The social sciences have made important contributions to our understanding of security threats and the skills and technologies that can mitigate them. However, these contributions have yet to achieve their full impact on practice for two reasons. First, they draw on a diverse set of disciplinary perspectives and epistemologies, and are rarely understood holistically. As a result, there remains much to be learned from their systematic integration. Second, many contributions have been made without a full appreciation of the challenges and constraints faced by the security and intelligence agencies. There is thus a need to facilitate researcher-stakeholder exchanges that promote understanding and empower researchers to make impactful contributions.
The Centre for Research and Evidence on Security Threats (CREST) will deliver a world-class, interdisciplinary portfolio of activity that maximises the value of social science to countering threats to national security. CREST brings together leading researchers from seven disciplines, government and industry stakeholders, and communication specialists to coordinate an international network of excellence that delivers five Agendas. These Agendas seek to enhance the skills and understanding of agency practitioners, develop capacity and capability in academia, build mutual understanding between stakeholders and academia, and maximise the impact of social science research and analysis.
The KNOWLEDGE SYNTHESIS AGENDA will deliver state-of-the-art reviews that address key stakeholder questions by mapping out the evidence base and by providing policy and 'best practice' recommendations. Each participating Institution will lead one of five programmes: Actors and narratives; Ideas, beliefs and values in social context; Understanding and countering online behaviour; Eliciting information; and, Protective security and risk assessment.
The ORIGINAL RESEARCH AGENDA will build on Knowledge Synthesis by generating theoretically motivated, high-quality new research that either addresses gaps identified in the existing literature, or demonstrates the operational relevance of existing knowledge to stakeholder contexts.
As part of the Knowledge Synthesis and Original Research Agendas, £1.89m of CREST's funds will support COMMISSIONED ACTIVITIES, including synthetic reviews, workshops, toolkit development, and research projects. Funds will be allocated via a transparent and competitive process that delivers scientific excellence, stakeholder relevance, and value for money.
With support from an Advisory Board and Programme Ambassadors, the COMMUNICATION AGENDA will use a range of innovative media (e.g. video briefings, interactive toolkits) to ensure that outputs from the Knowledge Synthesis and Original Research Agendas are communicated effectively to a range of audiences. Target audiences include intelligence officers to improve operational effectiveness, policy makers to support evidence-based policy, industry to help generate sector growth, and the public at large to increase awareness of the challenges faced within the UK.
The NETWORKING AGENDA will deliver a range of events (e.g. workshops, 'hackathons') that support interaction between research and stakeholder communities at both strategic and grass-roots levels. These events will be designed to draw together a community of contributors whose breadth goes beyond traditional boundaries and whose interaction leads to new and innovative contributions to theory and practice.
The CAPACITY-BUILDING AGENDA will ensure the long-term sustainability of CREST while also delivering a step-change in capability in three areas: (1) the next generation of researchers and educators within the discipline (e.g. through PhD training); (2) the formal professional development of officers in the intelligence agencies (e.g. through online training, secondments); and, (3) the economic effectiveness of industry (e.g. SMEs) through knowledge exchange.