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

Leadership:

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

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

Project Spotlights

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.
 
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.
 
Mass violence and extremism: Information for educators and school administrators
To better equip educators and school administrators to understand and appropriately respond to observable warning signs of potential mass violence and/or violent extremism in their schools, START and the Anti-Defamation League recently published a new backgrounder that explores the parallels between mass violence and extremism and offers a strategy to decrease the risk of those incidents. 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.

‘Designing Danger: Complex Engineering by Violent Non-State Actors’
In a special issue of the Journal of Strategic Security, START experts explore the threat of violent non-state actors (VNSAs) exploiting emerging technologies and executing complex engineering operations to facilitate their violent and criminal activities. The issue presents the results of a series of case studies of VNSAs and attempts to increase their capabilities through engaging in sophisticated engineering efforts. Read more.
 
New START database tracks nuclear facility security breaches
START has launched the Nuclear Facilities Attack Database (NuFAD), a global database recording 80 assaults, sabotages and unarmed breaches of nuclear facilities that have occurred since 1960. 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

Another look at jujitsu politics
Clark McCauley and Sophia Moskalenko discuss potential consequences of inflammatory rhetoric that uses terrorism as an argument for greater exclusion of Muslims, and why the Islamic State recruitment strategy is so powerful yet so hard to see. Read more.

Terrorist attacks show biggest decline in a decade; but let’s wait before celebrating
In this piece, Gary LaFree, Erin Miller and Michael Jensen discuss implications of some of the major findings in the State Department’s Country Reports on Terrorism 2015. The Global Terrorism Database provides the statistical annex for the report each year. Read more.


Implications of research on traumatic stress for CVE
In this editorial piece, Peter Weinberger writes about the factor of trauma and traumatic stress in the life circumstances of people who have become radicalized to violence, and what this could mean for CVE efforts. Read more

From WWI to ISIS, Using Shame and Masculinity in Recruitment Narratives
Alejandro Beutel and Krystina Perez write this piece on some of the psychological underpinnings of terrorist recruitment, particularly how propaganda videos as messengers for shame and emasculation appeal to young men, women and children. Read more.
 

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.

From playing with zoo animals to studying terrorists: An intern’s varied interests
Daughter of a zoologist, START intern Tayler Schmidt spent her formative years playing with exotic animals. Now at START, she’s working on something she feels is equally exciting – understanding domestic radicalization. Read more.

START interns present at Federal Fellows and Global Fellows program Academic Capstone Reception
Last month, Marina Farrugia, a participant in UMD’s Federal Fellows and Global Fellows program gave a presentation on her internship experience at START at the program’s Academic Capstone Reception. Several other START interns also participated in the event. Read more.

Narratives/Counter-Narratives intern receives award for on-campus reporting on discrimination against Muslim students
Antoinette D’Addario’s experience at START inspired her to write an award-winning piece on the stigmatization of American Muslims, particularly Muslim students, for a magazine publication at American University. Read more.

START intern has sights set on serving United States

You can say that service to the United States is in her blood. START intern Sarah Martin grew up in a military family that emphasized a commitment to their country. Through her work on the Profiles of Individual Radicalization in the U.S. project at START, Martin hopes to equip practitioners with the tools they need to promote peace. Read more.

Students launch No Hate USA campaign to counter extremist messaging
“How have you proved the haters wrong?” The question is sweeping across social media platforms thanks to a group of University of Maryland students attempting to oppose the online recruiting efforts of terrorist groups and other violent extremists. Read more.

START student wins Fulbright Award
Global Terrorism Minor student Julia Connell earned a coveted spot in the English Teaching Assistantship Program through the Fulbright- Turkish Higher Education Council. She will spend nine months in Turkey starting this fall. Read more.

Freshmen add a spark to risk communication and resilience research
Twenty-five University of Maryland freshmen are lighting a fire beneath START’s Risk Communication and Resilience research. Part of the university’s highly competitive First-Year Innovation & Research Experience (FIRE) program, the students are working on several START projects. 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.

Armed with nationally competitive awards, START students travel globe
As another academic year comes to a close, a round of exciting futures are beginning for START students as they move on to travel different parts of the world, representing University of Maryland through their well-earned scholarships and awards: Boren Scholarships, Fulbright Fellowship, Critical Language Scholarship, Do Good Challenge Award. 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