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The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) is a counter-terrorism research center based at the University of Maryland, College Park. It is a Homeland Security Center of Excellence. It informs decisions on how to disrupt terrorists and terrorist groups, while strengthening the resilience of U.S. citizens to terrorist attacks.. It maintains the publicly available Global Terrorism Database.

Mission & Vision

START's Mission: To advance science-based knowledge about the human causes and consequences of terrorism as a leading resource for homeland security policymakers and practitioners.

START's Vision: START will provide homeland security policy-makers and practitioners with the highest quality, data-driven research findings on the human causes and consequences of terrorism in an effort to ensure that homeland security policies and operations reflect these understandings about human behaviors.

History

The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) was established in 2005 as a U.S. Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence, tasked with utilizing state-of-the-art theories, methods, and data from the social and behavioral sciences to improve the understanding of the origins, dynamics, and social and psychological impacts of terrorism. START was funded by an initial $12 million grant from DHS to complete projects in the research areas of terrorist group formation and recruitment, terrorist group persistence and dynamics, and societal responses to terrorist threats and attacks.

START was awarded a 3-year renewal grant from DHS in 2008 to sponsor new and continuing research projects related to the core research areas of radicalization, terrorist operations and interventions, and community resilience relative to the terrorist threat.

Since its inception, START has furthered its mission through hundreds of publications in peer-reviewed academic journals, dozens of public events, and extensive consultations by government agencies and Congress on issues related to terrorism and homeland security. This includes frequent testimony before Congress and hundreds of requests for assistance or advice from DHS and other federal, state, and local government agencies. For more information on START research, see the START Research Review or http://www.start.umd.edu/start/research/.

Consistent with its goal of training and mentoring a new generation of scholars and analysts, START launched a Terrorism Studies Minor Program at the University of Maryland in 2007. START emphasizes a variety of approaches to education, including undergraduate and graduate learning opportunities, professional development training, mentor programs, and public presentations, brown bags and webinars. In order to provide educational opportunities to a broader audience, in 2010 START launched an online Graduate Certificate in Terrorism Analysis. More information on START Educational Programs can be found at: http://www.start.umd.edu/start/education/.

In 2009, START was recognized by DHS for outstanding contributions to the security of the United States for its long-term support of the Global Terrorism Database (GTD); an open-source database including information on over 87,000 domestic and international terrorist events around the world since 1970. More information on the GTD can be found at http://www.start.umd.edu/gtd/.

Research Projects

START produces cutting-edge research related to three questions:

  1. Under what conditions does an individual or a group turn to terrorism to pursue its goals? What is the nature of the radicalization process?
  2. What attack patterns have different terrorists demonstrated during the past forty years? How has terrorist behavior evolved? And, what does this indicate about likely future terrorist activity?
  3. What impact does terrorism and the threat of terrorism have on communities, and how can societies enhance their resilience to minimize the potential impacts of future attacks?

In 2009, START released its Research Review, the first in the series. START’s 2009 Research Review presents nine of its policy relevant projects in the review, as well as summaries of 23 other finished projects and a look into ongoing research within the Consortium.

Data Collections

Global Terrorism Database (GTD)

The Global Terrorism Database (GTD) is an open-source database including information on terrorist events around the world since 1970 (currently updated through 2007). Unlike many other event databases, the GTD includes systematic data on international as well as domestic terrorist incidents that have occurred during this time period and now includes over 80,000 cases. For each GTD incident, information is available on the date and location of the incident, the weapons used and nature of the target, the number of casualties, and -- when identifiable -- the identity of the perpetrator.

Terrorist Organization Profiles (TOPs)

The Terrorist Organization Profiles (TOPs) data collection provides background information on more than 850 organizations that have been known to engage in terrorist activity around the world during the last four decades. Included for each organization is information on bases of operations, organizational strength, ideology, and goals. These data were collected for the Terrorism Knowledge Base® (TKB®), managed by the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism (MIPT) until March 2008. START has neither reviewed nor verified these data, but is presenting this information as a service to the homeland security community.

Minorities at Risk Organizational Behavior (MAROB)

Minorities at Risk Organizational Behavior (MAROB) is an open-source dataset covering political organizations representing the interests of ethnic groups whose political status and behavior is tracked by the Minorities at Risk project. MAROB gathers information on more than 163 variables for both violent and non-violent organizations, allowing for comparisons between the two. Currently, the dataset covers 112 organizations representing 22 ethnic groups in 12 countries of the Middle East and North Africa and operating between 1980 and 2004. Future MAROB data collection will extend to other regions, including Europe, South Asia and Latin America. An update of the Middle East and North Africa data through 2007 is also underway.

Terrorism & Preparedness Data Resource Center (TPDRC)

The Terrorism & Preparedness Data Resource Center (TPDRC) is housed at the University of Michigan's Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR). TPDRC archives and distributes data from a variety of sources. It also organizes and streamlines access to extant research and administrative data from across the world that are relevant to the study of terrorism and the response to terrorism for descriptive and scientific analysis by academics and researchers. TPDRC is jointly managed by START, Michigan State University's School of Criminal Justice, and the University of Michigan's National Archive of Criminal Justice Data.

Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI)

The Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute at the University of South Carolina has released a Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI) for the United States. SoVI provides comparative data at the county level on social vulnerability to hazards and extreme events, based on the synthesis of 42 socioeconomic, demographic, and built environment variables. The county-level data have been geo-coded, facilitating comparison of vulnerability within and across states.

Educational Opportunities

START is working to produce individuals who will be dedicated to research, teaching, and analysis on issues related to the formation and behavior of terrorists and terrorist groups as well as the impacts that the threat of terrorism and terrorist acts hold for individuals, groups, and societies. Some education initiatives include:

Terrorism Studies Minor Program:

The Terrorism Studies Minor Program provides University of Maryland undergraduates the opportunity to declare a minor field of expertise in Terrorism Studies. Students participate in a 5-course sequence designed to expose students to the wide array of social-science-based literature on topics related to terrorism and to begin preparing them for either graduate study related to terrorism or professional advancement in fields related to homeland security.

Homeland Security Federal Semester:

Homeland Security Federal Semester provides University of Maryland undergraduates the opportunity to study the federal policy-making process as it relates to homeland security topics.

Terrorism and International Security Odyssey Workshop:

The Terrorism and International Security Odyssey Workshop provides a one-day event for 7th through 10th graders interested in learning about trends and patterns of terrorist activity.

START Study Abroad Program:

START offers a three-week study abroad program for undergraduate and graduate students from any institution. START leads a program each January to visit a foreign-based center affiliated with START.

Terrorism Analysis Graduate Certificate Program:

The Terrorism Analysis Graduate Certificate Program, a fully online four-course program, aims to provide interested participants with advanced education on the causes, impacts, and dynamics of both domestic and international terrorism.

Teaching Opportunities:

START frequently has opportunities for individuals to teach in-person and online courses at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

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