Brenda Shaffer was born in the United States. She received her Ph.D. from Tel Aviv University and worked for a number of years as a researcher and policy analyst for the Government of Israel. Shaffer has also given Congressional testimonies on several occasions in front of the United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs on issues related to U.S. policy in the Caspian region, and provides consultancies to energy companies, such as SOCAR, the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan. Shaffer reads a number of languages, including English, Turkish, Azerbaijani, Russian, and Hebrew. Shaffer was a postdoctoral fellow at the International Security Program of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and later became the Research Director of the Caspian Studies Project at the Kennedy School. She is currently a faculty member in the School of Political Science at the University of Haifa, division of governance and political thought, and has also taught at the department of Asian Studies and at the Graduate School of Management, division of natural resources management, at the University of Haifa. Shaffer is a visiting professor at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy  and at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
2006-2012 Faculty member at the University of Haifa and visiting professor at both the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy and at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C..
2001-2004 Post-doctoral Fellow, “Young Truman Scholar” three-year fellowship in the field of Middle East Studies, Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Israel).
2000-2001 Post-doctoral Fellow, International Relations & Middle East Studies, Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Israel).
1999-2005 Post-doctoral Fellow, International Security Program, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University (USA).
1996-1999 Ph. D. School of History, Tel Aviv University (Israel). Dissertation topic: “The Formation of Azerbaijani Collective Identity: in Light of the Islamic Revolution in Iran and the Soviet Breakup.”
1986-1989 MA in Political Science (with specialization in Russian Studies) Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Israel). (MA thesis topic: “Soviet Power Projection— the View of the Military”).
1983-1986 BA in Political Science and International Relations, Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Israel).
Co-editor of "Beyond the Resource Curse" (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012).
Author of "Energy Politics" (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009).
Editor of "The Limits of Culture: Islam and Foreign Policy" (MIT Press, 2006).
Author of "Partners in Need: The Strategic Relationship of Russia and Iran" (the Washington Institute for Near East Policy).
Author of "Borders and Brethren: Iran and the Challenge of Azerbaijani Identity" (MIT Press, 2002). The book was also published in Turkish (Bilgi University Press, Istanbul, 2008) and in Persian (Ulus Press, Tehran, 2008).
“Energy Resources in the Eastern Mediterranean: Prospects for energy markets and regional developments” in Michael Leigh (ed.), Eastern Mediterranean Energy: Fuel for conflict or cooperation? (D.C.: German Marshall Fund, 2012).
“US Policy and the Strategic Caucasus” in Frances Burwell and Svante E. Cornell, eds., The Transatlantic Partnership and Relations with Russia (Washington: Atlantic Council of the United States and Institute for Security and Development Policy, 2012).
“Ethnic Politics in Iran,” in Reuven Pedatzur (editor), Iran and Regional Hegemony (S. Daniel Abraham Strategic Dialogue Center in association with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, 2010).
"The Islamic Republic of Iran: Is It Really?" in Brenda Shaffer (ed.), The Limits of Culture: Islam and Foreign Policy (Cambridge, MA.: MIT Press, 2006).
“Iran’s Internal Azerbaijani Challenge: Implications for Policy in the Caucasus,” in Moshe Gammer (ed.), The Caucasus (London: Frank Cass, 2004).
“U.S. Policy in the South Caucasus,” in Dov Lynch (ed.) The South Caucasus: a challenge for the EU (Chaillot Paper 65, EU ISS, December 2003).
“Azerbaijan” in Waisman and Vasserman (ed.), Political Organizations in Central Asia and Azerbaijan: Sources and Documents (London: Frank Cass, 2003).
“Azerbaycan Cumhuryetinin Kurulusu: Iran’daki Azeriler Uzerinde Etkisi”, in Emine Gursoy-Naskali and Erdal Sahin (eds.) Turk Cumhuriyetleri (Amsterdam/Istanbul, SOTA Publications, 2002)(in Turkish).
"Statement on The Caucasus and Caspian Region: Understanding U.S. Interests and Policy", Hearing Before the Subcommittee on Europe of the Committee on International Relations, House of Representatives, One Hundred Seventh Congress, First Session, October 10, 2001, Serial No. 107–51.
"U.S. Russian Relations: Implications for the Caspian Region", Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University, June 2001.
“Postscript” in David Menashri (ed.), Central Asia Meets the Middle East (London: Frank Cass, 1998).
Prof. Shaffer's articles have appeared in a number of newspapers and journals, including an article in "Current History" entitled “Is there a Muslim Foreign Policy?” and “Iran at the Nuclear Threshold” (Arms Control Today; November 2003). Her Opinion Editorials have been published in the Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, the International Herald Tribune, and The Jerusalem Post.
"Israel: New Natural Gas Producer in the Mediterranean", Energy Policy 38, pp. 5379–5387 (2011)
“The Foreign Policies of Landlocked States,” Post-Soviet Affairs Vol. 27, No. 3, pp. 1–37 (July 2011) (Co-Authored with Dr. Avinoam Idan)
"Caspian Energy Phase II: Beyond 2005", Energy Policy 38, pp. 7209–7215 (2010)
"Turkey's Energy Policies in a Tight Global Energy Market", Insight Turkey, issue 2, volume 8 (April–June 2006)
"From Pipedream to Pipeline: Lessons from the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan Pipeline Project", Current History, issue 684, volume 104, pp. 343–347 (October 2005)
"The Formation of Azerbaijani Collective Identity in Iran", Nationalities Papers, Vol. 28, No. 3, pp. 449–477 (September 2000)
"Foreign Policies of the States of the Caucasus: Evolution in the Post-Soviet Period", Uluslararasi Iliskiler International Relations (Ankara) Vol. 7, No. 26, pp. 51–65. Turkish and English. (Summer 2010)
Brenda Shaffer has produced an essential guide to the energy politics of the 21st century. Her insights into the growing role of natural gas, and its implications for global security, are especially valuable.
A consistent strength of Shaffer’s work is that it pays attention to both energy producers and consumers and the links between them. Given the comparative emphasis in much of the “resource curse” literature on oil producers, her focus on the growing importance of natural gas and the role of transit states is especially welcome
Beyond the Resource Curse foursquarely addresses the question of what resources can do - or not do - for a country. The novelty of the data - the contributors treat a broad array of cases that are seldom thought about - along with the freshness of the analysis and the eclectic mix of topics and countries discussed, makes this a truly refreshing volume.
Shaffer and Ziyadov have put together a broad scope of understanding of the difficulty in identifying the impact of natural resource accumulation on economic performance and governance. Of particular note are the chapters describing the natural resource curse; a perspective on Norway, and the attempt to empirically estimate the causal relationship between the resource curse, domestic instability and international conflict. A useful supplemental text for graduate courses on energy or environmental economics and an appropriate addition to collections supporting energy economists.
Shaffer has captured the complicated cultural trends in modern Azerbaijani society on both sides of the Araz and offered an excellent framework in which to interpret those trends. And, as is the case with all the best pioneering efforts, she has also created a promising point of departure for further inquiry...
A very comprehensive and interesting intellectual endeavor that will interest specialists on identity, the Middle East, and post-Soviet studies, as well as the citizens of Iran and the Republic of Azerbaijan
Brethren and Borders is a highly political book on an emotional subject which needs careful, dispassionate analysis.
Shaffer's article "U.S. Policy toward the Caspian Region: Recommendations for the Bush Administration" has also created controversy with regards to the objectivity of Harvard's Caspian Studies Program. Ken Silverstein, of Harper's Magazine, in an article titled "Academics for Hire", comments:
The American historian Ralph E. Luker echoes Silversteins article, saying:
Silverstein's second article also implicates Harvard historian Brenda Shaffer, who is research director of the University's Caspian Studies Program, in similar apologias. These programs appear to be largely funded by regional regimes, American oil and industrial investors in the region, and right-wing foundations in the United States.
Shaffer has also drawn criticism for writing on geostrategic issues regarding Azerbaijan under her academic affiliations, while working as a consultant to the President of SOCAR, the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan. On September 17, 2014, the New York Times published an editor's note to highlight that Shaffer did not disclose her affiliation to SOCAR when publishing an Op-Ed in its pages about the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. This has drawn critique in other notable news outlets.