September 28, 2012
START Annual Meeting focuses on maximizing relevance of research
BY JESSICA RIVINIUS
More than 75 of the country’s top terrorism scholars gathered this month for the Annual Meeting of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START). During the two-day meeting, attendees introduced new research, shared findings from current and completed research, and heard from a variety of distinguished government representatives and homeland security practitioners.
Maximizing the relevance of START research for analysts, policymakers, security professionals and other scholars was a central theme of the meeting. To guide that discussion, START opened the meeting with an address from Deputy Assistant Director Jenny Ley of the FBI Counterterrorism Division. The senior intelligence analyst provided insight into the multifaceted threats facing the nation the operational environment in which counterterrorism professionals work to address those threats.
John Cohen, Principal Deputy Counterterrorism Coordinator of the Department of Homeland Security and Senior Advisor to Secretary Napolitano, gave the keynote address, discussing how research plays an important role in decision-making. He also expressed his gratitude for the work of START researchers in providing tools and knowledge for understanding violent extremism both abroad and here in the United States.
A panel discussion with traditional and non-traditional research funders further enlightened attendees on the funding process and how they can improve the likelihood of support for a project. The funding panel included: Elisa Bienenstock of the Army Research Office; Erin Fitzgerald of the Minerva Research Initiative; Joseph Lyons of the Air Force Office of Scientific Research; and John Picarelli of the National Institute for Justice.
Senior national security professionals participated in a second panel on how research is and can be put to use in policy and practice. Spearheading that discussion were panelists: Donald Van Duyn, career CIA Analyst and former FBI chief intelligence officer; Quintan Wiktorowicz, Senior Director for Community Partnerships on the National Security Council; an FBI Special Agent with significant experience investigating international terrorism; and Donald Conroy, director of the National Targeting Center—Passenger in support of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
“It is inspiring to learn from professionals who have served at the apex of their respective disciplines in the counterterrorism arena, and realize that START research helps them make consequential decisions, in addition to informing the broader counterterrorism community,” stated Bill Braniff, Executive Director of the START Consortium. “It highlights the importance of generating objective data and analysis with respect to the most relevant research questions, and packaging that information to maximize its utility. This is an educational exercise, and we’re energized to take it on.”
The meeting also provided researchers the chance to network with one another, as well as with START alumni (former interns, minor or graduate students). Many of the alumni – nearly 90 percent of the students who minored in global terrorism – are now working or researching in the homeland security field.
The Annual Meeting was supported by the Department of Homeland Security Office of University Programs.