Understanding the behaviour of analysts working with online violent extremist content

Supervised by Prof Jessica Woodhams and Dr Fazeelat Duran together with Tech Against Terrorism.

To apply for this project, please include ‘Woodhams & Tech Against Terrorism’ as the project descriptor in the subject heading of your email. 

We have recently published a model (Woodhams & Duran, 2024) that proposes a series of mechanisms through which workplace exposure to disturbing terrorism and violent extremism content can lead to psychological harm. How personnel cope while working with the material and afterwards (which includes cognitive, emotional and behavioural strategies) can increase or decrease the risk of psychological harm from such exposure depending on the factor. We have been testing our model with analysts who work with sexual violence occurring in the physical world (Duran & Woodhams, 2022, 2023). 

Through our partnership with Tech Against Terrorism, the successful candidate will investigate how behaviour is implicated as a risk or resilience factor when exposed to terrorism and violent extremist material online via a longitudinal design which includes interviews, surveys and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The successful candidate will also work with Tech Against Terrorism (TAT) to find potential ways in which staff could be protected from such workplace exposure based on the research findings. The studentship includes a placement with Tech Against Terrorism allowing for work-shadowing of operational staff, engagement in TAT projects, drafting of reports and blogs, and presenting at events co-organised by TAT and other global partners. 

We are looking for a highly talented and dedicated PhD student with a 1st class or 2:1 degree in the field of Psychology or Neuroscience. An MSc degree in a relevant area is desirable though not necessary. Previous experience with qualitative analysis or MRI methods would be desirable. Existing vetting would also be desirable but is not essential. 

Informal enquiries about the project prior to application can be directed to members of the supervisory team: Professor Jessica Woodhams (J.Woodhams@bham.ac.uk), Dr Fazeelat Duran (F.L.Duran@bham.ac.uk), or Dr Stephane De Brito (S.A.DeBrito@bham.ac.uk).

Find out more about Tech Against Terrorism