The Correlates of War (COW) project was founded in 1963 by J. David Singer, a political scientist at the University of Michigan. The original and continuing goal of the project has been the systematic accumulation of scientific knowledge about war. Key principles of the project include a commitment to standard scientific principles of replication, data reliability, documentation, review, and the transparency of data collection procedures.
The COW project seeks to facilitate the collection, dissemination, and use of accurate and reliable quantitative data in international relations (IR). It also seeks to expand available data for IR research through 1) a number of ongoing internal projects and 2) encouraging scholars within the COW community to engage in guided research through the Data Set Hosting Program.
The COW project has moved to institutionalize the loosely structured organization of the original project based at the University of Michigan, while also maintaining the involvement of many collaborators at widely dispersed locations.
To simultaneously maintain a large number of cross-national and cross-time datasets, the COW project has implemented a distributed system of dataset hosting based on the notion of "coordinated decentralization". The goal is for each major dataset to be adopted by a "home" institution and a "host" individual who will agree to maintain a dataset and its related documentation for a period of time, following guidelines designed to ensure continued consistency with COW standards.
The project was transferred from the University of Michigan to The Pennsylvania State University in March 2001. The governance structures of the project include a director, associated director, and advisory board.