Centre for the Analysis of Social Policy

Understanding and explaining terrorism expertise in practice

David Miller 

Principal Investigator: David Miller

Funder: ESRC Global Uncertainties Leadership Fellowship

Duration: January 2013 - July 2015


Project rationale and aims

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Departmental themes
Institute for Policy Research themes
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Because terrorism and counter-terrorism are highly significant issues in international relations and domestic politics, terrorism expertise is a valued asset in public policy, the criminal justice system, in media institutions and other domains. However, the most highly cited scholars writing on terrorism overlap only minimally with 'experts' most often cited in the news media (Miller and Mills 2009). Why is this? The aim of the project is to understand the social production, use and impact of terrorism 'expertise'; how and why it differs across selected domains and to assess why 'evidence based' approaches are not always the most intensively utilised. The overall aim of this project is to better understand terrorism expertise and to enable academics and other research users to more effectively make use of 'evidence based' research on terrorism.

The proposed research study will explore:

  • Which people and institutions are designated as 'experts' in a variety of arenas, their degree of prominence across the range of arenas and the extent to which 'expertise' appears to be constituted differently in the various arenas
  • The scientific/academic, journalistic, legal, political and ideological qualifications and experience of the most prominent individuals and institutions; and the organisational, institutional, professional and financial arrangements in which they operate
  • How expertise in terrorism impacts on the various arenas in which it has a role; government policy, scientific/academic debate, the world of think tanks, the private sector, mass media, legal processes and in the public realm more generally

The research will provide an empirically grounded evidence base that can better inform public debate and policy decisions, particularly where the latter apply to the development of government strategies of 'counter-terrorism'.

Project outputs and impacts

  • To determine and analyse the processes of knowledge production particular to this field of knowledge
  • To determine the funding regime which supports the production of 'terrorism' knowledge in the public sector and in the world of think tanks and the private sector
  • To examine how knowledge claims around terrorism are subject to scrutiny and forms of peer review in a variety of domains
  • To examine how academic and government knowledge on terrorism is communicated to policy-relevant, academic and public audiences (what are the processes of dissemination particular to this field of knowledge)
  • To examine and ascertain the relationship between counter-terrorism practice (intelligence gathering, evidence-based policy and strategy etc.) and academic knowledge generation and dissemination
  • To produce guidance for both policymakers and media professionals on the use of terrorism knowledge