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Research Profile

Dr Matthew Williams 

Dr Matthew Williams
Position:Senior Lecturer
School:Social Sciences

Telephone:+44 (0)29 208 74853
Fax:+44 (0)29 208 74175
contact info:

Address:2.28 Glamorgan Building

Research Interests

  • COSMOS, Digital Social Research & Big 'Social' Data
  • Computational Criminology
  • Cybercrime / Human Factors in Cybersecurity
  • Cyber Hate and Homophobic Hate Crime

COSMOS, Digital Social Research & Big 'Social' Data:

I am a founder of the Collaborative Online Social Media ObServatory (COSMOS) that has attracted 17 research grants amounting to over £1.25M in funding from the ESRC and £500K from the public and private sectors.  The COSMOS programme of work directly relates to my career-long interest in Digital Social Research (DSR) that dates back to 1997 when I began my PhD on virtual communities and cybercrime (supervised by Prof. Paul Atkinson). I was Principal Investigator on the first founding COSMOS grant 'Digital Social Research Tools, Tension Indicators and Safer Communities: A demonstration of COSMOS' (ESRC DSR Programme) and am Principal Investigator on the current COSMOS grant 'Social Media and Prediction: Crime Sensing, Data Integration and Statistical Modeling' (ESRC/National Centre for Research Methods Methodological Innovation Project). I also play major roles as a Co-Investigator on the following ongoing COSMOS related grants: 'Understanding the Role of Social Media in the Aftermath of Youth Suicides' (Department of Health for England); 'Public Perceptions of the UK Food System: Public Understanding and Engagement, and the Impact of Crises and Scares' (ESRC & Food Standards Agency); 'Digital Wildfires: (Mis)information Flows, Propagation & Responsible Governance' (ESRC Global Uncertainties Ethics and Rights in Security); 'Linking Administrative, Curated and User-Generated Data for Evidence-Based Policy Making: The Case of Safer Communities in Smarter Cities' (ESRC Secondary Data Analysis Initiative Phase II); 'Detecting Tension and Cohesion in Local Communities with Social Media' (Airbus Group); and High Performance Computing, Scalability and Big 'Social' Data (HPC Wales/Fujitsu).  I was also Co-Investigator on the following COSMOS grants that have now completed: 'Hate Speech and Social Media: Understanding Users, Networks and Information Flows' (ESRC/Google Data Analytics);  ‘Supporting Empirical Social Science Research with a Virtual Research Environment’ (JISC); and ‘Requirements Analysis for Social Media Analysis Research Tools’ (ESRC/DSR).  Before COSMOS I was involved in the Cardiff Digital Ethnography and Hypermedia research programme (with Atkinson, Coffey & Dicks) as Co-Investogtaor on ‘Ethnography for the Digital Age’ (ESRC) and ‘Methods and Issues in Qualitative Online Data Sharing and Archiving’ (ESRC Qualitative Archiving & Data Sharing).  On the topic of DSR I have published in the major social science methodology journals (Qualitative Research, International Journal of Social Research Methodology (IJSRM), Sociological Research Online, Methodological Innovations and Building Research Capacity) and have edited a special issue of IJSRM on Computational Social Science: Theory, Method and Data (with Williams, Housley & Edwards).  I have also written the Digital Social Research chapters in the leading methodology textbooks in criminology including 'Doing Criminological Research' (Jupp: Sage); 'Doing Research on Crime and Justice' (King & Wincup: Oxford) and 'Online Social Research: Methods, Issues & Ethics' (Chen & Hall: Peter Lang).  Between 2013-14 I was awarded a Cardiff University Research Leave Fellowship to further develop my work on COSMOS and to establish international links with Rutgers University, University of Texas, Austin and Twitter US.

Computational Criminology, Cybercrime and Human Factors in Cybersecurity:

I have applied my significant amount of digital methodology work to the study of cybercrime, that formed the focus of my PhD thesis. In 2010 I was successful in capturing a ground-breaking research grant 'e-Crime Reduction Partnership Mapping Study' (with Levi) from Nominet Trust. The project was championed by the Rt. Hon. Alun Michael MP and the findings were launched at Westminster to MPs and industry. Our recommendations highlighted the need for a UK cybercrime reduction partnership and in 2013 HMG’s Cybercrime Reduction Partnership was formed and I was invited to join as one of only two academics. The research was presented at a keynote address, and at conferences in Europe and Australia and published as two journal papers and one book chapter.  In 2013 I was a key player in the successful capture of the RCUK Global Uncertainties Consortia for Exploratory Research into Cyber Security grant 'Identifying and Modelling Victim, Business, Regulatory and Malware Behaviours in a Changing Cyberthreat Landscape' (£1.2M) that continues my work in this area.   I have published extensively in this area in high profile international journals including: Criminology & Criminal Justice, Policing & Society, Security Journal, Journal of Sexual Aggression, Information Management & Computer Security and International Review of Law, Computers & Technology.   Recently I edited the special issue of Policing and Society entitled: Policing Cybercrime: Networked and Social Media Technologies and the Challenges for Policing.  I have written chapters in several key criminology textbooks and edited collections on the topic, including 'Criminology' (Hayle et al.: Oxford); 'Handbook of Crime' (Brookman et al.: Willan); 'Handbook of Internet Crime' (Jewkes & Yar: Willan); and 'Crime & the Internet' (Wall: Routledge). My book, Virtually Criminal published by Routledge was short listed for the British Sociological Association’s Philip Abrams Memorial Book Prize in 2007.  In 2013 I was invited by James Brokenshire, then Minister for Security, and David Willets, Minister for Universities and Science to join, as one of only two academics, HMG's Cyber Crime Reduction Partnership. In 2014 I was invited by Professor Sir Alan Wilson, Chair of the Home Office Science Advisory Committee, to join HMG's Costs of Cybercrime International Expert Advisory Group. I also currently act as an expert reviewer for the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) Board of Physical Sciences Cyber Security Programme.  I have been an academic reviewer on HMG's Office for Science Foresight project ‘Future of Identity’, an academic advisor to the ACPO/College of Policing project ‘National Assessment on threats and opportunities posed by the use of Global Digital Communication Technologies’, and an academic advisor to the DTI foresight programme and the eCrime Wales Project.  

Cyber Hate and Homophobic Hate Crime

I have a long-standing interest in homophobic hate crime and the migration of all forms of hate to the Internet.  In 2010 I captured a Big Lottery grant (£570k) for the 'All Wales Hate Crime Project', on which I was sole PI. This is the largest and most comprehensive academic study of hate crime conducted within the UK.  This project built upon my previous two studies into homophobic hate crimes in Wales (Stonewall Cymru Counted Out! Survey 2003 & Counted In! Survey 2007). The Big Lottery project achieved outstanding impact.  The findings were received by the Wales Minister for Communities at the project launch in the National Assembly for Wales and formed the key source of evidence for the Welsh Government’s Framework for Action on Tackling Hate Crime. The key findings from the project were recently published in the British Journal of Criminology.  More recently I have studied the migration of hate crime and speech to the Internet.  As part of my PhD thesis I examined how forms of illocutionary speech in virtual communities could constitute hate crime.  I continued this research by capturing the ESRC/Google Data Analytics grant 'Hate Speech and Social Media: Understanding Users, Networks and Information Flows'. A major output from this project entitled 'Tweeting the Terror: Modelling the Social Media Reaction to the Woolwich Terrorist Attack’ has been published in the international peer-reviewed journal Social Network Analysis and Mining and was picked up in the international press by the Times of IndiaZee News, Indiaand Sun News, Canada.

Interdisciplinarity is a key feature of my research and I have worked with members of staff in the schools of Computer Science, Psychology, Law, Business, Mathematics and Dentistry. I have been successful in gaining grants from the ESRC, EPSRC, AHRC, JISC, Big Lottery Fund, Welsh Government, Nominet Trust, Stonewall Cymru, TUC Wales, Safer Wales, Department of Health, Food Standards Agency, Google, High Performance Computing Wales/Fujitsu and the Airbus Group. My research income to date is in excess of £4M.   

I was recently appointed to serve as a member of the ESRC's Peer Review College.

Social Media

Personal Twitter: MattLWilliams
COSMOS Twitter: cosmos_Project
Cybersecurity Twitter: CardiffSecurity

Video: Wales: Standing Together Against Hate Crime - Project Research