Terrorism Studies

Research Areas

Terrorism Group Formation & Recruitment

Terrorism Group Persistence and Dynamics

Societal Impact of Terrorism

Societal- behavioral and cultural factors that influence violent extremism

Emergence operations and interactions of domestic terrorists

Collecting coding and using data to inform decisions

Resilience and risk communication

About Us

University of Maryland
8400 Baltimore Ave, Suite 250
College Park, MD 20740
Tel:  301-405-6600
Email:  infostart@start.umd.edu
Website:  www.start.umd.edu

START Factsheet


Gary LaFree is the Director of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) at the University of Maryland, as well as a Professor in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice.

William Braniff is the Executive Director of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START). 

Project Search

National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism

The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) is a university-based research center headed by the University of Maryland and is committed to the scientific study of the causes and human consequences of terrorism in the United States and around the world.

Center Activity

Research Spotlights

New report explores debates among Salafi Muslims about the use of violence
A new summary report from START identifies and explains religious concepts that are central to debates among Salafi Muslims about whether and when to use violence to attain political ends. Read more.

Key concepts to understand violent White supremacy
In recent months, many attacks and threats have been linked to violent White supremacists or used rhetoric commonly associated with violent White supremacy, making apparent the need to better understand this group of actors. New START research identifies and explains 13 different prominent narratives used by U.S. violent White supremacist extremists. The brief also summarizes key concepts about ideology and typology. Read more
Understanding Radicalization: The Two-Pyramids model
Published in a special issue of American Psychologist, new analysis by START researchers explains how the study of radicalization has evolved and explores the security and research implications of a two-pyramid model that separates radicalization of opinion from radicalization of action. Read more.

Gray Zone crises in MENA and Eastern Europe
A new research brief from START’s ICONS team offers lessons learned from simulation exercises exploring capabilities needed for effective operation in Gray Zone crises in the Middle East/North Africa region and Eastern Europe. Read more.
Terrorist threats to critical infrastructure
A recently released START report provides an overview of terrorist threats to critical infrastructure in the United States, based on patterns of terrorism from 1970-2015. The report highlights trends, perpetrators and tactics and weapons. Read more.

More plot participants, greater rate of attack success
A new START study examines how the planning process affects the outcome of a terrorist plot and finds that the more people that were involved in planning a terrorist attack in the United States, the more likely it was to be successful. Read more.

Comparing homicides committed by Islamist and far-right extremists
Preliminary 2015-2016 data from the Extremist Crime Database is explored in a new infographic comparing homicides committed by Islamist and far-right extremists in the United States. Read more.

Majority of jihadist plots in the United States have been foiled
A new infographic summarizes interim findings from a START project that identified and examined 109 jihadist-linked plots to use violence against the U.S. homeland between January 1993 and February 2016. The majority of the plots (72%) were completely foiled. Read more.
Report examines U.S. Muslim reaction to the war on terrorism
Reviewing the 2007 and 2011 Pew polls of U.S. Muslims, a new START study compares opinions relating to the war on terrorism among six origin groups (Muslims born in Iran, Pakistan, other South Asian countries, Arab countries, and sub-Saharan African countries), as well as African-American Muslims. Though there were slight changes in responses over time, there were some important differences in responses among origin groups. Read more.

Profiles of Individual Radicalization in the United States (PIRUS) now available
PIRUS is a cross-sectional, quantitative dataset of individuals in the United States who radicalized to the point of violent or non-violent ideologically motivated criminal activity, or ideologically motivated association with a foreign or domestic extremist organization from 1948 until 2013.

Terrorist assassinations by region, target 
In the wake of December’s assassination in Turkey of the Russian Ambassador Andrey G. Karlov, START assembled two visuals about terrorist assassinations over time and by target type using data the Global Terrorism Database. Read more.

A case study of radicalization offers implications for CVE
Research from START offers new insight into the psychological motives and mechanisms that radicalize a person to commit violence. The new study takes a detailed look at Momin Khawaja, a convicted terrorist who was arrested in 2004 in connection to a U.K. bomb plot, and offers some possible implications for countering violent extremism (CVE). Read more.
Mixed counterterrorism strategies correlate with more civilian deaths
New data reveals that violent nonstate actors in the Middle East are most likely to kill a greater number of civilians when governments pursue counterterrorism strategies that combine violence and negotiation, according to data from the Big, Allied And Dangerous project.Read more.

Patterns of Islamic State-Related Terrorism, 2002--2015
This report presents data that illustrate the dynamics of Islamic State-related terrorism over time and place from 2002 to 2015, including trends in the number of attacks and deaths caused by ISIL-related terrorism, the geographic spread of ISIL-related terrorism, and patterns of tactics, targets, and lethality of ISIL-related terrorism. Read more.

2015 GTD data informs latest State Department ‘Country Reports on Terrorism’ 
On June 2, the Department of State released its annual Country Reports on Terrorism, using data on 2015 global terror attacks from the Global Terrorism Database. Among the report’s major findings are the fact that the total number of terrorist attacks in 2015 decreased by 13% and total deaths due to terrorist attacks decreased by 14%, compared to 2014. Read more.
Extreme Hatred: Revisiting the Hate Crime and Terrorism Relationship
According to new research led by Pre-Doctoral START Fellow Colleen Mills, countries experiencing increases in one type of bias-motivated or extremist violence are likely to see significant increases in other types of extremist activity, supporting the assentation that hate crime and terrorism are more alike than different. Read more.

New START model forecasts the flow of foreign fighters
A new model presented by START’s GIS researchers assesses the possible transportation corridors used by foreign fighters when traveling to and from territories controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and demonstrates how potential deterrence activities can impact the flow of people and materials through these areas. Read more.
New data explores foreign fighters from the United States
A new report from START examines data on foreign fighters who have departed for overseas conflicts from more than 100 cities in 25 states across the United States, from 1980 to 2015. The report includes information on 242 individuals who have been publicly identified in open sources as having left, attempted to leave, or expressed an interest in leaving the United States for the purpose of supporting the activities or interests of a foreign non-state armed group or foreign regime, and were motivated by religion, ethnicity, or other ideology. Read More.

Marginalization, discrimination create greater risk of radicalization for immigrants
Immigrants who feel marginalized and experience discrimination are at a greater risk of radicalization according to a new report authored by START researchers and published in Behavioral Science and Policy. Read more.

Current Projects

A Typology of Terrorism Involvement
PI: John Horgan

Deradicalization of Extremists
PI: Arie Kruglanski and Michele Gelfand

Using Experimental Research to Study the Dynamics of Radicalization, Terrorism, and Counterterrorism
PI: Anthony Lemieux

Rapid Tracking of Anti-American Attitudes
PI: Clark McCauley

Mapping and Evaluating Online Salafi-Jihadism
PI: Jarret Brachman, Arie Kruglanski, Michele Gelfand

Framing Global Salafi-Jihadist Messages in the West
PI: Peter R. Neumann

Social, Behavioral, Cultural, and Economic (SBCE) Impacts on Terrorist Activity
PI: Gary LaFree and Laura Dugan

Dynamics of Terrorism and Counterterrorism Campaigns
PI: Victor Asal, R, Karl Rethemeyer, Joseph Young

Terrorist Behavior and Societal Tolerance of Violence
PI: Risa Brooks

Ideologies and Motivations of Terrorist Organizations
PI: Gary Ackerman and Assaf Moghadam

One God for All?  Fundamentalism and Group Radicalization
PI: Johanna Birnir and Satana Nil

Organizational Determinants of Violence and Capacity for Destruction
PI: Gina Ligon

Recruitment and Radicalization among US Far-Right Terrorists
PI: Peter R. Simi

Patterns of US Extremist Crime
PI: Joshua Freilich, Steven M. Chermak, Jeffrey  Gruenewald, William S. Parkin

Social Identity and Perceptions of Counterterrorism
PI: Dennis Glasford

Terrorist Attacks on the Homeland
PI: Gary LaFree, Laura Dugan

Radicalization of al-Qa-ida Inspired Terrorists in the United States
PI: Clark McCauley and Sophia Moskalenko

Countering Terrorism in the United States
PI: Erica Chenoweth and Laura Dugan

US Policies and Extremist Motivations
PI: Brooke Fisher Liu

Comparing Failed, Foiled, Completed and Successful Terrorist Attacks
PI: Martha Crenshaw, Erik Dahl, and Margaret Wilson

Family and Community Capacities among US Minorities: a Key to Preventing Violent Extremism
PI: Stevan Weine

Geospatial and Temporal Patterns of US Terrorism
PI: Brent Smith and Kelly Damphousse

US Crime-Terror Nexus: Terrorist Networks & Trade Diversion
PI: Joshua Freilich, Steven M. Chermak, Roberta Belli

Tracking Attitudes within American Subculture
PI: Clark McCauley, Sophia Moskalenko

Factors Impacting the US Intelligence Process
PI: David Carter, Steven M. Chermak, Jeremy Carter

Mental Models of Intelligence Collectors and Analysts for Characterizing Adversarial Threats
PI: James L. Regens

Global Terrorism Database: Collection and Coding
PI: Gary LaFree, Luara Dugan, Victor Asal, R. Karl Rethemeyer

Terrorist and Extremist Organizations (TEO) Database
PI: Victor Asal, R. Karl Rethemeyer, Jonathan Wilkenfeld

Validating Models of Adversary Behavior
PI: Jun Zhuang, Vicki Bier

Unifying Approaches to Adversarial Modeling
PI: Ronald Breiger, H.Brinton Milward, Charles Ragin

Modeling Terrorism Onset and Intensity Dynamics Using the GTD
PI: Claudio Cloffi-Revilla

Modeling the Emergence of Leaders in Self-Organizing Social Networks
PI: Nina Fefferman

Countering Terrorism
Crenshaw, Martha, and Gary LaFree

What Motivates the Blue Line for Technology Adoption? Insights from a Police Expert Panel and Survey
Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management
Egnoto, Michael and Gary Ackerman, Irina Iles, Holly Ann Roberts, Daniel Steven Smith, Brooke Fisher Liu, Brandon, Behlendorf
Islamic Politics, Muslim States, and Counterterrorism Tensions
Cambridge University Press
Henne, Peter
Understanding the Adoption Process of National Security Technology: An Integration of Diffusion of Innovations and Volitional Behavior Theories
Risk Analysis
Iles, Irina A., and Michael J. Egnoto, Brooke Fisher Liu, Gary Ackerman, Holly Roberts, Daniel Smith
Studying Terrorism Empirically: What We Know About What We Don’t Know
Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice
Safer-Lichtenstein, Aaron, and Gary LaFree, Thomas Loughran
Expert Views on Biological Threat Characterization for the U.S. Government: A Delphi Study
Risk Analysis
Watson, Crystal R., and Matthew C. Watson, Gary Ackerman, Gigi Kwik Gronvall?

Exploring the Subculture of Ideologically Motivated Cyber-Attackers
Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice
Holt, Thomas J., and Joshua D. Freilich, Steven M. Chermak
Is a picture worth a thousand words? The effects of maps and warning messages on how publics respond to disaster information
Public Relations Review
Liu, Brooke Fisher, and Michele M. Wood, Michael Egnoto, Hamilton Bean, Jeannette Sutton, Dennis Mileti, Stephanie Madden
Tracking Radical Opinions in Polls of U.S. Muslims
Perspectives on Terrorism
Fajmonova, Veroniká, and Sophia Moskalenko, Clark McCauley
Monolithic Religious Markets, Fragmented State Structures, and Islamic Fundamentalism among Iranians and across the Middle East and North Africa
International Review of Development Studies
Moaddel, Mansoor

Criminology & Public Policy: Vol 16, Issue 1

The Role of Anger in the Radicalization of Terrorists
Davenport, Cory
Know thy enemy: Education about terrorism improves social attitudes toward terrorists
Journal of Experimental Psychology
Theriault, Jordan, and Peter Krause, Liane Young
The clock is ticking: Temporal dynamics of campus emergency notifications
Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management
Madden, Stephanie

The Contagious Diffusion of World-Wide Terrorism: Is it Less Common than We Might Think?
Studies in Conflict and Terrorism
LaFree, Gary, and Min Xie, Aila Matanock
Values, Political Action, and Change in the Middle East and the Arab Spring
Oxford University Press
Moaddel, Mansoor, and Michele J. Gelfand

Repression, Education, and Politically Motivated Cyberattacks
Journal of Global Security Studies
Asal, Victor, and Jacob Mauslein, Amanda Murdie, Joseph Young, Jen Cousins, Chris Bronk
Dynamic Forecasting Conditional Probability of Bombing Attacks Based on Time-Series and Intervention Analysis
Risk Analysis
Li, Shuying, and Jun Zhuang, Shifei Shen
Exploring Conflict Dynamics
Journal of Global Security Studies
Avant, Deborah, and Felix Berenskoetter, Erica Chenoweth, Stuart Kaufman, Kimberly Marten


A Community-Level Comparison of Terrorism Movements in the United States
Studies in Conflict & Terrorism
Fitzpatrick, Kevin M. and Jeff Gruenewald, Brent L. Smith, Paxton Roberts
Strategic Communication and U.S. National Security Affairs
Routledge: Strategic Communication – New Agendas in Communication 
Bean, Hamilton
Examining Systematic Crime Reporting Bias Across Three Immigrant Generations


Student Opportunities at START

START is currently offering unpaid internships on several of its research projects. Internships are open to undergraduate and graduate students. Unless otherwise stated students at any institution may apply. https://www.start.umd.edu/careers/internships

Graduate Certificate in Terrorism Analysis

START's Graduate Certificate in Terrorism Analysis provides participants with advanced education on the causes, dynamics, and impacts of international and domestic terrorism. Participants also develop the methodological skills necessary to pursue advanced research on and analysis of terrorism. This program is appropriate for both academicians and practitioners and is flexible in structure. Students can complete the program in as little as 9 months to 24 months. For a more detailed virtual information packet, please email education@start.umd.edu.

For information on all of START’s educational and professional development opportunities, visit https://www.start.umd.edu/education/about-education

‘Understanding Terrorism and the Terrorist Threat’ with START’s free, online course

Registration is now open for START’s Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on “Understanding Terrorism and the Terrorist Threat,” which starts March 13. The eight-week course, offered through the University of Maryland and Coursera, will explore questions relating to the who, what and how of terrorism studies by introducing students to cutting edge research and the experts investigating these topics. Read more or register now.

Five START students earn competitive Boren Scholarships
For the sixth consecutive year, University of Maryland undergraduate students won more Boren Scholarships than students from any other university in the United States. Five of the 11 UMD students selected this year have participated in START’s flagship internship program. Read more.
UMD students aim to minimize bystander effect in radicalization
Focusing on empowering bystanders to intervene and support individuals at risk of radicalizing, an innovative group of START minor students developed a social media campaign called “It Takes Just One.” Spurred by the Peer to Peer (P2P): Challenging Extremism initiative, the students also created a video game that will launch later this month. Read more.
New 'FIRE chief' aims to empower students through research
With more than six years of research and teaching experience at the university level, Dr. Emina Herovi? is no stranger to higher education, but she recently found a new way to explore her long-held interests. Earlier this year, she took the reins of START’s First-Year Innovation and Research Experience (FIRE) stream in Risk Communication and Resilience (RCR), a highly competitive University of Maryland program designed to provide first-year students with inquiry-based experiences and broad personal and academic mentorship. Read more.

Tennis and U.S. Army give way to “American Dream”
At age 17, START intern Mariami Dolashvili left her sister, parents and friends in Crimea to set out on her own in the United States. Just two months later, Russia invaded her hometown and her family fled to Germany. Now, she looks ahead to enlisting in the U.S. Army after her graduation later this year. Read more.
Spring break focuses on disaster recovery
While most college students enjoyed a leisurely spring break, a group of University of Maryland undergraduate students chose an alternative path through START’s Disaster Recovery in Japan program. Read more.

START students SPARC others to challenge extremism
This month, a team of students from START’s Department of Homeland Security-funded Career Development Program presented their work with the Peer to Peer (P2P): Challenging Extremism initiative, for which they earned Honorable Mention, a distinction reserved for the top ten teams out of 50 participants. Read more.

Graduate Certificate bridges master’s and doctoral programs
Like many others, Sarah Muskovitz became interested in terrorism studies in college. But unlike others, it wasn’t a dynamic professor or cool course that piqued her interest; it was where she lived. Her experiences in a large Somali neighborhood in Minneapolis shaped her research interests and led her to enroll in START’s Graduate Certificate in Terrorism Analysis. Read more.
NIH fellow, former START intern strives to create culture of responsible scientific investigation
As Marissa Latterman works her way through a competitive fellowship with the National Institutes of Health, she finds herself calling upon her training as a Chemical Biological Special Projects Intern for START. Read more.

START recognized for expanding access for underrepresented students
The University of Maryland’s President’s Commission on Ethic Minority Issues (PCEMI) recently honored START’s education team with an award for its work promoting diversity. In the past few years, START’s Terrorism Studies Program has raised its racial and ethnic minority representation from approximately 20 percent to nearly 40 percent, thereby reaching similar levels of minority student representation as is characterized by the University as a whole. Read more.

A trip to Tohoku inspires new START study abroad program
After planning the trip one year ago, Meredith Collier, START’s Education and Curriculum Development Research Assistant, and 18 University of Maryland students travelled to Tohoku, Japan, where they learned the meaning of kizuna and about the region’s recovery from a magnitude-9 earthquake that killed more than 18,000 citizens in March 2011. Read more.

Technology Transition

With its E2E initiative, START proposes to support this vital DHS mission of ensuring that government officials and law enforcement officers are empowered with the information and resources that they need to prevent violence linked to extremism. More specifically, through a four-year initiative called Supporting CVE Efforts through Resources and Training (CVE R&T), START will:

  1. Develop objective and scientifically validated resources designed to enhance expertise about dynamics of extremist violence for those engaged in CVE efforts at the Federal, state, local and tribal levels, and  
  2. Disseminate CVE training materials and courses rooted in scientific research, throughout DHS and to its partner agencies.



Research Partners

American University

Bilkent University

Bowie State University

Bryn Mawr College

California State University, Fullerton

Center for Biosecurity, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

Columbia University

Dartmouth College

Decision Path, Inc

Florida International University

George Mason University

Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya

John Jay College, CUNY

King's College London

Liverpool University

Marquette University

Michigan State University

Morehouse College

National Opinion Research Center, University of Chicago

Naval Postgraduate School

North Carolina Central University

North Dakota State University

Pennsylvania State University

Phoenix College, Maricopa Community College

Rush University Medical Center

Rutgers University

Southern Illinois University

Stanford University

State University of New York (SUNY)

University of Arizone

University of Arkansas

University of Colorado

University of Haifa

University of Illinois, Chicago

University of Nebraska, Ohama

University of Oklahoma

University of South Carolina

University of Wiconsin

Villanova University

Wesleyan University