*** This page provided information about the first international conference on Behavioural and Social Sciences in Security, hosted by CREST at Lancaster University in July, 2018. The conference has now finished and this page has been archived. ***

We are delighted to announce our two keynote speakers for BASS18: Brett Kubicek from Public Safety Canada and Professor Michele Grossman from Deakin University, Australia.

BASS18 keynote address with drinks reception

11th July, 17:30 – 19:30

Brett Kubicek, Research Manager, Canada Centre for Community Engagement and Prevention of Violence, Public Safety Canada, Government of Canada.

Ambiguous questions, sensitive topics, and messy data: How (nevertheless) government learns from research
In a field like countering radicalisation to violence, the common call to government is to address harms such as the impact of the online environment, and narratives of violent extremism; to intervene in processes such as escalation of behaviour towards acts of serious violence; and to build on strengths such as collaboration among frontline professionals, or the characteristics that make communities resilient. Often the call is to move quickly – and to make it evidence-based.

With initiatives like CREST, or the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society (TSAS), we see investment in research outside government to help provide such evidence. Both aim to better connect researchers with policymakers and practitioners, and both face barriers, as from the differences in vocabularies, norms, responsibilities, and timelines. Such differences can complicate efforts to identify clear, feasible research questions that are relevant to policy and practice, as well as grounded in broader bodies of knowledge.

Then, even if there is clarity on a question, there can be barriers to gathering evidence. Beyond restrictions and reluctance on sharing data, key populations may decline to participate given the subject matter.
This presentation aims to show how, despite such barriers, relevant research is produced, and how it is used within government. Much of the story is about collaboration over time, not only between ‘government’ and ‘research,’ but among multiple agencies, academic disciplines, and actors from practitioner, community, and, increasingly, private sector groups. The story is also about connecting the local to the international. While examples about how government learns – and where we are seeking new evidence now – will largely be drawn from Canada, most are decidedly connected to research, policy and practice in the UK and beyond.


BASS18 keynote address

12th July, 09:15 – 10:15

Professor Michele Grossman, Research Chair in Diversity and Community Resilience, Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation, Deakin University, Australia

Remapping the ‘human terrain’ of security risks and protections: Preventing violent extremism at the crossroads
The trope of ‘human terrain systems’ (HTS) began its short lifespan in 2007 as a USA Army program that employed social scientists from various disciplines to help military commanders and trainers understand more about the cultural, social and linguistic characteristics of foreign regions where the military was deployed, often with little to no prior grasp of local cultural and social conditions and dispositions. The primary goal of ‘human terrain systems’ was to develop techniques for the rapid mapping and apprehension of unfamiliar cultural and social characteristics (as already occurred in mapping the geographical terrain) that would help maximise mission success and reduce risks to both Army personnel and the military interventions they were responsible for staging.

A mounting barrage of criticism and concerns accompanied the funding and implementation of HTS, a steady roll-call of social scientists and scholarly bodies withdrew from participation, and the program finally ceased operation in 2014. However, its legacy arguably lingers, in both fleeting and ephemeral forms, in some contemporary policy and thinking on domestic efforts to prevent and counter violent extremism.
In this presentation, I would like to suggest some benefits for reclaiming the trope of ‘human terrain’ from its damaged history as a failed military program, and reconsider what the ‘human terrain’ of both understanding and preventing violent extremism might look like as a prosocial project: one that recognises, respects and harnesses the capacity of ‘everyday experts’ in our own communities to help us understand the who and the why of pathways both into and out of terrorist ideologies and actions; the human vulnerabilities and human capital inherent in intelligence-gathering and decision-making, and the convergence of human and systems-based knowledge in identifying and protecting against security risks. In an age in which algorithms now vie with alphabets, and in which ‘artificial’ or ‘machine’ intelligence is compelling reassessments of ‘authentic’ or ‘human’ intelligence, is timely to ask whether altered concepts of what constitutes ‘human’ (or indeed post-human) terrain can help us navigate the current crossroads at which understanding and preventing violent extremisms now sit.

Further information
Michele is also part of CREST funded commissioned project: Community Reporting Of Violent Extremist Activity And Involvement In Foreign Conflict. Read more about this project here.