The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is announcing £1.7 million of funding for projects investigating crime at sea, human trafficking, cyber-crime, crime in Africa and the overlap between crime and extremism. These five projects are part of the Transnational organised crime: Deepening and broadening our understanding 2018 call and will run for up to 36 months, commencing in January 2019. 

As part of its contribution to the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Partnership for Conflict, Crime and Security Research (PaCCS), the ESRC has commissioned five research grants in order to deepen and broaden understanding of the complex issues related to Transnational Organised Crime (TNOC) and its inter-relation with other licit and illicit activities. 

The projects are as follows:

  • Transnational organised crime at sea: New evidence for better responses
    Professor Timothy Edmunds, University of Bristol
  • Deciphering and disrupting the social, spatial and temporal systems behind transnational human trafficking: a data science approach
    Dr Ella Cockbain, University, College London 
  • Hidden narratives of transnational organised crime in West Africa
    Dr Gernot Klantschnig, University of York
  • How online technologies are transforming transnational organised crime (Cyber-TNOC)
    Professor Michael Levi, Cardiff University
  • The crime-terror nexus: Investigating the overlap between criminal and extremist practices, narratives and networks in Tripoli, Lebanon
    Dr Raphaël Lefèvre, University of Oxford  

The five funded projects will directly respond to the aims of this call by exploring the complex and ever-evolving socio-political and socio-technical environments within which TNOC operates. These five new projects cover diverse issues such as the links between cybercrime and TNOC, the regional response to transnational maritime crime, using data to support the response to transnational human trafficking, an ethnography of the spatial, socio-political and historical dimensions of TNOC in Lebanon and a study of illicit flows and TNOC in West Africa.

Through his project entitled 'The Crime-Terror Nexus: Investigating the overlap between criminal and extremist practices, narratives and networks in Tripoli, Lebanon' Dr Raphaël Lefèvre from the University of Oxford will use Tripoli as a case study to explore the ways in which TNOC is embedded in marginalized urban communities and intersects with politico-religious extremism. This interdisciplinary research draws on Dr Lefèvre’s expertise on the vast networks of Tripolitan neighbourhoods with the co-investigators insights into the cultural anthropology of criminality in order to make a key contribution to the growing literature on the 'crime-terror nexus'. Dr Lefèvre hopes his research will be able to raise awareness of TNOC in marginalised communities within academia, amongst the general public and for security practitioners and policymakers. 

These awards will provide a major stimulus for developments in the social sciences and have the potential to produce significant economic and societal impact.

The operation and reach of organised crime is often no longer confined to individual states and is becoming increasingly international. All funded projects include international research partners with case studies being carried out in Lebanon, Niger, and Nigeria and in international waters. TNOC is a complex issue that requires the co-design and co-production of knowledge with policymakers and practitioners. Non-academic stakeholders have been engaged in the design and plans for the implementation and dissemination of these funded awards to ensure that projects are also guided by the needs of research users to ensure impact for policy and practice.  

Dr Tristram Riley-Smith, Research Integrator for the TNOC theme, said: "I am delighted that these projects have secured funding from the ESRC. These projects have the potential to make a real contribution to the knowledge base on transnational organised crime and therefore lead to significant impact across academia, policymaking and global security."

This call builds upon the success of 11 innovation awards that were funded under the TNOC theme in 2016 that have delivered insightful research outcomes along with a number of opportunities for impact on policy and practice within the TNOC community.