A consortium of researchers dedicated to improving the understanding of the human causes and consequences of terrorism



The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism—better known as STARTis 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 Emeritus 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, including:

  • What is the nature of terrorism in the world today? How has terrorist activity evolved over time? How does terrorism vary across geographies? And what do these trends indicate about likely future terrorism?
  • Under what conditions does an individual or a group turn to terrorism to pursue its goals? What is the nature of the radicalization process?
  • How does terrorism end? What are the processes of deradicalization and disengagement from terrorism for groups and individuals?
  • What actions can governments take to counter the threat of terrorism?
  • 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?

START experts apply a range of research methods to the exploration of these questions in order to deliver findings based on the best available open-source evidence and data. At the heart of START's work are the principles that the research it is conducting must be both scientifically rigorous and directly relevant to homeland security professionals.

START is committed to the widespread dissemination of its research findings not only to homeland security professionals through tailored research, education and training efforts, but also to students of all levels and to the general public. 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.

From its launch in 2005 through 2018, START was headed by Dr. Gary LaFree, now the Chair of the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Maryland, and in 2018 Maryland Professor of the Practice William Braniff took the helm as Director. START's work is managed by a staff of terrorism experts and university administrators at the University of Maryland, who work closely with the collection of scholars and students that comprise the START Consortium.

START is a part of the collection of Centers of Excellence supported by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate and also receives funding and support from a variety of Federal agencies, private foundations, and universities. All of START's research is conducted using non-classified materials and its findings are those of individual researchers and do not reflect the official position of any START funders.


START has developed multiple training and educational programs, for those early on in their careers and for professionals seeking to further develop their careers. Small class sizes allow students to absorb and retain information from staff comprised of experts in the field, which allows them to complete their programs with a comprehensive and thorough knowledge of security and terrorism.

Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Security and Terrorism Studies: START offers a fully online Master of Professional Studies (MPS) degree in Security and Terrorism Studies through the University of Maryland's Graduate School. The program prepares students to examine the complex social, political, economic, and psychological underpinnings of terrorist and other asymmetric security threats, and is delivered in a synchronous format using multiple online platforms provided by the University of Maryland, College Park.

Graduate Certificate in Terrorism Analysis: START offers a fully online Graduate Certificate in Terrorism Analysis hosted through the University of Maryland's Graduate School. The flexible program (1-2 academic years) provides participants – both scholars and practitioners – with advanced education on the causes, dynamics and impacts of international and domestic terrorism. Applications for the Graduate Certificate are accepted at two points during each calendar year, in January and July.

Global Terrorism Studies Minor: This program provides University of Maryland undergraduates the opportunity to declare a minor field of expertise in Global Terrorism Studies. Students participate in a 7-course sequence designed to expose them to the wide array of social-science-based literature on topics related to terrorism. Through the minor, students study with leading faculty and practitioners and prepare for either graduate study related to terrorism studies or professional advancement in fields related to homeland security. Applications for the Global Terrorism Studies Minor are accepted once per calendar year, in February.

Internships: Research internships are held every fall, spring and summer term at the University of Maryland. Students work between 10-20 hours per week throughout their term and can pursue these opportunities for academic credit if desired. Applications for internships are typically due three months before the start date of the internship.

Summer/Winter Courses: START continually develops online summer and winter courses in the terrorism studies field. Past courses include: Psychology of Terrorism; Financing of Terrorism and Methods Deployed to Counter Terrorist Financing; Geography of Terrorism and more. These courses are offered through the University of Maryland’s Office of Extended Studies and are open to all individuals. 


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. Click here for more information on 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. Click here for more information on START Educational Programs.

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 more than 113,000 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/.

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