to study how states make credible commitments in international politics. She has been collecting and analyzing data on the subject for the Alliance Treaty Obligations and Provisions (ATOP) project, with funding from the National Science Foundation.

In the course of her work, Leeds has found that most states tend to do what their formal alliances require them to do in time of war. Governments tend to write agreements that they are willing to fulfill.

While there are certainly examples of states that have not honored treaty obligations over the last two centuries, alliances have nevertheless been remarkably reliable. “The key to my research,” Leeds explained, “is to understand the conditions under which leaders will be constrained by their international commitments and the conditions under which they are willing to violate international commitments.”

Leeds’ project has a Web site (http://atop.rice.edu/), where researchers can find the alliances of interest to them and view a code sheet describing each alliance (usually with direct quotations from the primary text). The code sheets also provide citations to the full text of the agreements. Researchers can also download numeric datasets useful for statistical analysis. In addition, the site provides citations to some of the published research that has been accomplished using the ATOP data.

According to the International Studies Association’s Web site, the Karl Deutsch Award is presented “to a scholar in international relations under age 40 or within 10 years of defending his or her dissertation who is judged to have made, through a body of publications, the most significant contribution to the study of international relations and peace research.” It was established in 1981 and has gone to numerous prominent scholars in the past, including T. Clifton Morgan, Rice’s Albert Thomas Professor of Political Science, in 1995.

“It was a great honor,” Leeds said about learning of the award. “I was surprised. When I look at the list of scholars who have previously won, it’s humbling.”

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