Friday, February 3, 2023

RAND Report on "The Origin and Evolution of the RAND Corporation's Terrorism Databases: Defining and Building a New Field of Knowledge"

[#2 in a chronological series meant to update this blog with write-ups I failed to post during 2021-2022.]


In April 2021, former RAND colleague Brian Jenkins, who initiated and directed RAND research on international terrorism during the 1970s-1980s, asked me to help write a history of RAND’s pioneering chronology of international-terrorism incidents and related databases.  I had worked on those projects from 1972 until the mid 80s. 


I agreed, if we could add a future-oriented section about how the emergence of the noosphere and no√∂politics may affect terrorism in the years ahead.  He agreed to try.  Thus the final write-up we submitted in September had such a section.  However, the powers-that-be wanted that closing section removed, reportedly because it exceeded the project’s original historical intent.  So we removed it — to my lasting disappointment.


At least I made other contributions and got a publication out of it:  Brian Michael Jenkins and David Ronfeldt, The Origin and Evolution of the RAND Corporation's Terrorism Databases: Defining and Building a New Field of Knowledge, RAND Corporation, PE-A1203-1, November 2021. Available at:


The Abstract reads as follows:


“Two RAND Corporation researchers at the forefront of collection and analysis of data on terrorism recount the experiences, challenges, achievements, and lessons learned during the past nearly 50 years. From the 1970s onward, RAND research on terrorism evolved from its initial concern with terrorists' actions (i.e., incidents), to the types of groups that committed those actions, to the attributes of people who made up those groups, and finally to the nature of the mindsets that motivated and characterized those terrorists. Each phase in that progression required a different kind of database and a more sophisticated analytical ability to use each database individually and to use them together (especially as the databases became computerized). Each step also required a new look at the definition of terrorism. After tracing this evolution, the authors discuss challenges and criticisms that arose along the way. They conclude with lessons learned, responses to criticisms, and thoughts about the future of this area of research for database development.”


Even so, this historical report has little bearing on my blog’s purposes here, except as context for understanding my forward-looking draft for the omitted section.  Which I will post tomorrow.


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