Primary research & datasets


ISD’s research is data-driven. The meticulous collection and analysis of primary data is vital to understanding the nature of the challenge that we face and thus plays a significant role in our overall research effort.

ISD is one of the world’s leading think tanks in the construction and analysis of primary datasets, including the largest database of social media profiles of women who have travelled from the West to support ISIS and their affiliates in Syria, Iraq and Libya, and the world’s largest database of those who travel to conflict zones to fight against ISIS.

ISD was also a lead partner in the construction of Professor Jytte Klausen’s Western Jihadism Project, and in partnership with RUSI, Chatham House and Leiden University, constructed a database that details all of the lone actor terrorist incidents that have taken place in Europe since 2000. This dataset contains over 70 variables, including biographic information, on a group of 120 perpetrators.

ISD Senior Research Fellow, Amarnath Amarasingam, has constructed the world’s largest collection of interviews with ISIS fighters who travelled to Syria and Iraq since the group’s inception, revealing the motivations of these individuals and the risks they pose if they return.

ISD is currently building databases of extreme far right influencers online, as well as amplifiers of state-supported disinformation and fake news.


Resource links

  • Read research reports drawing insights from ISD’s primary datasets on women here, lone actors here, and anti-ISIS fighters here.

  • You can check out the latest from ISD’s Senior Research Fellow, Amarnath Amarasingam on Twitter @AmarAmarasingam

Team
Amarnath Amarasingam
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Amarnath Amarasingam

Senior Research Fellow

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Amarnath Amarasingam
Amarnath Amarasingam

Senior Research Fellow

Amarnath Amarasingam, PhD, is a Senior Research Fellow at ISD. He is the author of Pain, Pride, and Politics: Social Movement Activism and the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora in Canada (2015). He is the editor of Sri Lanka: The Struggle for Peace in the Aftermath of War (2016), The Stewart/Colbert Effect: Essays on the Real Impacts of Fake News (2011) and Religion and the New Atheism: A Critical Appraisal (2010). He is also the author of several peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, has presented papers at over 100 national and international conferences, and has written for Politico, The Atlantic, Vice News, Foreign Affairs, Al-Jazeera English, and War on the Rocks. Amarasingam is an experienced field researcher, having conducted hundreds of interviews for his PhD dissertation on social movement activism, organisational dynamics, and youth identity in the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora. He also conducted over 50 interviews with former fighters of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE, or Tamil Tigers) throughout the former war zones of Sri Lanka in 2012 and 2013. At the Turkey-Syria border, Amarasingam spoke with dozens of injured fighters, refugees, as well as former and current activists of the Syrian revolution. He has also conducted field research in Somalia, Lebanon, Israel/Palestine, and amongst different ethnic and religious groups in North America and Europe. As co-director of a study of Western foreign fighters in Syria, he has conducted dozens of interviews with jihadists in Syria and Iraq, supporters of jihadist movements online, as well as family members and friends of individuals who have joined the fight abroad.
Chloe Colliver
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Chloe Colliver

Project Coordinator

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Chloe Colliver
Chloe Colliver

Project Coordinator

Chloe is a Project Coordinator at ISD, working across development and delivery of ISD’s online research, programming and policy advisory work concerning counter-extremism and disinformation. Chloe also supports ISD’s business development strategy. Chloe is currently working across a number of projects that use social media analysis, discourse and network mapping to research hate speech, extremism and disinformation online. Her work at ISD also involves partnerships with the major social media platforms, including Facebook, Google and Microsoft, for whom she advises on global policy responses to the threat of online extremism. Chloe has also co-authored ISD reports on subjects including online discourse shifts in the British far right following the Brexit vote. Chloe was awarded the Mellon Fellowship to Yale Graduate School from 2014 to 2016, where she achieved a Masters in History and completed training in coding and data analysis. Chloe graduated from the University of Cambridge with a first class degree in History in 2014.
Jonathan Birdwell
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Jonathan Birdwell

Head of Policy & Research

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Jonathan Birdwell
Jonathan Birdwell

Head of Policy & Research

Jonathan is Head of Policy & Research at ISD, overseeing ISD’s policy work and networks including the Policy Planners’ Network and the Strong Cities Network, as well as overseeing ISD’s work on education policy and programming. On the research side, Jonathan oversees ISD’s research and primary datasets, programme monitoring and evaluation, and edits all of ISD’s written outputs. Since starting at ISD in 2015, Jonathan has overseen the launch and expansion of the Strong Cities Network from 25 to over 110 cities from every global region and growing. In addition to convening Global Summits in Turkey and Denmark, bringing together over 800 practitioners from nearly 75 countries, Jonathan leads on an exciting Strong Cities capacity building project in the Middle East, supported by the Danish Government. Overseeing a growing ISD team in the Middle East, Jonathan has worked closely with ISD Regional Manager Khadije Nasser to build six new ‘Prevention Networks’ and provide training to over 90 local stakeholders across six municipalities in Lebanon and Jordan. On research, Jonathan is currently focused on building out ISD’s unique partnerships and online analytic technology and capabilities to provide up-to-date understanding of extremist propaganda and recruitment tactics in addition to the evaluation of online campaigns and ISD’s online one-to-one interventions. Prior to joining ISD, Jonathan was Head of Programme at the UK cross-party think tank Demos, where he published over forty research reports on topics including violent extremism both Islamist (The Edge of Violence, 2010) and Far-Right (The New Face of Digital Populism, 2011). Jonathan has also written extensively on education (The Forgotten Half, 2011), social and emotional learning (Character Nation, 2015), youth social action and attitudes towards politics (Tune In, Turn Out, 2014), digital politics and marketing (Like, Share, Vote, 2014), trust in government (Trust in Practice, 2010) and religion and integration (Rising to the Top, 2015), among other topics. Jonathan holds a Master’s degree (with distinction) from the London School of Economics and Political Science as well as Bachelor’s degrees in Political Science and Philosophy from Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Melanie Smith
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Melanie Smith

Researcher & Project Coordinator

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Melanie Smith
Melanie Smith

Researcher & Project Coordinator

Melanie is a Researcher and Project Coordinator, working across ISD’s social media analysis projects. Melanie’s research focuses upon the involvement of women in violent conflict, the evolution of lone-actor terrorism and the online behaviours of extremists from across the spectrum. She has three years of experience using social media data to understand the recruitment narratives and infrastructures of violent extremist groups and is currently investigating the impact of disinformation and propaganda on political decision-making. Melanie has co-authored reports and articles on these subjects, regularly presenting her findings to governmental audiences as well as national and international press. Previously a Researcher at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) at King’s College London, Melanie built and cultivated the largest known online database of female members of ISIS. She holds an MA in Geopolitics, Territory & Security from King’s College London and a BA in Geography with Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese from the University of Exeter.