Samantha Custer leads an interdisciplinary research team at AidData, a research lab based at William & Mary, which produces insightful international affairs analysis that is academically rigorous and policy relevant. A driving motivation for her work is to find new ways to quantify concepts, activities, and trends that are historically opaque or difficult-to-measure. Samantha's research focuses on topics such as: quantifying China’s public diplomacy and economic statecraft; measuring perceptions of development partners; and assessing external influence in domestic policy from energy dependence and Foreign Direct Investment to closing civic space and media partnerships.
Samantha has published studies in partnership with the World Bank, the Brookings Institution, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Asia Society Policy Institute, and the governments of Denmark, Germany, and the United States, among others. She collaborates with other members of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network Thematic Research Network on Data and Statistics (SDSN TReNDS) to spur data use for the sustainable development goals, as well as serving on the advisory board of the International Fund for Agricultural Development’s Advancing Knowledge for Agricultural Impact (AVANTI) initiative.
As an international relations scholar-practitioner, Samantha has a 20-year track record of leading teams, generating knowledge, mobilizing resources, catalyzing ideas, and building bridges across disciplines and organizations. Prior to AidData, she researched open data movements and citizen feedback initiatives with the World Bank, co-taught a class on US national security with former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, directed multilingual education programs in Southeast Asia with SIL International, and conducted performance monitoring for Save the Children US to ensure sponsored children were benefiting from its community development programs.
Samantha holds a Master of Science in Foreign Service and a Master of Public Policy from Georgetown University.
Political Economy of Reform, Chinese Public Diplomacy, Chinese Official Finance, Aid Targeting, Aid Effectiveness, Sustainable Development Goals, Citizen and Client Feedback, Data Use and Evidence-Informed Policymaking, Performance Evaluations