2017 ISA Conference Series: Studying Terrorism Empirically with Dr. Gary LaFree (START)

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The National Consortium for the Study and Responses to Terrorism (START), launched in 2005, is a university-based research and education center comprised of an international network of scholars committed to the scientific study of the causes and human consequences of terrorism in the United States and around the world. A Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence headquartered at the University of Maryland, START supports the research efforts of leading social scientists at more than 50 academic and research institutions, each of whom is conducting original investigations into fundamental questions about terrorism. START has developed educational materials and programs specifically designed for instructors and students at the secondary, university, and graduate levels. Educational resources available through START include relevant teaching tools and a range of unique data sources that can be integrated into an array of courses to deepen students' understanding of the dynamics of terrorism. START also has internships and funding opportunities available to undergraduate and graduate students engaged in terrorism research.

Among the network of scholars, some of which have been featured on Intelligence. Unclassified. over the last several weeks, is Dr. Gary LaFree, who not only leads START as its Director, but also teaches as a criminology professor at the University of Maryland. Today, he and Intelligence Analyst Paige Schilling discuss a variety of topics in the study of terrorism, including the difficulties of gathering information, the government’s approach when it comes to international versus domestic terrorism, and the inspiration for writing his recent book, Countering Terrorism.




Director, START; Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice

Gary Lafree, START Director and Professor in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Maryland. Between 2015 and 2016, LaFree published seven refereed research articles, co-authored two books, and wrote five book chapters. Continuing his momentum, LaFree has published two books so far this year with another book and three book chapters forthcoming. As if that were not enough, he has also returned to the classroom this spring semester. It has been 12 years since LaFree last taught undergraduates in a formal classroom setting. This semester, he is teaching 25 UMD juniors and seniors in a seminar in Criminology and Criminal Justice called “Causes and Consequences of Terrorism.” The course approaches terrorism from a criminological perspective and covers major theories of radicalization, terrorism and political violence, in addition to trends and patterns of worldwide terrorism.

LaFree also bridges the gaps between in-depth research and big picture studies in his recent publications. With “Putting Terrorism in Context: Insights from the Global Terrorism Database,” which he co-authored with Laura Dugan and Erin Miller, he emphasized in-depth statistical analysis. While the GTD book plays to his statistical side, his new book with Martha Crenshaw, “Countering Terrorism” addresses big picture policy issues. Looking to the future, LaFree is pursuing several projects at the moment, including a project on the impact of global warming on piracy and another on the religiosity of groups and their support (or lack thereof) of violence.