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

START resumes Global Terrorism Database collection; 1970 - 2019 data file now available to researchers


START resumes Global Terrorism Database collection; 1970 - 2019 data file now available to researchers

February 26, 2021Karina Panyan

The Global Terrorism Database (GTD)™ team has resumed collection of the GTD, following a hiatus of several months in 2020 due to a funding lapse. Short-term funding agreements finalized with the German Federal Foreign Office (FFO) and United Kingdom Foreign, Commonwealth, & Development Office (FCDO) will allow researchers to complete the data on terrorist attacks that took place during the first six months of 2020, and will also support a pilot project investigating the reliability of near-real-time data. This current partnership with the FFO follows a previous agreement that helped sustain GTD collection in 2019.

Along with this development, START has made the latest data file--which spans 1970 to 2019 and includes more than 200,000 records of terrorist attacks--freely available to individual researchers and scholars. The GTD team anticipates publishing partial 2020 data later this year.

“We are very pleased to support the continued operation of the Global Terrorism Database,” said Dame Karen Pierce DCMG, Her Majesty's Ambassador to the United States, commenting on the value of sustaining the GTD. “It is an exceptionally useful source of information for the analysis of terrorist incidents, and is unequalled in its ability to examine long-term trends. We look forward to being a part of START’s work, both now and in the future.” 

Heike Thiele, Director for Civilian Crisis Prevention and Stabilization at the German FFO, emphasized the importance of reliable data for timely foreign and security policy decisions given complex challenges:

Global foreign and security policy is increasingly marked by crisis and conflict-ridden developments. Diverse issues such as the impact of climate change, domestic terrorism, internal displacement and forced migration as well as the Covid-19 pandemic are compounding complex situations.

With the 2017 “Guidelines on Preventing Crises, Resolving Conflicts, Building Peace”, the German federal government agreed on the framework on how to tackle such situations. Among other aspects, it decided to strengthen Early Warning processes and instruments. Our goal is to get ahead of critical developments and to provide situation-specific recommendations for policy action.

To achieve this goal, Early Warning instruments need to have the most reliable and relevant data on conflict, crisis and terrorism available. This is why the German Federal Foreign Office together with a number of international partners continuously supports the Global Terrorism Database project and other international data providers.

GTD principal investigator Erin Miller noted the GTD team’s commitment to continuing to improve the data collection process. 

“We appreciate the opportunity to not only continue data collection, but also conduct a pilot project that will allow us to learn more about the reliability of real-time data collection,” Miller said. “With this analysis, we will better understand what types of information are generally reliable in the immediate aftermath of an attack, and what types of information are best captured after events have unfolded.” 

The GTD was developed at the University of Maryland beginning in 2002 under the leadership of principal investigator Gary LaFree, and co-principal investigator Laura Dugan, and became START’s flagship database. The collection and dissemination of the GTD has previously been funded by the US Department of Defense, the US Department of State, and the US Department of Homeland Security. In an effort to better align the funding of the GTD with the diversity of user communities that rely on it, the University of Maryland partnered with CHC Global in 2019 to offer commercial licenses for organizational users. Those interested in a commercial license can submit an inquiry for organizational use on the GTD website, and CHC Global will provide additional information.

“As always, it is our goal to maintain the GTD as a public good to be used around the world by those who aim to understand the causes and consequences of terrorism,” Miller said. “We are excited about expanding our partnerships with agencies that value robust, data-driven analysis to continue to make the GTD available to the research community.”

GTD Heat Map 1970 - 2019