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Graig Klein awarded an ERC Starting Grant

Graig Klein, assistant professor at the Institute of Security of Global Affairs (ISGA), has been awarded a Starting Grant by the European Research Council (ERC) for his project TERGAP. With this 1.500.000 euro grant Klein and his research team will investigate terrorist groups’ decision-making and strategic violence.

The TERGAP project explores how terrorist groups adapt their violence in response to new opportunities to recruit created by government repression of protesters and changes in counterterrorism policies and practices. The idea is to uncover patterns in violence by examining and measuring terrorist groups’ objectives with more accuracy.

Predict terrorist violence and strengthen civilians’ safety and security

The project aims to improve our ability to predict terrorist violence and therefore strengthen civilians’ safety and security. To accomplish this, first, the research group will focus on theory building, introduce the strategy of retribution and test the hypotheses using existing datasets on terrorist attacks and government repression.
Second, the theory and empirical testing are expanded to account for counterterrorism, which requires creating two novel cross-national databases. One database focuses on coding policies using primary documents while the other focuses on counterterrorism actions and events.
The researchers will use large language models to collect, categorise, and code counterterrorism events from news/media reports and stories.
And finally, they will apply big data analytical tools to identify crucial patterns in terrorist violence and adaptation in response to counterterrorism policies and counter-terrorist actions.

‘Better predicting terrorist attacks means we can more efficiently allocate national security resources, challenge arguments about the needs of comprehensive and invasive surveillance.' - Klein

Why is doing research to improve the ability to predict terrorist violence so important?

Klein: ‘Better predicting terrorist attacks means we can more efficiently allocate national security resources, challenge arguments about the needs of comprehensive and invasive surveillance, and by showing how government repression and repressive policies can increase and influence terrorism, it could improve citizens’ civil liberties and political rights.’

What will the research team use this funding for?

Klein: ‘The funding will be used to hire one PhD researcher for four years, one Postdoc researcher for two years, and up to seven student research assistants, as well as support conference participation for the research team, and other technical and operational costs’

What does obtaining this starting grant mean to you personally?

Klein: ‘I moved my family overseas and joined the Institute of Security & Global Affairs at Leiden University because I thought it offered a strong and supportive research environment. Winning an ERC Starting Grant verifies my choice. It is motivating and exciting to be able to build a research team that could transform how we think about terrorist groups and other violent non-state actors’ strategic use of violence and to have an impact on how other researchers study terrorism.’

ERC Starting Grants

The ERC Starting Grants are designed to support excellent Principal Investigators at the career stage at which they are starting their own independent research team or programme. Principal Investigators must demonstrate the ground-breaking nature, ambition, and feasibility of their research proposal. 

Text: Graig Klein and Benedicte Dobbinga

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