December 22, 2009

Grant funds research into conflict, terrorism

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Joseph K. Young, assistant professor of political science at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, is part of a team awarded a joint National Science Foundation grant from the “Social and Behavioral Dimensions of National Security, Conflict and Cooperation” research solicitation competition.

Young, along with Stephen Shellman (College of William and Mary), Remco Chang (University of North Carolina-Charlotte), Michael Covington (University of Georgia), and Michael Findley (Brigham Young University), submitted a proposal entitled, “Terror, Conflict Processes, Organizations and Ideologies: Completing the Picture.” They are one of the 16 research groups selected for the grant. Total grants funding is about $8 million.

Young, whose research expertise includes conflict and terrorism, said his group’s project sees them using India as a research model to help predict situations that may lead to violent conflict or acts of terrorism. The goal is to demonstrate how official actions escalate or decrease violent reactions. If the Indian research model is effective, the group will apply the model to other areas of conflict in future research. The research group includes experts in computer science and linguistics as well as political science. Young said the initial project will run for about two years.

The grant is a joint research initiative from NSF and the Department of Defense, as part of the Minerva Research Initiative. It focuses on “basic social and behavioral science of strategic importance to U. S. national security policy.” The two organizations jointly determined four topic areas for research solicitation. The topic areas are: authoritarian regimes, strategic impact of religious and cultural change; terrorist organizations and ideologies; and new dimensions in national security. The academic research may ultimately contribute to security policy-making.

The Minerva Initiative, sponsored by the Department of Defense, is an academic, social science-based research program designed to “increase the department’s intellectual capital in the social sciences, improve its ability to address future challenges, and build bridges between the department and the social science community,” according to a statement from the Department of Defense.

Last summer, Young spent two weeks in Israel as an Academic Fellow of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He and other academic professionals toured military installations and prisons, including areas in the West Bank and occupied territories. Young interviewed political prisoners during his prison tours and spoke with officials about detainment policies.