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The Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures (GRF) project aims to produce transformational, crossover advances in our understanding of the dynamics of religious change. The project combines resources of two foundations to enable a world-class research team to analyze existing data and collect new data using rigorous methods. Phase VIII will continue three focal areas – demographic analysis of religious change, measurement of restrictions on religious freedom, and cross-national survey research – and add a new focus: fostering open science principles.

Innovation will be a hallmark of Phase VIII. The GRF plans to publish new projections of the growth trajectories of major religions, using improved models of religious switching. The goal is not just to forecast the future size of religious groups but also to clarify the factors in religious change and their relative importance.

Because consistent measurement is vital to track change over time, the GRF will continue to use human coding methods to gauge restrictions on religion. However, in Phase VIII, the coding team also will experiment with machine-learning systems to supplement the human coding.

For the first time, the cross-national survey will be global in scope, covering 30 or more countries across six continents. It will break new ground by measuring religion and spirituality in the West using questions developed in Asia. It also will measure public support for separation/integration of religion with the power of states.

The GRF has been striving to increase the findability and accessibility of its own data. In this next phase, the research team will collaborate with the Association of Religion Data Archives to host workshops to build consensus around open data practices in the study of religion. Together, these efforts will ensure that the GRF remains the definitive source of unbiased information on religious demography, religious beliefs and practices, and restrictions on religious freedoms.