The Open Source Communications, Analytics Research (OSCAR) Development Centre is a new, innovative, multi-disciplinary Centre bringing together academics and police practitioners to develop a research evidence base around the use of open source information for policing and community safety services. Funded by the Home Office / HEFCE / and the College of Policing, the work of the centre will help to develop open source methodologies, technologies and insights that will shape the future of policing.
Who is involved in the OSCAR Development Centre?
The Centre has been established through funding from the Police Knowledge Fund led by the Universities’ Police Science Institute, which is part of Cardiff University’s Crime and Security Research Institute. The other partners in the OSCAR Centre are:
- The National Counter-Terrorism Functions Command;
- South Wales Police;
- Surrey Police;
- Sussex Police;
- Safer Sutton Partnership;
- Cardiff Council;
- West Midlands Police;
- University of Surrey.
The Challenges of Open Source
The ‘information age’ and era of big data are posing multiple challenges to policing and security agencies worldwide, as more and more of social life and its associated conflicts and problems have a digital footprint. Reflecting these developments, there is a need to understand how large volumes of publicly available data generated by social media and other sources can be used by the police and other agencies in their investigative, intelligence and engagement work relating to the full spectrum of issues from counter-terrorism to Neighbourhood Policing.
These issues are being rendered increasingly challenging because of how many key communications platforms and their user communities are evolving rapidly, and new technologies and capabilities are being introduced. An equally important set of issues concerns the legal and ethical dimensions of police using data and materials deriving from these sources and the contours of public permission for this. UK policing has been premised upon the doctrine of ‘policing by consent’, and as such the ethical and regulatory dimensions of these developments will be a core interest for the OSCAR’s work as we seek to understand what ‘digital policing by consent’ looks like.
At the current time, whilst there is increasing interest across the policing and security sector in the potentials and opportunities offered by open sourcing data, there is a growing recognition of the methodological and conceptual challenges that have to be overcome. The OSCAR Centre has been designed to develop evidence-based solutions to these challenges.
The OSCAR Centre's Methodology
The Centre will use a range of innovative techniques, ideas and methods to engage with these challenges, underpinned by a commitment to knowledge co-production. Over the past decade UPSI has pioneered the use of knowledge co-production methodologies in developing policing policy and practice, understood as researchers and practitioners working together to:
- Co-define the key problems to be worked on;
- Co-design solutions to these problems;
- Co-delivering the solutions.
The operating methodology of the OSCAR Centre is built around a suite of co-production techniques designed to enable creative and innovative policy and practice development. These include:
- Peer knowledge exchange events – where practitioners and academics work together to clarify key problems, and best practice.
- ‘Red Team Tests’ – a methodology for challenging and critiquing current policy or past operations.
- Evidence camps – intensive courses that increase practitioners’ research literacy and understanding of how open source methods provide new forms of evidence.
- ‘Simulation’ Exercises – replaying past events in a controlled way to determine ‘what worked’ and ‘what didn’t’.
Director - Professor Martin Innes | Universities' Police Science institute, Cardiff University
Co-Director - Daniel Pearce | Head of Open Source, Social Media and Analysis, National Counter Terrorism Police Functions Command (NCTPFC)
Co-Director - Professor Nigel Fielding | University of Surrey
Cardiff Scientific Co-Director - Professor Alun Preece | School of Computer Science & Informatics, Cardiff University
Project Manager - Dr Colin Roberts | Universities' Police Science institute, Cardiff University
Communications & Events - Aimee-Jade Hayes | Universities' Police Science institute, Cardiff University
Administrator - Cheryl Bucchanan | Universities' Police Science institute, Cardiff University
Tel: +44 (0) 2920 875440
OSCAR Final Report: Executive Summary