A Comprehensive Web-based Data Portal and Archive
The Western Jihadism Project Data Collection, founded in 2006, is a web database designed to study Al-Qaeda-inspired terrorist offenders in Western Europe, the Antipodes, Canada, and the United States. The database began as a spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel. Since then it has since evolved into a relational database in PostgreSQL and using a Django-based administrative framework for editing the data stored within. There are approximately 6,000 people with 23,000 types of relationships between data points. The collection also contains numerous audio-visual files including photographs, videos, propaganda, magazines, sermons, and news reports.
Data is gathered from publicly available, open source documents including government reports and press releases, court documents, news articles, and social media postings. Information is manually entered into the database by research assistants trained in both a coding scheme unique to the Western Jihadism Project and in how to differentiate appropriate and legitimate sources from false ones. The “person” entities in the database have upwards of 50 variables ranging from demographic information (i.e.: sex, year of birth, hometown) to arrest information (i.e.: sentencing year, materials found at arrest) to written descriptions of the subject’s terrorism-related activities. Terrorist incidents and organizational entities have 15 variables including the target, plotted means, location, and a summary of the event or group. The “links” record have 15 variables including target, plotted means, location, and a summary of the event or group. The “links” record the relationships between people, plots, and organizations including leadership, familial ties, and recruitment.
The project’s framework allows data to be edited by administrators with ease and to be searched through a number of “queries” written in SQL. Data can be exported into .csv format to allow for further statistical analysis and social networking programs. Access to the collection requires a non-disclosure agreement, approved IRB protocol, and a work plan detailing how the research will be conducted.