Dr. Gill is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at ICST and Project Manager on “From Bomb to Bomb-Maker: A Proposal to Develop a Social Network Analysis Model of the Socio-Psychological and Cultural Dynamics of the IED Process” (PI John Horgan). His doctoral thesis, “The Dynamics of Suicide Bombing in Campaigns of Political Violence,” focused on the underlying individual and organizational motivations behind suicide bombing and why constituencies of people give support to the perpetrators. He was awarded the prestigious 2010 Jean Blondel Prize for the best Ph.D. thesis in Political Science in the European Union. In addition to his research on terrorism, Dr. Gill is also interested in research on political psychology, political mobilization, and social movements. Dr. Gill holds a Ph.D. in Political Science, an M.A. in International Relations, and a BSocSc(Int) from the School of Politics and International Relations in University College Dublin, Ireland.
My research examines terrorism: its causes, its patterns, the actors that perpetrate terrorist attacks, and the policies used to try eliminate terrorism. My research demonstrates the heterogeneous profiles of terrorists, the pathways that lead individuals to join groups, how they fit into a wider structure, and how particular group influences condition individuals to engage in acts of violence. My studies have also highlighted that while it may be impossible to predict who will join a terrorist group, we can reliably identify the roles individuals are likely to take within terrorist groups upon joining based on their socio-demographic background. My doctoral thesis focused upon psychological aspects of suicide terrorism. More recently, I have focused upon the nature of creativity and lethality within terrorist groups. My research cross-cuts aspects of political psychology, criminology, political science and behavioral psychology
Future Research Directions
My ongoing research agenda continues to forge ahead on some areas covered by my publications (and papers currently under review) as well as breaking new ground with some new studies. Looking towards the next several years, my future research agenda is defined by four investigative themes:
1) Suicide Terrorism
To date, my research on suicide terrorism has been largely qualitative, but a significant amount of data has also been collected, and I am currently in the process of aggregating and coding much of it for quantitative analysis. The data includes an up-to-date incident database, a suicide bomber database, a database of last will and testament transcripts and videos, and organizational claims of responsibility.
2) Lone-Wolf Terrorism
I am currently a co-PI and project manager on a project that seeks to be the first multi-disciplinary and empirically rigorous examination of the motivations, antecedent behaviors, and learning processes of lone-wolf terrorism. This project will produce a database of global lone-actor terrorists that captures socio-demographic, behavioral, network, and event-trait variables. The research will seek to typologize lone-actor terrorists using multivariate cluster analysis, review antecedent behaviors of analogous cases, and engage in routine activity analyses of lone-wolf terrorist events.
3) Leadership in Terrorist Organizations
I am also a co-PI and project manager on a project that focuses upon the dynamics of leadership in terrorist organizations. Alongside I/O psychologists at Penn State and computer scientists at the University of Bath, I will be engaged in two-year analysis of the behaviors of terrorist leaders and process tracing the nature of leadership derailment through a mixture of large-N quantitative analysis and comparative case studies.
4) Delving Deeper into Individual-Level Analyses
As stated earlier, much of my current research focuses upon who joins terrorist groups, how they join these groups, the roles they inherit, and how they train to inflict violent upon others. While the number of event-level analyses proliferates within the study of terrorism, there still remains an underwhelming amount of research at the individual level. At Penn State, I have managed a series of databases that capture key socio-demographic, network, and operational properties of convicted terrorists. This vast treasure trove of data will enable a great deal of exciting studies concerning who joins, and ultimately defects from terrorist organizations.
Gill, P. and J. Horgan. 2012 (forthcoming). “Who were the Volunteers? The Shifting Sociological Profile of 1240 Provisional Irish Republican Army Members.” Terrorism and Political Violence.
Gill, P. 2012 (forthcoming). “The Contextual, Facilitative and Causal Qualities of Group-Based Behaviors and Terrorist Violence: A Case Study of Suicide Bombing Plots in Great Britain.” Aggression and Violent Behavior.
Bloom, M., P. Gill, and J. Horgan. 2012. “Tiocfaidh ár Mná: Women in the Provisional Irish Republican Army.” Behavioral Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression, 4(1):60-76.
Gill, P., J. Horgan, and J. Lovelace. 2011. “Improvised Explosive Devices – The Problem of Definition.” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, 34(9):732–748.
Gill, P. 2008. “Suicide Bomber Pathways Among Islamic Militants.” Policing, 2(4):412¬–422.
Gill, P. 2007. “A Multi-Dimensional Approach to Suicide Bombing.” The International Journal of Conflict and Violence, 1(2):142–159.
Horgan, J. and P. Gill. 2011. “Who Becomes a Dissident? Patterns in the Mobilisation and Recruitment of Violent Dissident Republicans in Northern Ireland.” In Dissident Irish Republicanism, eds. M. Taylor and M. Currie. New York: Continuum Press.
Gill, P. 2009. “Social Factors and Group Membership Influence Suicide Bombers.” In What Motivates Suicide Bombers?, ed. R. Espejo. London: Greenhaven Press.