Recently, a number of United States citizens have been charged with seeking oversees training for terrorist plots, sending money to fund terrorism or plotting to launch terrorist attacks within the United States. These actions underscore the need to prevent violent radicalization well before the immediate threat of an attack. This is an emerging research area, and far too little is known about what drives individuals to engage in violent radical behavior. In addition, the vast majority of past research has focused on case studies constructed after an attack or attempted attack, large-scale attitudinal surveys, or interviews with former terrorists. As with all research, these methods have limitations including lack of external validity (limiting ones’ ability to generalize from one individual to other cases), the reliance on finding and convincing individuals to grant interviews, and the ability of large-scale attitudinal surveys to capture extremist beliefs. Thus, the current project was launched to explore alternative research approaches that could be used to improve understanding of the processes surrounding violent radicalization. In particular, we sought to examine whether empirical research, using archival or institutional data at the community level, could provide new insights into factors that might leave individuals vulnerable to radicalization.
Fishman, Shira. "Community‐Level Indicators of Radicalization: A Data and Methods Task Force." Report to the Human Factors/Behavioral Sciences Division, Science and Technology Directorate, U.S. Department of Homeland Security. College Park, MD: START, 2010. https://www.start.umd.edu/pubs/START_HFD_CommRadReport.pdf