Uncovering Terrorism Experts' Assumptions About COVID-19

Uncovering Terrorism Experts' Assumptions About COVID-19

Throughout the last 12 months, the COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly affected our day to day lives, and while there remains a great deal of uncertainty, it is nonetheless apparent that this crisis will have long lasting and multifaceted consequences.

As the lockdowns extended, academics and experts from all fields reflected on how the world would change as a result. Whatever the impacts would be, the consensus is that the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will extend far beyond public health and have the potential to reshape fundamental dynamics in local, national, and global societies. In particular, the social transformations entailed by last year’s upheaval have impacted and will undoubtedly continue to impact the security landscape, by shaping the actions of both terrorist and counter-terrorist entities.

To evaluate the expert debate on this changing security environment, a research team based at the Institute of Security and Global Affairs at Leiden University is launching a project to systematically collate the assessments and predictions of security experts relating to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Funded by the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society, this large-scale survey will allow researchers to better understand the dominant assumptions about the impact of the pandemic on non-state actors, and measure the degree to which consensus exists within the field of terrorism studies.

Over the course of March and April 2021, approximatively 1500 public-facing experts on terrorism and violent extremism, including academics, security/intelligence practitioners, and researchers affiliated with think-tanks and NGOs will be invited to participate in a 10-minute survey to share their thoughts on the medium- and long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on violent non-state actors. In doing so, the project has a two-fold aim: (1), to examine the expert consensus on the impact of the pandemic on the activities of violent non-state actors; and (2), to assess the potential short-term and long-term security threats arising from such impacts. The research will seek not only to understand possible future threats but will also explore to what extent experts share a fundamental understanding about those threats, and where their ideas might diverge. Ultimately, this research will allow experts to develop CT/CVE policies based on the impressions of a wide range of specialists, providing a nuanced and detailed picture of what the security landscape may look like as we slowly but surely exit the current pandemic.