The Researcher Security, Safety and Resilience Project
Academic research on online extremism and terrorism poses unique risks. One is repeated exposure to incriminating content, such as the detailed analysis of thousands of videos or images created by ISIS. Another is the potential to be targeted by illicit actors online and offline through doxing, trolling, or material threats. To date, there has been little guidance for researchers on how to deal with mental health issues caused by repeated viewing of violent and offensive material, or even the challenges of staying safe virtually and physically. There has also been no comprehensive study of these challenges and risks to date.
The Researcher Security, Safety and Resilience project (REASSURE) addressed just that. REASSURE documented issues of well-being as experienced by researchers themselves.
REASSURE developed strategies to address these issues. REASSURE drew on the knowledge base of related fields, including law enforcement, technology companies, and journalism, to create a Charter for Researcher Ethics and Safety (CARES). This was tailored to researchers working in the field of online extremism and terrorism.
Who is REASSURE?
Besides modus|zad, the other project partners are VOX-Pol, Hedayah and CYTREC from Swansea University. The project was developed during the TASM 2019 project “sandbox” and was one of two projects selected to receive a small grant resulting from funding from Swansea University’s CHERISH Digital Economy Center and Facebook.
How did the project come about?
The issue of the well-being and safety of terrorism and extremism researchers was previously raised at a joint CYTREC-VOX-Pol workshop “Ethics in Terrorism Research” at Swansea University in April 2018. A central theme of this event was self-care for researchers. Participants reported stress, other harms to their mental and emotional well-being, potential security risks, and a lack of existing guidance on how to manage these factors.