The RADIS transfer project supports a funding program with over 100 researchers working on a wide range of questions related to radical Islam. Past experience has shown that research activities benefit greatly from networking across disciplines and institutions. For this reason, RADIS has established so-called clusters, which reflect the key topic areas of the funding program.
At the heart of RADIS, the clusters serve as a space for researchers to discuss theoretical, methodological, and practical research issues, learn from each other, and tap into collaborations. Participants jointly shape and design their sessions based on the specific needs of the individual projects at their respective stages of research.
The cluster "Dialogue with practitioners" is dedicated to discussing preventive strategies and measures: How could co-creation processes between practitioners and researchers be successful from the very beginning? How can research results be translated into practice by the scientific community in a way that is tailored to their needs? Moreover, the cluster is looking for possibilities to establish forums for improved research-practice-dialogue. With regard to the application of prevention measures in other contexts and regions, the cluster is faced with the question of how this can be done in a more sustainable manner. One of the issues discussed is the extent to which cooperation with security bodies can succeed as part of multi-agency approaches. In this context, the cluster benefits from focused input by experts in the field.
Feelings, emotions, and individual attitudes play a pivotal role in the exploration of radical Islam. The cluster „Emotions, affects, and perceptions at the subjective level“ deals with the theoretical and methodological challenges that researchers face in their engagement with individuals and their emotions. This may include the issue of potential (re)traumatisation and debriefing of research participants, as well as high data protection requirements.
Engaging in this group allows participants to discuss the diverse approaches and constructs relevant to their particular research questions, such as feelings of threat, resentment, and experiences of discrimination. The main areas of interest include the refinement of particular interview questions, discussions of different theoretical approaches, and a critical examination of different strands of literature dealing with emotions, affects, and perceptions regarding radical Islam.
The cluster „Group discussions and interviews“ deals with qualitative and reconstructive methods of data collection and analysis in the research of societal causes and effects of Islamist radicalisation. In the sessions, participants discuss issues such as anonymisation and data protection, as well as how to approach and recruit interviewees. Qualitative research projects face considerable challenges and must prepare for the field very carefully. In particular, terminology such as "radicalisation" and "attitudes" may repel potential interviewees. Also, technical possibilities for conducting interviews and group discussions online during a pandemic are explored and debated. What unites the members of the cluster is the interest in group discussion methods as well as depth-hermeneutic, documentary, and content-analytic analysis methods. For this reason, the group also discusses relevant literature and methodology.
In recent years, questions of research ethics have increasingly taken a central place in research on radical Islam. In the "Research ethics" custer, members discuss these issues as they relate to the projects in the funding program and share their experiences on four core topics: (1) the safety and vulnerability of the researchers themselves, (2) research ethics issues in relation to those being researched, (3) collection and assessment of ethics standards across disciplines and their application to the topics of the funding program, and (4) challenges to academic freedom.
Institutions play a fundamental role at countless points in the radicalisation process, and institutional action shapes social radicalisation dynamics. However, as diverse as the domains are in which institutions operate, from education, religion, (security) administration, to civil society organisations of all kinds, as diverse are our interactions with them as researchers. In the cluster "Institutional strategies in dealing with radicalisation dynamics", precisely this complexity is of interest. In this context, it is important to ask about how we perceive different institutions and how they see themselves in relation to radicalisation processes.
The broad research field on radical Islam is being explored by scholars from various disciplines with different approaches. This results in a wide range of theoretical perspectives and tools derived from them. In the cluster "Core concepts: Definitions, operationalisation, measurement scale development", we exchange ideas about theories, terminology, and measurement scales that individual research projects are working with or are critical of. We discuss the origins, characteristics, and implications of various core concepts and contrast them with one another. Examples include Islamophobia / Muslimphobia, Hate Speech, and the concept of Islamism / radical Islam, which is paradigmatic for the research field as a whole.
The dialog unfolds in different formats, from impulse presentations by members of the cluster to the discussion of relevant literature or potential overarching operationalisations and measurement scale development.
The cluster "Dynamics between radical groups/individuals and their environments" focuses on the analysis of interactions between individuals/groups and environmental factors. While spatial and context-specific factors are often referenced when discussing radicalisation, so far there is little solid knowledge about the influence of environmental factors. We discuss theoretical and methodological challenges, such as how the embeddedness of individuals and groups in their environments can be theoretically conceptualised and comprehended. Depending on research interests, we address the dynamics and factors within urban districts as well as educational contexts or the influence of local groups and milieus.
Many of the researchers involved in the network deal with large amounts of data as text. The types of texts vary widely, ranging from social media posts to legal texts to sermons in German, Arabic, and Turkish. Accordingly, the epistemological interests and research questions vary as well, leaving the members with unique requirements and needs in handling textual data.
In the cluster sessions on "Qualitative and quantitative text analysis and handling of large data sets", members share their experiences in collecting, processing, and analysing textual data. In peer teaching sessions, experienced colleagues introduce the group to established as well as to new or lesser-known analysis tools and software, e.g. R, MAXQDA, or 4CAT. Application to the respective research is discussed together.
The cluster „Surveys and survey experiments“ is the exchange platform for researches from the funding line that work with survey designs. Depending on their needs, we discuss research designs or measurement scales from the individual projects. Moreover, we try to create synergies by paying attention to the timing of the respective surveys and referencing items reciprocally. The cluster sessions are therefore very operative in nature, but simultaneously touch on a broad range of topics of the funding program.