Rebecca Best, Ph.D.

University of Missouri-Kansas City

City: Kansas City, Missouri

Country: United States

Research Interests

Gender and Politics


Conflict Processes & War

Political Violence

Formal Theory

Veteran Reintegration

Civil Conflict Negotiations

Female Combatants

Female Veterans

Conflict Resolution


Journal Articles:

(2018) Legislative Gender Diversity and the Resolution of Civil Conflict, Political Research Quarterly

Policy makers and scholars have shown increased interest in gendered approaches to peacemaking, even as evidence of women’s impact on peace processes has remained unclear. In this paper, we explore the influence of gender diversity among decision-making elites on the outcome of ongoing civil conflicts. Specifically, we argue that increased female representation within the national legislature increases the likelihood that a conflict terminates in a negotiated settlement. However, the impact of legislative female representation on conflict termination is conditioned by the power of the legislature vis-à-vis the executive, suggesting that gender diversity exerts a greater impact in states with more authoritative legislatures. We evaluate our hypotheses using data on the manner of conflict termination and the proportion of women in national legislatures between 1945 and 2009. Our results show support for the central argument, suggesting that increasing female representation within legislative bodies increases the likelihood of war termination via negotiated settlement.

(2018) Bargaining with Insurgencies in the Shadow of Infighting, Journal of Global Security Studies

Despite the long standing “no concessions” argument, scientific studies now suggest that governments can benefit from negotiating with militant insurgencies. However, despite government efforts, the leaders of insurgent movements often appear fanatical and unwilling to negotiate. This behavior presents a puzzle: If the leaders of insurgencies mobilize to create political change, and a government offers concessions, why do insurgent leaders refuse to negotiate? Using a game-theoretic model, we argue that insurgent leaders may rationally reject negotiation due to an internal commitment problem. Specifically, when leaders cannot credibly share the benefits of peace with their rivals, insurgent leaders may reject offers over fear of an internal conflict, which could leave the entire group vulnerable to government exploitation. However, the model demonstrates that insurgent leaders should negotiate if power in the insurgency is shifting in favor of their rivals, as it could help them maintain control of the movement. We illustrate these hypotheses using evidence from the Nigerian state's conflict with the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) organization and Boko Haram.

(2013) An Analysis of the TABARI Coding System, Conflict Management and Peace Science

Textual Analysis by Augmented Replacement Instructions (TABARI) provides an automated method for coding large amounts of text. Using TABARI to code lead sentences of news stories, the KEDS/Penn State Event Data project has produced event data for several regions. The wide range of events and actors, TABARI’s ability to filter duplicate events and the number of events coded allow users to analyze patterns in conflict and cooperation between state and nonstate actors over time. We evaluate whether coding full stories provides more detailed information on the actors referenced in the lead sentences. Additional actor information would allow researchers interested in the interactions between violent nonstate actors to test hypotheses regarding group cohesiveness and splintering, spoiling behavior, commitment problems between factions and many other issues critical to management of an insurgency. We downloaded Reuters news stories relevant to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict and used TABARI to code the lead sentences. We then analyzed the full text of the coded stories to determine the level of actor detail available. Our findings highlight the dynamic relationship among nonstate and state actors during the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, and we find that, contrary to expectations, hand coding full news stories does not lead to significant improvements in the accuracy or depth of actor information compared with machine coding by TABARI using lead sentences. These findings should bolster the confidence of researchers using TABARI coded data, with the caveat that TABARI’s ability to distinguish between actors is dependent upon the detail available in the actor dictionaries.


(2010) Reciprocity in International Politics, International Studies Encyclopedia

One of the fundamental processes we observe in international politics is the process of reciprocity. Reciprocity is both a concept representing behavior and a representation of norms in political interaction. At its core, the study of reciprocity in international politics is concerned with the extent to which nations return behavior in kind. While some focus on ethical considerations and the propagation of norms such as the Golden Rule, others focus on the empirical examination of patterns of reciprocity. This empirical research searches for answer to questions about the existence, predictability, and diffusion of reciprocity. Scholars have investigated the conditions that produce reciprocity versus the conditions that make it more difficult. In addition, scholars have examined the way states engage in reciprocity across policy dimensions, answering questions about when governments link economic, diplomatic, and even military arenas. In this essay, we seek to present the key findings about reciprocity within the body of research that is representative of the Scientific Study of International Processes. The study of reciprocity has generally occurred within two veins: formal/experimental and empirical research. The two veins have intertwined productively over the last half-century, and a significant proportion of this research draws from both approaches. For the purposes of exposition our essay mirrors the specialization often found in this research. We begin, however, with a discussion of the concept of reciprocity as it has been applied to the field of international relations. We then continue by summarizing the key findings generated within the formal/experimental literature and then move to the findings generated by empirical research. Our understanding of reciprocity cannot be fully represented within either of these approaches, however, so the reader is cautioned to consider the interplay and complementation of the research discussed below.