Our aim is to provide policymakers, journalists, and anyone whose work utilises concepts such as radicalisation, fundamentalism or extremism, with easy access to high-quality academic research on these controversial issues. By taking a non-partisan approach and providing access to the best, including the latest, research we hope to challenge ungrounded assumptions that may obscure a clear understanding of violent extremism, especially where that is associated with ‘Islamicism’.
Many of the pieces of research included here show how and why recent uses of the term ‘radicalisation’ can be misleading, especially when that term is used to refer to a simple process of ‘brainwashing’ which drives individuals along a conveyor belt from ‘normal’ to ‘violent’. There is growing evidence that there is no necessary connection between ‘extremist’ views and the resort to violence: other factors are involved. This also has implications for ‘de-radicalisation’.
The site was set up with funding from the Religion and Society Research Programme and subsequently sponsored by a Global Uncertainties project looking at ideology, decision-making and uncertainty. As such, it pays particular attention to the role religion plays in discourses of contemporary violence, and to the post-9/11 concern with Muslim extremism. Its primary aim is to inform the debates related to these topics.
As much of the research presented here indicates, it is problematic to think that there is something unique about Islam in relation to violent extremism. There are many comparable forms of both religious and secular violence, and historical and geographical comparisons are explored in several of the articles and books discussed on this site. Such comparative work is important in helping to clarify the current situation.
In 2022 the site encorporated VERE (Violent Extremism Research and Evidence) repository as part of the site. This repository was developed by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL), via a three year NATO research activity. VERE was designed and developed by members of a NATO Research Task Group (RTG-278), comprising a mix of government, academia, police and intelligence experts, representing a number of countries. The goal was to design a ‘one stop shop’ to enable different end users (including policy makers, frontline CT practitioners, researchers) to quickly and easily access good quality (empirical, scientific, evidence-based) materials to help them to understand specific topic areas and to inform their work. Topics cover radicalisation and violent extremism, with a particular emphasis on those who travel oversees to support terrorist groups and activities (e.g. 'foreign fighter'). The amalgamation of VERE with the existing Radicalisation Research repository allows for a more robust collection of resources.
Radicalisation Research is currently funded by the Centre for Research and Evidence on Security Threats. CREST is a national hub for understanding, countering and mitigating security threats, based at Lancaster University, and including researchers from the universities of Bath, Birmingham, Cranfield, Portsmouth and West England. CREST’s initial funding was secured following an open competitive process and is administered by the ESRC, with £4.35 million from the UK security and intelligence agencies and a further £2.2m invested by the founding institutions.
Radicalisation Research continues to operate on the same principles on which it was founded, namely highlighting and curating quality academic research regardless of whether this contradicts or criticises governments’ policies.
The website is supervised by an Advisory Board set up to ensure that all the research featured meets rigorous standards of peer-reviewed academic excellence. The members of the Board are:
- Linda Woodhead (Chair), Director of the AHRC/ESRC Religion and Society Programme and Professor of Sociology of Religion, Lancaster University
- Matthew Francis (Editor), Senior Research Associate, Global Uncertainties: Ideology, decision-making and uncertainty, Lancaster University
- Masooda Bano, ESRC Research Fellow, University of Oxford
- Jason Burke, South Asia Correspondent, The Guardian and Observer
- Anoush Ehteshami, Professor of International Relations at Durham University and Joint Director of the Centre for the Advanced Study of the Arab World
- Jonathan Githens-Mazer, Professor of Politics, University of Exeter
- Bridget Kendall, Diplomatic Correspondent, BBC
- Kim Knott, Global Uncertainties Fellow and Professor of Religious and Secular Studies, Lancaster University
- Khalid Mustafa Medani, Assistant Professor of Political Science & Islamic Studies, McGill University
- Ian Reader, Professor Emeritus, University of Manchester
- Mark Sedgwick, Associate Professor, Aarhus University
- Marat Shterin, Lecturer in Sociology of Religion, King’s College
- Sara Silvestri, Lecturer in Religion and International Politics, City University, London