There’s still time to apply for a PhD program scholarship to research the use of Human Factors and Ergonomics (HFE) to understand and disrupt the trade of illicit products and services in darknet marketplaces.

The darknet is a layer of the Internet in which various marketplaces exist to facilitate the trade of both legitimate and illicit products and services.

Darknet markets represent a significant challenge for law enforcement agencies. Many marketplaces of different sizes exist, owners, vendors and sellers remain anonymous, and marketplaces are agile and constantly evolving. Novel forms of intervention are required along with research exploring different mechanisms for disrupting marketplace trading.

Systems Human Factors and Ergonomics (HFE) methods provide the capacity to describe and model systems in terms of their components and how they interact with one another. Recent research has explored the extent to which systems HFE can be used to inform the development of strategies to diminish the functioning of systems that have been created to achieve illicit ends (Lane et al., 2019; Salmon et al., 2018; 2019). For example, Salmon et al. (2018) used Work Domain Analysis (WDA; Naikar, 2013) and a breaking nodes process to identify interventions that could be used to disrupt the activities of Islamic State style terrorist cells. Lane et al. (2019) used the Event Analysis of Systemic Teamwork (EAST; Stanton et al., 2013) to analyse the processes involved when buying and selling identity credentials on DreamMarket (a dark net marketplace that has since been closed). Lane et al (2019) subsequently applied the EAST-Broken Links approach (EAST-BL; Stanton & Harvey, 2017) to identify strategies for disrupting trading. Building on this work, this scholarship provides an opportunity for a PhD project focused on the use of systems HFE and/or computational modelling methods such as Agent-Based Modelling to understand and disrupt trading in Darknet marketplaces.

For further information on the research project contact:

Professor Paul Salmon

Director Centre for Human Factors and Sociotechnical Systems

[email protected]

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