Richard Nielsen | People

Richard Nielsen
Associate Professor of Political Science


Richard Nielsen is an Associate Professor of Political Science at MIT. He completed his PhD (Government) and AM (Statistics) at Harvard University, and holds a BA from Brigham Young University. His first book, Deadly Clerics: Blocked Ambition and the Paths to Jihad (Cambridge University Press, 2017) uses statistical text analysis and fieldwork in Cairo mosques to understand the radicalization of jihadi clerics in the Arab world. Nielsen also writes on international law, the political economy of human rights, political violence, and political methodology. Some of this work is published or forthcoming in The American Journal of Political Science, International Studies Quarterly, Political Analysis, and Sociological Methods and Research. His research has been supported by an Andrew Carnegie fellowship, the National Science Foundation, the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies, and the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.




Publications | Selected Publications

Nielsen, Richard, “Women’s Authority in Patriarchal Social Movements: The Case of Female Salafi Preachers,” American Journal of Political Science, 64 (1): 52–66, 2020.

Nielsen, Richard and Beth Simmons. 2015. “Rewards for Ratification: Payoffs for Participating in the International Human Rights Regime?International Studies Quarterly, 59(2): 197-208, 2015.

"Rewarding Human Rights? Selective Aid Sanctions against Repressive States," International Studies Quarterly (30 April 2013) pp.1-13

"Foreign Aid Shocks as a Cause of Violent Armed Conflict,” American Journal of Political Science, 55 (2): 219-232 (with Michael Findley, Zachary Davis, Tara Candland, and Daniel Nielson.)




Research on Religion Podcast: "Richard Nielsen on Deadly Clerics," Baylor Institute for the Study of Religion, May 6, 2018.


"Baghdadi’s Martyrdom Bump: Killing the Islamic State leader will not kill his ideas," Foreign Policy, October 29, 2019. With Santiago Segarra and Ali Jadbabaie

"Women will soon be issuing fatwas in Saudi Arabia: this isn't as groundbreaking as you'd think," Washington Post Monkey Cage, October 10, 2017.


"With increasing authority, women are gaining space while preaching Islam on the internet,", February 1, 2021, interview with Rich Neilsen.