International awards won by Essex researchers for best conference papers

  • Date

    Thu 30 Jun 22

image of a globe section showing UK and europe and asia

Two University of Essex researchers have won Awards for best papers at this year's international Peace Science Society Conference.

Dr Sara Polo, senior lecturer in the Department of Government was awarded this year’s Medal for the best publication in Peace Science after a poll of all members over the year, and PhD researcher, Blair Welsh received the Stuart A Bremer Award for the most outstanding graduate paper presented at the Conference.

Dr Polo co-wrote Trojan Horse, Copycat, or Scapegoat? Unpacking the Refugees-Terrorism Nexus, published by The Journal of Politics, with Julian Wucherpfennig, professor at the Centre for International Security. A summary of the article was also published in the Washington Post’s prestigious Monkey Cage. This paper also previously received the APSA Conflict Processes Best Paper Award.

Dr Polo said: “I am delighted and honoured to have received this recognition for our work. Popular debate often connects refugees to an increased threat to national security. The article argues otherwise. It finds no causal link between hosting refugees and an increase in terrorist attacks from foreign groups, including terrorist groups based in refugee origin countries. It shows that the only form of terrorism that increases in host nations in the developed world is right-wing violence against refugees and migrants, perpetrated by citizens of those countries who falsely view refugees as a security threat.

“These findings suggest fears of refugees are not only unjustified but also counterproductive. They subject refugees to a double victimisation in developed countries: by limiting refugees in their ability to gain shelter; and by inflicting further violence on those granted refuge by developed countries.”

Blair Welsh, who is studying in the Department of Government, received his award for his paper The Lethality of Hostage-Taking in Civil War. Blair’s paper uses new data on hostage victims in Iraq to determine the conditions under which the Islamic State might kill hostages. This research is part of his PhD thesis on terrorist violence in civil war. Originally from Glasgow, Blair is a first-generation PhD researcher. His research is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) through the South East Network for Social Scientists.

The papers were presented at the 21st Jan Tinbergen European Peace Science Society Conference by the Network of European Peace Scientists.

Blair said: “It’s such an honour to have my research recognised by such an incredible group of researchers at this conference. I’m inspired by the work my colleagues are doing to drive the discipline forward. I’m so thankful for the support and encouragement I receive at Essex, particularly from my supervisory committee - Kristian Gleditsch, Brian Phillips, and Sara Polo.

“I’m also incredibly thankful to those who gave careful, kind, and constructive feedback during the conference. I’m excited to take on the feedback and present a revised version of the work in Colorado.”