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Cranfield University will be at the forefront of the UK’s new centre for the development and use of economic and social science research to understand, mitigate and counter security threats.

The Centre for Research and Evidence on Security Threats (CREST) brings together world-leading researchers at the universities of Birmingham, Cranfield, Lancaster, Portsmouth and the West of England to deliver a national hub for independent research, training and knowledge synthesis.

The founding partners will oversee programmes of activity that attract the best social scientists from the UK and abroad to partner with industry and government and break new ground in our understanding of and capacity to counter contemporary threats.

Launching today (October 1), the Centre was commissioned and will be administered by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) with a focus on conducting independent research and knowledge synthesis to inform approaches to countering contemporary security threats to individuals, communities and institutions.

The Centre is funded for three years with £4.35 million from the UK security and intelligence agencies and a further £2.2m invested by the founding institutions.

Director of CREST, Professor Paul Taylor, from Lancaster University, said: “Bringing together the UK’s top economic, behavioural and social scientists with partners in industry and government will provide unprecedented opportunities to develop our understanding of security threats and how best to mitigate them. Today’s threats are challenging and diverse. The ambitious and innovative activities of CREST over the coming years will meet these challenges."

As well as conducting world-class, independent research, the Centre will stimulate public and professional debate, connect disciplinary communities, inform security policy and practice, and provide training to research leaders of the future.

Cranfield University will lead research on protective security and risk assessment. Dr Debi Ashenden, Head of the Centre for Cyber Security & Information Systems at Cranfield said: “By focusing on these areas, we will look to improve our understanding of the security risks we face and how we make decisions about mitigating those risks. It is very exciting to be working with such a unique mix of behavioural and social scientists on such a broad spectrum of security challenges.

The other founding partners will lead programmes looking at actors and narratives, online behaviour, eliciting information and ideas, beliefs and values in social contexts and examining how extremist ideologies are transmitted and countered.

The project will initially fund 13 PhD students working across all five universities.

Notes for editors

More information on the UK’s security and intelligence services are available on their websites: MI5, SIS, CPNI and GCHQ.

The ESRC is the UK’s largest funder of research on the social and economic questions facing us today. It supports the development and training of the UK’s future social scientists and also funds major studies that provide the infrastructure for research. ESRC-funded research informs policymakers and practitioners and helps make businesses, voluntary bodies and other organisations more effective. The ESRC also works collaboratively with six other UK research councils and Innovate UK to fund cross-disciplinary research and innovation addressing major societal challenges. The ESRC is an independent organisation, established by Royal Charter in 1965, and funded mainly by the Government. In 2015 it celebrates its 50th anniversary.


About Cranfield University

Cranfield University is a specialist postgraduate university that is a global leader for education and transformational research in technology and management.

About Cranfield University

Cranfield University is a specialist postgraduate university that is a global leader for education and transformational research in technology and management.