Sun Staff Report
LOWELL -- Researchers from UMass Lowell's Center for Terrorism and Security Studies (CTSS) will launch two studies on terrorist behavior after being selected for $2 million in grants from the Minerva Initiative, according to a university announcement on Thursday.
The Minerva Initiative, a Department of Defense-sponsored, university-based social science research group, announced 12 awards for 2014, with UMass Lowell being the only university selected to receive two.
UMass Lowell professor and CTSS director John Horgan, with his colleague Professor Scott Flower from the University of Melbourne, Australia, were selected to receive a $1.13 million Minerva grant for their project "Understanding American Muslim Converts in the Contexts of Security and Society."
Horgan and Flower will spearhead a team of international researchers from Australia, the U.K. and the U.S. to examine the role of Muslim converts from the U.S. and explore why they are statistically overrepresented in Islamic extremist activity.
"We are shooting for the stars on this project," Horgan said. "We've assembled a dream team of experts on converts and their relationship to security and terrorism. This project represents interdisciplinary collaboration at its very best."
UMass Lowell Professor Mia Bloom's project mapping the pathways of children's mobilization into terrorism was selected to receive a $941,169 Minerva grant. The project, "Preventing the Next Generation," will examine how and why children are increasingly involved in terrorist operations in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Israel-Palestine, Iraq, Syria and Somalia.
Bloom will coordinate a major effort teaming local researchers, including Horgan and Dr. Heidi Ellis from Boston Children's Hospital, with regional partners across multiple sites. The project builds on Bloom and Horgan's recent trips to Pakistan, during which they saw the impact of child recruitment into the Pakistani Taliban and its effect on communities across the region.
"We've noticed an increasing trend of terrorist organizations using children," Bloom said. "This research is intended to identify precisely how children get involved and how to interrupt and stop the process. The research will contrast children in terrorist groups with child soldiers and children in gangs to better understand how they are alike and how they differ."
The projects will significantly expand the nature and scope of academic research on terrorism and will provide cutting-edge social science research into areas that are currently poorly understood by academics and policymakers alike, according to the university.
"We are incredibly excited, and profoundly grateful to the Minerva Research Initiative for supporting us. These projects represent some of the most exciting and urgent research any of us has ever done and we look forward to sharing our findings in the years to come," Horgan said.
The CTSS leads and facilitates scientific research, education and training to help understand and respond to the evolution, convergence and complexity of domestic and foreign security challenges. CTSS examines practitioner-oriented and policy-relevant issues from multiple academic perspectives and methodologies. CTSS research is evidence-driven and non-partisan.
In addition to UMass Lowell, 10 other universities were selected to receive Minerva grants, including Columbia University and Cornell University.