I am the University of Manchester's strategic lead for Digital Trust and Security, which involves bringing together and developing expertise across the University around issues such as cybersecurity, privacy, data protection, governance, cryptography, responsible innovation, software verification, secure hardware, cyber-dependent and cyber-enabled crimes and criminals, and digital vulnerability to crime. We work with businesses, local and national government, law enforcement, and academic researchers from across the world to develop research that helps protect citizens and enhance prosperity.
I have a range of research interests, falling broadly into two themes: psychology and security, and the psychology of extreme environments. (The themes sometimes overlap - see Smith & Barrett, 2018).
My research interests in psychology and security include betrayal, deception, and credibility assessment; cyber-dependent and cyber-enabled crimes and criminals; investigative sense-making and decision-making; and terrorism and violent extremist behaviour. I am currently involved in projects relating to 'insider threat', online grooming, investigative decisions, and the impact of misinformation on democratic processes.
I am involved in multiple projects relating to the psychology of performance and well-being in extreme and challenging environments. With my UoM colleague Dr Nathan Smith, we collaborate with organisations across the world, including Royal Geographical Society, Voluntary Service Overseas, the European Space Agency, NASA, and the Antarctic Heritage Trust. Nathan and I co-lead the Behavioural and Social Science Network for Extremes, which is open to all researchers (MSc upwards, from all behavioural, social science, and humanities disciplines) working in this area. I am the co-author (with Paul Martin) of "Extreme: Why some people thrive at the limits" published by OUP in 2014, and I speak regularly to scientific, business, and general audiences about the qualities and motivations of people who choose to enter extreme and challenging environments (including Polar explorers, astronauts, cavers, long distance sailors, mountaineers, and expedition fieldworkers).
Before joining UoM in 2018, I was Research to Practice Fellow at the Centre for Research and Evidence on Security Threats (CREST) at Lancaster University, leading efforts to ensure that CREST’s research activities focused on end user requirements and fostering strong links with stakeholders. From 2003-2015 I established and led a UK Government inter-departmental research unit that developed and applied behavioural, psychological, and social science research to a range of law enforcement, security, and defence issues. Prior to that, I worked as an analyst for the UK Ministry of Defence, providing policy and strategic analysis to customers in MOD and broader government.
I completed my doctorate in Psychology at the University of Birmingham. My thesis explores psychological mechanisms underlying the acquisition, interpretation, and exploitation of information by detectives in complex criminal enquiries.
I am on Twitter: @crimepsychblog (security and crime), @takingrisksbook (extreme environments)