Strengthening the role of Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) and end-users in security research

Reinhard Kreissl
European security policy, comprising dimensions of internal and external security, takes a threat-based approach, highlighting terrorism, radicalisation, organised and cyber-crime as well as climate change as key challenges to be addressed by targeted policy initiatives. European security research is supposed to contribute in several ways: developing a better understanding of (root) causes and provide technological, societal and policy solutions to combat the abovementioned threats. Also, security research should increase the competitiveness of the European security industry.
The security research work programme takes a mission-oriented approach, i.e. specific challenges are listed in the topic description and research is expected to create impact through the development of innovative solutions and/or better and improved understanding of causes of a given security threat. Challenges, threats and topics are defined in the realm of policy and any expected impact of research has to feed back into the policy arena.
This framing is compatible with a type of research that has been labelled as technosolutionism, where a process or technology is developed to address a pre-defined problem and the suggested solution is understood as a tool to be instrumentally applied by the relevant (public or private) security providers. Within this solutionist framework, SSH are introduced as a crosscutting priority in a number of topics addressing human factors, as well as social, societal and organisational aspects of specific security threats. SSH typically take on auxiliary roles, investigating legal and ethical aspects of (primarily technology-enabled) security solutions, conducting citizen surveys to assess the public’s acceptance of specific security measures, researching psychological, social and cultural factors leading to crime and terrorism.
However, SSH have the capabilities to contribute beyond their role as service providers who respond to targeted questions of ethics, acceptance and causes of crime and terrorism that are relevant for law enforcement. Taking an SSH-informed look beyond the sequence of problem-research-solution can produce important insights for security policy and also help to improve the linear solutionist approach taken in security research. SSH can help to better understand security challenges and threats, directing security research (a), they can add complexity to security problem description (b), develop suggestions on how to achieve sustainable impact of research output (c), and identify how these aspects are closely and reflexively interlinked.
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