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Proton: An EU funded project to analyse organised crime and terrorist groups.

Development and research on the EU (H2020) funded PROTON project begun in October 2016.  Run by a consortium of 21 members PROTON was coordinated by the Italian Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore.

The aim of the project was to: “improving existing knowledge on the processes of recruitment to organised crime and terrorist networks”. This was achieved in September 2019, with the creation of the PROTON-S and PROTON wizard based on an “innovative integration between social and computational sciences.”.

You can have a look at their website at: Project Proton.

 The Project

From the onset of the project PROTON set itself three objectives to complete its mission:

  1. to investigate the factors leading to organised crime and terrorist networks.
  2. The Development of Proton-S
  3. The Development of Proton Wizard

Therefore, the project first established the factors leading to organised crime and terrorism, which was then used as input and to inform the development of Proton-S and Proton Wizard.

In this regard, PROTON´s underlying analysis dealt with:

  • Social Factors
  • Psychological factors
  • Economic factors

Among other areas the analysis was concerned with:

The social factors, where PROTON focused on the development of the careers of criminals engaged in organised crime and terrorists; the role of the internet in the radicalisation and recruitment process and conduct a quantitative analysis of this process. Furthermore, the impact of counter-terrorism policies on radicalisation and recruitment were analysed as well.

The psychological factors, especially an investigation of a “possible imbalance between the cognitive and emotional traits of organised crime criminals”

The economic factors, precisely the relations among inequality, social and income mobility and mafia presence. Furthermore, on “preceding terrorist and extremist attitudes” and perceptions of economic adversity, social exclusion and localised disadvantages.

If you are interested in a more detailed explanation of the underlying factors you can access two YouTube videos produced by the PROTON project:

PROTON-S Organised Crime Recruitment Model

PROTON-S Terrorist Network Recruitment Model

Or have a look at PROTON´s published deliverables:

The Outcome

The project used Agent-Based Model simulations (ABM) to create the Proton-S and Proton Wizard analysis tools. ABM is a “computational method” and enables the researchers using it to “create, analyse, and experiment models composed of agents interacting with an environment”.

Already on the 17th and 18th of June, Proton was able to present their preliminary results in Palermo. Meanwhile, the Proton-s analysis tools can be accessed on Proton´s website or following these links:

PROTON Wizard for the PROTON-S models on organised crime

PROTON Wizard for the PROTON-S models on terrorist networks

The models are mainly designed for security agencies and policy makers.  The goal is to test the impact of “prevention and control policies” against and on organised crime and terrorism and their recruitment activities.

Based on ABM, Proton-S developed a number of simulated societies. Here policies can be implemented and their effect on organised crime and terrorism, especially on their recruitment activities, can be measured. The results of the simulation are displayed on PROTON Wizard.

In this regard, PROTON innovative power lays in the conceptualisation of the recruitment process and the behaviour of the terrorist and/or criminal organisations within the simulated societies.

For terrorism PROTON uses a model based on the theory of opinion dynamics, according to Mario Paolucci a member of the project. Through this, PROTON simulates the recruitment mechanism based on social, economic and psychological factors rather than statistical methods.

Criminal organisations are based on a network perspective, simulating the shifting social relationships within a given group. Depending on the societies in which they operate and the policies implemented, these networks can grow or shrink.

Therefore, PROTON goes beyond statistical assumptions and pre-existing organisations and provides a dynamic and responding simulated society, based on the extensive research conducted. The tool gives those dealing with organised crime and terrorism a way of measuring or testing their policies and strategies.


Note: This article is based on PROTON´s website, and two Cordis articles about the project

Author: Niklas Hamann


European Commission (2019). New tools to prevent and fight organised crime and terrorism. In: Cordis Available at:

European Commission (2019). Modelling the PRocesses leading to Organised crime and TerrOrist Networks. In: Cordis Available at:

PROTON (2019). PROTON. Available at:


Simulation, evaluation, tool, H2020