Washington isn’t the only place where counterterrorism strategies are born. Across campus, students and professors are using their academic know-how to attack the problem. Now, a group of students is banding together to fight terrorism at the citizen level.
The Michigan Counter Terrorism Project, a new student group, plans to publish papers on tactics to combat terrorism. LSA junior Ryan Bouchard recognized the potential of such a project while studying at the American University in Cairo last year. Bouchard, who is not related to Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard, joined a think-tank there that focused on terrorism in Egypt. Over a five-week period, groups of students worked together to write proposals on current issues involving terrorism.
Students who study counterterrorism efforts usually major in political science, psychology, history and Middle Eastern studies, but Bouchard hopes that University students from all concentrations will get involved with the project.
“Few classes here in Ann Arbor provide such a space to do so, and this group will allow anyone interested to participate,” he said.
Bouchard said he is optimistic that his project will increase the amount of terrorism research conducted at the University. He said that students will benefit from the opportunity to attend lectures and review the groups’ final products.
“Terrorism isn’t the war of yesterday – it’s the conflict we’re facing today and tomorrow until we can come up with solutions,” he said.
Group members will choose a topic related to terrorism, do extensive research and then compete to publish their papers in a peer-reviewed journal.
At the University, some scholars place terrorism in a social and historical context to explain today’s violence. Others use mathematical and computer models to simulate terrorist actions.
Adjunct LSA Prof. Scott Atran, a leading researcher in counterterrorism at the University, focuses on gathering empirical data and is a primary researcher for the Global Jihadist Database Project, which aims to produce a searchable body of information for general research use.
Justin Magouirk, a University alum who is now executive director of the Global Jihadist Database Project, said the campus environment offers several benefits for terrorism research.
“An advantage of universities conducting research is that it is less partisan-driven than think-tanks,” Magouirk said.
He said another advantage for universities is they can conduct long-term research, which enables them to find patterns in violence over time.
Magouirk did bring up one disadvantage of research at universities.
Magouirk said universities are more isolated from concerns of U.S. foreign policymakers. This could result in a lack of access to information.