ESRC launches National Centre for Research and Evidence on Security Threats

CREST is based at Lancaster University

CREST is based at Lancaster University

Working in partnership with the UK’s security and intelligence agencies, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) has commissioned the launch of a new centre dedicated to the development and use of economic and social science research to understand, mitigate and counter security threats.

Based at Lancaster University, 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 focused around 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 in a bid to “break new ground” in our understanding of – and overall capacity to counter – contemporary threats.

The project was commissioned by the ESRC with a focus on maximising the impact of existing research to inform approaches to countering contemporary security threats to individuals, communities and institutions alike.

CREST is funded over three years with £4.35 million from the UK security and intelligence agencies and a further £2.2 million invested by the founding institutions.

Paul Taylor from Lancaster University (the director of CREST) explained: “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 nothing if not both challenging and diverse. The ambitious and innovative activities of CREST over the coming years will meet these challenges.”

Leaders of the future

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 and Information Systems at Cranfield, told Risk UK: “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’s very exciting to be working with such a unique mix of behavioural and social scientists on such a broad spectrum of security challenges.”

For its part, the University of Portsmouth will lead research on eliciting information, examining how best to promote accurate and complete recall. “We have a successful track history of innovative and high impact research in this area,” said Professor Lorraine Hope from the University’s Department of Psychology. “This is an excellent opportunity to develop and apply effective science-based interviewing techniques for use in security contexts.”

The call for the hub was developed in partnership between the UK security and intelligence services and the ESRC. While ESRC is not supporting the hub financially, the Council has been leading on the commissioning of the hub and will be managing it such as other ESRC investments are managed.

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

Social and economic questions

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.

Lancaster University is ranked among the Top 10 universities in the UK and 121 in the world, and is top for employability and student satisfaction in its region. 83% of Lancaster’s research is judged to be internationally excellent and world-leading. The university has a strong focus on working with business and, across the years, has helped create more than 5,000 new jobs.

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

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