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

Richard Nielsen, “Religious Fieldwork for International Relations Scholars,” International Studies Review, 2023

Richard Nielsen, “The Rise and Impact of Muslim Women Preaching Online,” in Melani Cammett and Pauline Jones, eds., Oxford Handbook of Politics in Muslim Societies (New York: Oxford University Press, 2022)

Richard Nielsen, “COVID-19 and Fieldwork: Challenges and Solutions,” PS: Political Science & Politics Vol. 53, No. 2 (April 2021) (With Peter Krause et al.)

Richard Nielsen, “Women’s Authority in Patriarchal Social Movements: The Case of Female Salafi Preachers,” American Journal of Political Science Vol. 64, No. 1 (2020)

Richard Nielsen, “Adjusting for Confounding with Text Matching,” American Journal of Political Science Vol. 65, No. 4 (2020) (With Margaret Roberts and Brandon Stewart)

Richard Nielsen, “Recite! Interpretive Fieldwork for Positivists,” in Peter Krause and Ora Szekely, eds., Stories from the Fields: A Guide to Navigating Fieldwork in Political Science (New York: Columbia University Press, 2020)

Richard Nielsen, “Statistical Matching with Time-Series Cross-Sectional Data: Magic, Malfeasance, or Something in Between?” in Luigi Curini and Robert Franzese, eds., The SAGE Handbook of Research Methods in Political Science and International Relations (Thousands Oaks, CA: Sage, 2020)

Richard Nielsen, “What Counting Words Can Teach Us About Middle East Politics,” MENA Politics Newsletter Vol. 2, No. 2 (Fall 2019) 

Richard Nielsen, “Baghdadi’s Martyrdom Bump,” Foreign Policy, October 29, 2019 (With Santiago Segarra and Ali Jadbabaie)

Richard Nielsen, “Why Propensity Scores Should Not Be Used for Matching,” Political Analysis Vol. 27, No. 4 (2019) (With Gary King)

Richard Nielsen, “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

For a complete list of publications




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.