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 Prof. 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 United Kingdom 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,” said Horgan. “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 Prof. 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 first-hand 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,” said Bloom. “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.
Both projects also represent unprecedented international efforts for the CTSS, which launched in September 2013 when Horgan – a member of the FBI National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime’s research working group whose research focuses on terrorist behavior – and Bloom – a former member of the Council on Foreign Relations whose expertise is in understanding suicide terrorism and the victimization of women and children in political violence – joined the UMass Lowell faculty.
“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,” said Horgan.
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.
The Minerva Initiative was launched by the Secretary of Defense in 2008 to focus on areas of strategic importance to U.S. national security policy. Its goal is to improve the Department of Defense’s basic understanding of the social, cultural, behavioral, and political forces that shape regions of the world of strategic importance to the U.S.
In addition to UMass Lowell, 10 other universities were selected to receive Minerva grants, including Columbia University, Cornell University and University of California, San Diego.
UMass Lowell is a national university located on a high-energy campus in the heart of a global community. The university offers its 17,000 students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business, education, engineering, fine arts, health, humanities, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs, vigorous hands-on learning and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be ready for work, for life and for all the world offers. www.uml.edu