A Department of Homeland Security Emeritus 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




The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism—better known as STARTis a university-based research and education center comprised of an international network of scholars committed to the scientific study of the causes and human consequences of terrorism in the United States and around the world.

A Department of Homeland Security Emeritus Center of Excellence headquartered at the University of Maryland, START supports the research efforts of leading social scientists at more than 50 academic and research institutions, each of whom is conducting original investigations into fundamental questions about terrorism, including:

  • What is the nature of terrorism in the world today? How has terrorist activity evolved over time? How does terrorism vary across geographies? And what do these trends indicate about likely future terrorism?
  • Under what conditions does an individual or a group turn to terrorism to pursue its goals? What is the nature of the radicalization process?
  • How does terrorism end? What are the processes of deradicalization and disengagement from terrorism for groups and individuals?
  • What actions can governments take to counter the threat of terrorism?
  • What impact does terrorism and the threat of terrorism have on communities, and how can societies enhance their resilience to minimize the potential impacts of future attacks?

START experts apply a range of research methods to the exploration of these questions in order to deliver findings based on the best available open-source evidence and data. At the heart of START's work are the principles that the research it is conducting must be both scientifically rigorous and directly relevant to homeland security professionals.

START is committed to the widespread dissemination of its research findings not only to homeland security professionals through tailored research, education and training efforts, but also to students of all levels and to the general public. START has developed educational materials and programs specifically designed for instructors and students at the secondary, university, and graduate levels. Educational resources available through START include relevant teaching tools and a range of unique data sources that can be integrated into an array of courses to deepen students' understanding of the dynamics of terrorism. START also has internships and funding opportunities available to undergraduate and graduate students engaged in terrorism research.

In addition, START has developed educational programs, including an Undergraduate Global Terrorism Studies Minor Program available to students at the University of Maryland and an online Graduate Certificate in Terrorism Analysis Program, available to qualified students around the world.

Since its launch in 2005 through 2018, START was headed by Dr. Gary LaFree, now the Chair of the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Maryland, and in 2018 Maryland Professor of the Practice William Braniff took the helm as Director. START's work is managed by a staff of terrorism experts and university administrators at Maryland, who work closely with the collection of scholars and students that comprise the START Consortium.

START is a part of the collection of Centers of Excellence supported by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate and also receives funding and support from a variety of Federal agencies, private foundations, and universities. All of START's research is conducted using non-classified materials and its findings are those of individual researchers and do not reflect the official position of any START funders.


The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) was established in 2005 as a U.S. Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence, tasked with utilizing state-of-the-art theories, methods, and data from the social and behavioral sciences to improve the understanding of the origins, dynamics, and social and psychological impacts of terrorism. START was funded by an initial $12 million grant from DHS to complete projects in the research areas of terrorist group formation and recruitment, terrorist group persistence and dynamics, and societal responses to terrorist threats and attacks.

START was awarded a 3-year renewal grant from DHS in 2008 to sponsor new and continuing research projects related to the core research areas of radicalization, terrorist operations and interventions, and community resilience relative to the terrorist threat.

Since its inception, START has furthered its mission through hundreds of publications in peer-reviewed academic journals, dozens of public events, and extensive consultations by government agencies and Congress on issues related to terrorism and homeland security. This includes frequent testimony before Congress and hundreds of requests for assistance or advice from DHS and other federal, state, and local government agencies. Click here fore more information on START research.

Consistent with its goal of training and mentoring a new generation of scholars and analysts, START launched a Terrorism Studies Minor Program at the University of Maryland in 2007. START emphasizes a variety of approaches to education, including undergraduate and graduate learning opportunities, professional development training, mentor programs, and public presentations, brown bags and webinars. In order to provide educational opportunities to a broader audience, in 2010 START launched an online Graduate Certificate in Terrorism Analysis. Click here for more information on START Educational Programs.

In 2009, START was recognized by DHS for outstanding contributions to the security of the United States for its long-term support of the Global Terrorism Database (GTD), an open-source database including information on more than 113,000 domestic and international terrorist events around the world since 1970. More information on the GTD can be found at http://www.start.umd.edu/gtd/.

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