Friday, October 13, 2006

'Combating Terrorism by Countering Radicalisation'


For information purposes (or should that be dis-informations proposals) ... Regarding meetings in British Universities to discuss new gov.terror research programs. Our very own Camelot, yet again.

Meanwhile, today even the Generals are talking mutinous talk it seems, perhaps....


> Dear all,
> This is the information relating to the third item on the agenda that
> I have just circulated. Some of you know about this already, but now
> that the scheme is coming to fruition and projects are to be funded, I
> think that it is essential that we discuss and reflect on the implications
> of these developments. The matter has been raised with me most recently by
> Martha Mundy, David Seddon and Glen Bowman, and
> Martha and David have already taken up the issues with the UK Middle
> Eastern Studies Association. I have copied in a circular letter that
> Martha has drafted on the problems that the scheme and its mode of
> implementation pose. David attended one of the by invitation meetings to
> which Martha refers yesterday. It was sparsely attended and pertinent
> questions from david and other participants did not produce satisfactory
> responses or assurances from the Programme Director or ESRC officials. If
> you read Martha's letter and then examine the attached ESRC call for
> proposals and supporting country/region documents, then I think the scale
> of the problems this poses (from conception to execution) will become all
> too painfully apparent.
> I would like to promote as wide awareness and discussion as possible
> of this and other manifestations of the "war against terror's" increasing
> influence on academic life (such as the presence of security personnel at
> academic events), so you might want to distribute this to other members of
> staff and maybe discuss it formally before the 28th. I will be happy to
> write to ESRC and AHRC expressing our collective views, perhaps on the
> lines that Martha has already laid out, but assuming that the scheme goes
> ahead as planned that is not likely to be the end of the matter and we
> really do need to consider the deeper and longer term implications
> All the best
> John
> Martha's letter:
> Dear Colleague,
> You will find below and in attachment information received by email
> concerning an FCO-AHRC-ESRC research programme entitled 'Combating
> Terrorism by Countering Radicalisation'. For three major reasons this
> initiative promises to be very damaging to the reputation of British
> academic research: because of the design of the programme itself, because
> of the risk to researchers working overseas it entails, and because of the
> lack of transparency in the sponsorship and selection process. I am
> therefore asking you, after reading the appended material, either to write
> yourself to the funding councils or to indicate back to me that you share
> the concerns outlined below and would like to pursue a collective
> response.
> Let me briefly summarize the three sets of problems raised by the
> initiative.
> 1) The programme entails a series of extremely specific
> intelligence-driven questions that start from the premise of a link between
> Islam, radicalisation (nowhere defined!) and terrorism. It is
> the role of academic research to provide good basic knowledge of the
> various regions; this requires relatively free funding for research, on
> which, of course, intelligence reports will in turn draw. But this
> programme puts the cart before the horse, even on its own terms, and will
> result in poor scientific knowledge about the regions, countries and
> phenomena that the programme identifies as central. Scholars need to
> enjoy a degree of intellectual independence and self-guidance that this
> programme does not allow.
> 2) In many of the countries and regions specified in the programme, a
> researcher who attempted on the ground - not from an office-chair in the
> United Kingdom - to conduct research into the questions posed by the
> programme could be placed in physical danger either from local religious or
> nationalist actors or from the relevant state governments themselves. In a
> context where the international reputation of the United Kingdom
> (following recent wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon) is poor,
> funding British researchers to pursue an overtly security-research agenda
> abroad is likely to endanger perhaps not just their reputation but also
> their physical well-being. As Doctoral Programme Director in the
> Anthropology Department of the LSE I regularly countersign the
> ethics and risk-assessment statements of our doctoral researchers. Should
> they propose research of the kind required by this programme in a country
> such as Nigeria or Sudan (two of the selected countries), it would be
> contrary to my professional ethics to ignore the possible risk the
> doctoral candidate would face. Presumably the programme was written by
> security studies experts who have little or no experience of field
> research in the areas Dear of South-East, Central and South Asia, The Arab
> World, and relevant African countries concerned by the
> initiative. In relation to both the current world-class status of British
> research and the personal security of researchers in the field, this
> initiative is problematic as potentially threatening both.
> 3) Inquiries to the ESRC by Professor David Seddon reveal that this
> programme has not been openly advertised but was designed by an invited
> group of academics meeting July 10th ; on October 12th/13th meetings are
> to be held in London and Edinburgh to which certain academics are invited
> (I myself happen to be on the list presumably because I was
> major panel member for the Arabic Language funding initiative of the two
> councils last year). Closing date for proposals will be November 8th and
> decision will be forthcoming in January, a 'Commissioning Panel of
> academic and user experts to be convened' [see attached Call for
> Proposals.doc]. The programme is not to be openly advertised; rather,
> selected applicants are to be invited to proceed with final applications
> for the funding. Apparently the funding derives largely from the Foreign
> Office and the AHRC. Given this fact, it would be appropriate
> that Foreign Office (as the US State Department has done in offering
> research grants) take over the direct administration of the programme.
> Such a programme should be neither funded by, nor administered through,
> the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Economic and Social
> Research Council, as it violates the principles of open advertisement
> and transparent competition which guarantee the excellence and independence
> of British council-funded research. If the Foreign Office believes that
> programme is in its interest, then it should administer the grants itself,
> and academics choosing to participate can do so under that body. But the
> rest of British university research overseas and the good practices of the
> funding councils must be safeguarded against direct association with
> intelligence-gathering exercises.
> Martha Mundy
> Reader in Anthropology
> London School of Economics>
[note: I have not yet seen the 'attached call for proposals.doc, funnily enough -J]

1 comment:

John Hutnyk said...

So, the documents have been doinbg the rounds and fun reading they are. Too big to post. But on the AHRC website - this just blows me away. The Sand-pit I guess is Iraq/Afghanistan right??

"Countering Terrorism in Public Places

The AHRC, ESRC, EPSRC and NSAC have allocated £2 million to co-fund projects emerging from the Countering Terrorism in Crowded Places Ideas Factory. The concept of the Ideas Factory is to organise interactive workshops (sand-pits) on particular topics, involving 20-30 participants. The focus for this sand-pit is to explore long-term ideas for understanding and deterring terrorist behaviour; designing and developing technologies and environments to combat the devastating impact of terrorist attacks in public places. There are several areas where the arts and humanities could bring unique perspectives to this area, for example, the ethical and legal implications of the technologies used to counter terrorism, cross-cultural issues regarding norms of behaviour and the impact of architecture and design on the safety of public places.

Closing date for applications to participate in the Sandpit: 14 September 2006.

The EPSRC is leading on the administration of this scheme".