Security research centre receives £2.88m funding

The Centre for Research and Evidence on Security Threats (CREST), which brings together experts from the Universities of Portsmouth, Lancaster and Bath, has been awarded £2.88m to increase understanding of contemporary security threats to the UK.

CREST has received the grant, administered by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), to continue developing economic and social science research to understand, mitigate and counter security challenges.

At Portsmouth, the grant will fund the work of Professor Aldert Vrij and Professor Lorraine Hope, in the Department of Psychology, and Professor Debi Ashenden, a cyber security expert in the Department of Computing.  They will continue their studies into intelligence gathering.  Professor Vrij said: “It’s great news that our funders continue to recognise the importance of CREST. This means that we can develop our vital research into information gathering techniques, protective security and risk.”

Since its launch in October 2015, CREST has worked with over 100 researchers from 22 universities around the world to break new ground in the understanding of threats and our capacity to counter them. It has also secured an additional £3m in funding on top of its initial funding from UK security and intelligence agencies.

The follow-on grant, announced today, sees CREST funded for a further two years with £2.88 million from the UK security and intelligence agencies and a further £756,000 from its core partners at the universities of Lancaster, Portsmouth and Bath.

Director of CREST, Professor Paul Taylor from Lancaster University, said: “This follow-on funding is a reward to all the researchers and staff who have contributed to the world-leading research and subsequent training modules, guides and reports we have produced, not to forget our quarterly magazine, CREST Security Review.

“We have now brought together over 100 of the UK’s top economic, behavioural and social scientists to develop our understanding of security threats and how best to mitigate them. I look forward to expanding this network and our work over the next two years.”

As well as conducting world-class, independent research, CREST has taken a leading role in stimulating public and professional debate, connecting disciplinary communities, informing security policy and practice and providing training to research leaders of the future.

Core programmes of research, delivered by academics at Portsmouth, Bath and Lancaster, will include projects on:

  • online behaviour, looking at what patterns of online engagement indicate increased risk of action and looking at the technical and social options available to reduce hate speech;
  • information gathering, focusing on techniques to enhance recall and reporting in online environments as well as maximising the effectiveness of these techniques across different cultures (led by the University of Portsmouth);
  • behavioural analytics, providing tools for remote psychological assessment via social sensors and identifying anomalous events in multi-channel behavioural data;
  • protective security and risk assessment, leading our understanding of the social and behavioural aspects of software development and connecting cyber security and physical security in the digital built environment (led by Portsmouth University).

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