A Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence led by the University of Maryland

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

START Symposium showcases impactful research, datasets


START Symposium showcases impactful research, datasets

Researchers and TRA winners presented research to large audience

September 25, 2013Mary Beck and Jessica Rivinius

Nearly 150 homeland security practitioners joined START this month for a one-day symposium on Sept. 11, highlighting some of the consortium’s most mature and impactful research efforts.

Attendees represented government offices and organizations including, the Department of Homeland Security, FEMA, DNDO, USSS, NSA, DOD, Department of Justice, FBI; as well as various international embassies. 

“START is committed to optimizing the utility of our research and educational efforts for the present and future counterterrorism community,” said Bill Braniff, START’s executive director, “whether that is by partnering with organiSTART Symposium 2013zations like Palantir to make the GTD accessible to an even broader range of practitioners, by hosting an event to highlight relevant datasets and adversary models, or by packaging our key findings into a new Massive Open Online Course that is available to professionals and the general public alike. Events like this one demonstrate START’s capability to inform policy and practice, which in turn generates trust and ultimately leads to productive partnerships in which a science-based understanding of terrorism can be put to use.”

Gary LaFree, START director, and Erin Miller, Global Terrorism Database manager, discussed the Global Terrorism Database (GTD), the world’s largest unclassified terrorist incident database. They spoke on best uses for its data, the innovations made to the GTD collection process and recent strategic partnerships.

They were joined by Caroline Crouch Henne from Palantir, who spoke about how her team has built a data visualization platform that makes the GTD more readily accessible to the law enforcement community and public. An analyst from the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis discussed the importance of utilizing open-source data to complement classified data. START Symposium 2013

Victor Asal and Karl Rethemeyer, both START researchers from the University at Albany, SUNY, then discussed a quantitative perspective on organizations and political violence. They explained how the Big, Allied and Dangerous (BAAD) and Minorities at Risk Organizational Behavior (MAROB) datasets help researchers and practitioners understand what makes organizations turn to violence in the first place and why some violent organizations are more lethal or more interested in weapons of mass destruction than others.

Gary Ackerman, Ruth Bluestone and Brandon Behlendorf, all START researchers at the University of Maryland, described the evolution and practical application of the prototype Transnational Illicit Trafficking Tool (TransIT). The TransIT tool is being developed by marrying the latest geospatial analysis techniques with data on adversary behavior, in order to identify trafficking “chokepoints” where scarce enforcement and detection resources can be focused. The initial application involved modeling the illicit movement of radiological and nuclear materials by transnational criminal organizations working on behalf of terrorists into the United States through Central America and the Caribbean Basin.

START Symposium 2013 START Terrorism Research Awardees and Undergraduate Research fellows also presented posters on their work. About 50 alumni of START internship and minor programs also attended a networking session after the symposium.

The symposium was funded through START by the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate Office of University Programs.

START plans to host a number of events this fall open to the public. They include:


Tuesday 10/01/2013: 12:00-1:30pm

Lecture: The Changing Nature of Radicalization in Pakistan, Shazadi Beg START HQ, 8400 Baltimore Avenue, College Park. RSVPs to infostart@start.umd.edu are appreciated but not required.


Tuesday 10/08/2013: 11:00am-12:00pm

Research Round Table: Leadership, Radicalization, and Ideological Violence, Drs. Gina Ligon and Peter Simi START HQ, 8400 Baltimore Avenue, College Park. RSVPs to infostart@start.umd.edu are appreciated but not required.


Tuesday 10/15/2013 5:00-6:30pm

Book Talk: “Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon's Party of God," Dr. Matthew Levitt START HQ, 8400 Baltimore Avenue, College Park. RSVPs to infostart@start.umd.edu are appreciated but not required.


Monday 11/04/2013 11:00am-12:00pm

Book Talk: "European and American Extreme Right Groups," Dr. Manuela Caiani Online, please RSVP to infostart@start.umd.edu for session login details


Tuesday 12/03/2013 11:00am-12:00pm

Book Talk: "Countering Terrorism in Britain and France: Institutions, Norms and the Shadow of the Past," Dr. Frank Foley Online, please RSVP to infostart@start.umd.edu for session login details