Dear Deeply Readers,

Welcome to the archives of Syria Deeply. While we paused regular publication of the site on May 15, 2018, and transitioned some of our coverage to Peacebuilding Deeply, we are happy to serve as an ongoing public resource on the Syrian conflict. We hope you’ll enjoy the reporting and analysis that was produced by our dedicated community of editors contributors.

We continue to produce events and special projects while we explore where the on-site journalism goes next. If you’d like to reach us with feedback or ideas for collaboration you can do so at [email protected].

The Data Miners: Syria Needs Analysis Project (SNAP)

The Syria Needs Analysis Project (SNAP) is a partnership between the Assessment Capacities Project (ACAPS) and MapAction. It’s “aimed at strengthening the shared situational analysis of humanitarian responders by providing an independent analysis of the humanitarian situation of those affected by the Syrian crisis.” To do this, SNAP’s analysis review and compile data from secondary sources including journalists and the United Nations. .

Written by Karen Leigh Published on Read time Approx. 2 minutes

The team’s most visible project is a map that maps who (Free Syrian Army rebels or forces loyal to the Syrian regime) is in control in each province.

SNAP is just one of the data analysis and mapping organizations who mine ground-specific data from afar as Syria’s borders become less accessible. Syria Deeply spoke with Greg Vaughan, SNAP’s Beirut-based GIS (geographic information systems and digital mapping) specialist, about how the data is collected:

Greg Vaughan: We set it up to do secondary data analysis, so we don’t do primary data collection. We take it from secondary sources, a range from media reports to publications from the humanitarian community (which includes NGOs, donors, think tanks, rescue organizations, universities and of course all of the United Nations [country] reports). We bring that information together into our reports.

We also work with partner organizations to coordinate a database of geographical information. We put together a comprehensive database of the spatial characteristics of the country and try to pick out the major themes of what’s occurring.

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The last time we published the map was in March. There will [likely be] another at the end of this month, part of the June regional analysis. The situation is changing fluidly on a daily basis, and this represents a snapshot in time. In pulling that map together, we used baseline geographical information for the administrative boundaries and for background information.

What we do to actually develop conflict data is take information from media sources who are reporting where conflict is occurring and who’s holding particular areas. We compile the information into a database. Then we do analysis. The intent of the map is only to show at a coarse, broad level which groups are said to be holding a particular area – no one has information at a specific, fine-grain level as to what’s happening on the ground all over the country.

There were huge challenges with putting together something like that and trying to find the neutrality of the information. This was one of the biggest caveats. There’s a lot of emotion, a lot of vested interest. With the information from social media, you need to be careful about different groups promoting different agendas. It’s for that reason we keep it very general and try not to be specific.

Look at the areas of control – in areas that don’t have a lot of conflict, you can still see who has control. We also try to triangulate reporting with conflict data sets produced by U.N. agencies and NGOs. That’s the general [vetting] process we go through.

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