Seminar with Thomas Hegghammer (FFI and University of Oslo) og Petter Nesser (FFI)
Title of presentation: "Losing the plot: The limits of attack data in terrorism research"
Much research on terrorism measures terrorist activity in executed attacks, but this metric may be flawed. Counterterrorism and coincidences derail terrorist plots in ways we do not yet understand, so measuring terrorism in executed attacks risks selecting on the dependent variable. This article identifies and explores the "plot attrition problem", a significant but overlooked measurement problem in terrorism data analysis.
We examine its roots, manifestations, and epistemological implications. Building on recent advances in plot data collection, we specify plot attrition in jihadi terrorism in the West between 1993 and 2017, finding that, on average, around seventy percent of plots fail.
Moreover, plot attrition varies across time and space in ways we are unable to explain. This raises questions about the validity of some quantitative terrorism research and suggests that scholars and policymakers should pay more attention to plot data in their analyses