Matthew Francis

CREST Executive Director

Matthew heads up CREST’s executive agendas, encompassing its rapid research commissioning process, communication programme, networking programme and capacity building activities.

With responsibility for delivering strategic leadership to these activities, Matthew liaises with CREST’s key academic and governmental stakeholders, looking to drive forward CREST’s research, engagement and capacity building agendas in ways that maximise research excellence and impact, and help ensure CREST delivers on its national capability for all users.

Matthew was previously CREST’s Communications Director, and he founded and edited CREST Security Review and along with the communications team produced CREST outputs such as this website, the CREST guides and other resources.

Previously, as a Research Fellow at Lancaster University, his work focused on the move to violence in religious and non-religious groups. In particular he researched the significance of shared non-negotiable (or sacred) beliefs through coding the public utterances of members and leaders of groups. He focused on groups including Aum Shinrikyo, al Qaeda, the Red Army Faction, Agonshu, the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee and Hizb ut-Tahrir.

He has previously researched minority faith groups as well as religious literacy. He founded and is Editor of the website, which brings high-quality academic research on radicalisation and extremism to the attention of people working in policy and media settings.

Personal webpage

Project information

Matthew is part of the Ideas, Beliefs And Values In Social Context programme. Read more about this project here.

Recent publications

Dinham, A., Francis, M. and Shaw, M. (2017). Towards a Theory and Practice of Religious Literacy: A Case Study of Religion and Belief Engagement in a UK University. Religions 8 (12).
Francis, M., van Eck Duymaer van Twist, A. (2015). Religious literacy, radicalisation and extremism. In A. Dinham & M. Francis (Eds.) Religious literacy in policy and practice. Bristol: Policy Press p. 257-270.
Francis, M. (2015) Why the “sacred” is a better resource than “religion” for understanding terrorism. Terrorism and Political Violence. (Early online publication). DOI:10.1080/09546553.2014.976625.
Dinham, A., Francis, M. (2015). Religious literacy in policy and practice.Bristol: Policy Press.
Francis, M., Knott, K., “Return? It never left.”: exploring the “sacred” as a resource for bridging the gap between the religious and the secular. In Kutz, C., Riss, H., Roy, O. 2015 Religious norms in the public sphere. Florence, Italy: European University Institute.
Knott, K., McFadyen, A., McLoughlin, S., Francis, M. (2006). The Roots, Practices and Consequences of Terrorism: A Literature Review of Research in the Arts & Humanities, Final Report (for the Home Office). University of Leeds.

More from Matthew…


Communications Poster

Communicating CREST research by Communications Director, Matthew Francis. Our world-leading research is irrelevant if practitioners, policy-makers and other stakeholders do not get to hear...Read More »

What do Islamic extremists mean?

Jihad is a term that we hear often, in martyrdom videos, Islamic State magazines and on the front pages of Western newspapers. But ‘jihad’...Read More »

Are converts to Islam more likely to become extremists?

CREST researchers Matthew Francis and Kim Knott write about the process of conversion in Islam and challenge the idea that converts are likely to...Read More »

When does inconsistency matter?

Does it matter when someone seems to change their story from one interview to another – if they’ve added some new information or contradict...Read More »

How unexpected questions can catch out liars

Aldert Vrij and Matthew Francis write about how an interview technique – asking unexpected questions – can help catch out liars. One of the...Read More »

The Cognitive Interview: How Research has improved Practice

How has research improved the practice of interviewing? Matthew Francis and Emma Barrett look at how new techniques are helping police in the UK...Read More »

What’s the difference between Sunni and Shi’a Muslims?

Understanding the differences between the two most populous branches of Islam is essential for comprehending many of the geo-political conflicts in the Middle East...Read More »

Terrorists’ use of messaging applications

Matthew Francis and Emma Barrett look at how emerging technologies have changed terrorist behaviour in the past and suggest that we should think about...Read More »

Research drives understanding and disruption of terrorism

Dr Matthew Francis, Senior Research Associate at Lancaster University looks at how recent research in universities is driving the understanding, countering and mitigation of...Read More »

Paris attacks: there is no simple explanation

The French authorities have named one of the attackers who terrorised Paris on November 13 as Omar Ismail Mostefai, a French national who was...Read More »

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