The Centre for Research and Evidence on Security Threats

How can we develop effective measures to understand, counter, and mitigate today's security threats?

In 2015, the Economic and Social Research Council launched the Centre for Research and Evidence on Security Threats (CREST) as a national hub for this task. Initially funded for three years with £4.35 million from the UK security and intelligence agencies, the Centre received further investment from the five founding institutions, including two part-time Ph.D. bursaries provided by College of Social Sciences at Birmingham.

Since its inception CREST has developed an interdisciplinary portfolio of activity, commissioned over £1.8 million of new research projects, established a network of Early Career Researchers (ECRs), and run a series of conferences and events. In POLSIS at Birmingham, Dr Cerwyn Moore leads an inter-disciplinary team of researchers examining the narratives of people who get involved in, and disengage from, terrorism. The team – known as the ‘Actors and Narratives’ group - includes an Honorary Professor, two Early Career Researchers (ECRs), two Co-Investigators, and a Research Fellow, each working on aspects of militancy, activism and disengagement.

The CREST programme of work in POLSIS draws on Cerwyn’s definition and analysis of foreign fighters, especially Russian-speaking groups involved in the conflict in Syria and the ideological implications of Islamic State (IS) for the insurgency in the North Caucasus. This has led to a series of publications by affiliates including essays by Mark Youngman in Terrorism and Political Violence and Caucasus Survey; co-authored commentaries, following the St Petersburg bombing, on Central Asian terror networks for RUSI; and an article on the domestic terrorism threat in Russia for The Conversation.

In collaboration with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Dr Moore and the ‘Actors and Narratives’ team have led a series of workshops, supported by an ESRC grant, focusing on the collapse of the Islamic State. The team have produced a copy of the CREST Security Review entitled ‘After IS’, and a series of workshop reports, some of which are available on the CREST website.

Meanwhile, other members of the team have published academic journal articles on extremism, and undertaken work on the emotional appeal of leadership communiques, disengagement, risk assessment, the English Defence League, and right-wing activism. Over the next few months, the team will release a major study of Russian-speaking foreign fighters, further workshop reports, and book chapters and article.

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Also see:

Cerwyn Moore, ‘Foreign Bodies: Transnational Activism, the Insurgency in the North Caucasus and “Beyond”’, Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol.27 Issue.3 (2015), pp.395-415.

Cerwyn Moore, ‘Russia’ in Andrew Silke (ed.) The Routledge Handbook of Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism, London: Routledge, 2017.

Cerwyn Moore, ‘Preface’ in Donald Holbrook (ed.) Al Qaeda 2.0: A Critical Reader, London: Hurst & Co, 2017.