Conference Seeks New Approaches in Terrorism Fight
UT Dallas Event Will Gather Experts Representing a Wide Range of Disciplines

A University of Texas at Dallas workshop featuring international terrorism experts is aimed at reaching across disciplines and launching innovative research that could lead to more effective policies.

UT Dallas’ School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences is hosting the Oct. 8-10 conference. “Bridging Gaps in Expertise: Funding Research on Terrorism” will feature intellectual leaders in empirical terrorism research, game theory and behavioral experiments. They will share knowledge and methods and develop new interdisciplinary research projects designed to increase the depth and breadth of understanding of this important topic. 

Dr. Charles Holt

Dr. Charles Holt of the University of Virginia will give one of the keynote addresses.

The conference will include keynote addresses by Dr. Todd Sandler, the Vibhooti Shukla Professor of Economics and Political Economy at UT Dallas, who is well known for his work modeling terrorism and counterterrorism; and Dr. Charles Holt of the University of Virginia, whose research involves experimental and behavioral analyses of such models.

In recent years the Department of Defense has made substantial investments in social science research, to better understand the social and cultural context of terrorist activities.

“As a result, analyses of terrorism and counterterrorism policies have increased substantially,” said Dr. Catherine Eckel, Ashbel Smith Professor of Economics at UT Dallas and a key organizer. “While this research is moving us forward in understanding terrorism, much of it takes place in intellectual silos, with little communication across fields. This workshop brings together researchers from different disciplines to share knowledge and methods, with the goal of learning more and growing more efficient in our research programs.” 

National Science Foundation logo

The National Science Foundation is sponsoring the workshop and resulting projects with a $150,000 grant.

Attendees at the upcoming conference will represent three main areas of focus: study of terrorist organizations, including perspectives from sociology, psychology and criminology; formal theoretical modeling of terrorism and counter-terrorism, with perspectives from economics and political science; and experimental tests of theoretical models, including methodological variations from economics, political science and psychology experiments.

The workshop is designed to help scholars from different disciplines explore ways to better model conflict between a nation-state and non-state actors, and to investigate what sort of social institutions could mitigate or exacerbate these conflicts. PhD students from UT Dallas and other universities also will participate in the workshop, including the conference coordinator, Malcolm Kass, and research assistant Sneha Bakshi. 

Eckel said workshop organizers hope substantive experts communicate with the theorists and experimentalists about what key elements are important to capture in models. The theorists then can create models that distill these elements into formal structures. Experiments can be designed to test hypotheses.

The conference will be divided into three main sections. The briefing phase features two keynote addresses and presentations from each “camp” of scholars. During the brainstorming sessions, participants will identify research opportunities. In the third phase, participants will divide into small groups, including at least one representative from each type of expert group. The groups will develop research projects that focus on integrating substantive information, formal modeling and experimental design to address issues identified during the briefing and brainstorming phases. The grant supporting the workshop also contains funding for seed money awards to help develop research proposals arising from the meeting. 

“We expect a research agenda to emerge from this conference that incorporates valuable collaboration among various types of researchers,” Eckel said. 

The National Science Foundation (NSF) sponsored the workshop and resulting projects with a $150,000 grant.

The research team also recently landed a $440,000 NSF grant to use lab experiments to test models of national security and terrorism, and to examine the potential effects of new policies designed to more effectively combat terrorism and coordinate counterterrorist efforts among governments. The research team consists of Eckel; Dr. Rachel T. A. Croson, professor of economics; Dr. Daniel Arce, program head of economics; Dr. Enrique Fatas, professor of economics at the University of Valencia; and Dr. Chetan Dave, professor of economics at New York University, Abu Dhabi.

The first day of the workshop is open to interested faculty and PhD students. To register, contact Katie Doctor-Troup at [email protected] or 972-883-6015.

Dr. Catherine Eckel is a key organizer of the conference. Many other UT Dallas professors will play roles as well, including Dr. Todd Sandler, who will give one of the event's keynote speeches.

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].

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