I have a range of research and teaching interests, falling broadly into two themes: psychology and security, and the psychology of extreme environments. (The themes sometimes overlap - see Smith & Barrett, 2018).
I am Principal Investigator for the Security, Privacy, Identity and Trust NetworkPlus (SPRITE+), funded until 31 August 2023 by the EPSRC as part of its Digital Economy programme (grant reference EP/S035869/1). SPRITE+ is a vehicle for cross-disciplinary, cross-sector collaboration between people involved in research, practice, and policy with a focus on digital contexts. (More details: https://spritehub.org)
My research interests in psychology and security include the harmful use of new and emerging technologies, betrayal, deception, and investigative sense-making and decision-making. I am currently involved in projects relating to online child sexual abuse, investigative decision making, and threats to democracy in the digital age.
I co-lead the interdisciplinary UCIL Undergraduate course Trust and Security in the Digital Age, with my colleague Prof Daniel Dresner (Computer Science). The course runs in 10 and 20 credit versions in Semester 2, and is open to undergraduates from any discipline who want to learn more about cybersecurity, cybercrime, online victimisation, privacy, data surveillance, threats to democracy... and much more!
From 2018 to 2022 I was the University's strategic lead for digital trust and security.
Extreme environments activities
I am involved in multiple projects relating to the psychology of performance and well-being in extreme and challenging environments. With my 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 research unit that developed and applied behavioural, psychological, and social science research to a range of law enforcement, security, and defence issues.
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.
You can follow me on Twitter: @crimepsychblog (security and crime), @takingrisksbook (extreme environments), @SPRITEPlus (SPRITE+ NetworkPlus).