Praescient Analytics’ internship program provides a great opportunity to debut your knowledge in data analytics and gain real world experience in the field. The Intelligence Cell Unit has traditionally appealed to data science or applied analytics students, so on first glance two of the Fall 2021 interns who are part of the unit seem to be out of place due to their background in forensic psychology. However, the two fields are surprisingly more interconnected than one may initially assume and forensic psychology lends a striking perspective that supports analysis goals. Deep diving into the work at Praescient illuminated a plethora of overlapping concepts at the intersection of forensic psychology and data analytics.
But first… What is Forensic Psychology?
Forensic psychology is the intersection of psychology and law that simultaneously works to hold people accountable for their actions while also trying to understand and explain their behavior. While forensic psychology encompasses vast career paths, the path most related to Praescient’s work has to do with behavioral analysis (often referred to as profiling) or crime analysis at large.
A look Into George Washington University Forensic Psychology Courses
Courses aligned with Praescient’s capabilities and focus
The two Forensic Psychology interns are enrolled in GWU’s niche program and are set to graduate this December. Throughout their time in the program, these are some of the classes they have found to align directly with work at Praescient.
Two courses within GWU’s Forensic psychology program: Investigative Psychology and Profiling taught by former Chief Psychologist for the Behavioral Analysis Unit at the United States Marshals Service, Michael Bourke, demonstrate an overlapping concept of geospatial mapping. Behavioral analysts use tools like Environmental Criminology Research Inc.’s (ECRI’s) Rigel Profiler, a geographic profiling software system that uses a patented Criminal Geographic Targeting (CGT) algorithm to find hotspot areas in order to narrow in on a potential suspect. This is done through mapping likely connected crimes, and social and geographic characteristics.
Data analysts at Praescient use similar techniques when geospatially mapping data. Geospatial mapping picks up on trends in a specific location to ultimately provide insight leading to solutions for Praescient’s diverse clientele with a clear deliverable graphic. One mapping tool Praescient’s uses is called ArcGIS Online; the capabilities of the tool involve layering demographic data, incident reports, and other indicators to look for patterns to narrow in on potential “bad guy(s)” or problem areas. As we can see, these processes are very similar and illustrate just how connected the two practices are and why forensic psychology students are a good fit at Praescient.
Another overlap is demonstrated directly in the GWU’s Forensic Psychology elective course, counterintelligence (CI) taught by the Chief of Staff of the Counterintelligence Directorate at the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA), Jonathan Fraser. Praescient’s involvements overlay the detection element of the government approach to National Security Threats, detect, deter, disrupt, which is highlighted repeatedly throughout the CI course.
The Intelligence Cell Unit is tasked with producing an Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB), which includes strategic, operational and tactical deliverables for a specified region. These pillars were also frequently reinforced throughout the course curriculum.
IPB research thus far plays into these CI concepts of analytical tradecraft, explaining gaps in intelligence, cross referencing sources and combining confidence levels with degrees of likelihood for courses of action. Psychology is intertwined in the assumptions, claims, evidence and reasoning that makeup an overarching judgment. It has been insightful to see the discussions in the classroom come to life when learning how to incorporate effective visual information. Further, Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) tools are of great emphasis as well; OSINT makes up the majority of data that is used daily within the walls of Praescient.
An example of how Praescient uses OSINT can be seen in this demo that maps al-Qaeda’s influence in Syria.
Overall, the two fields work cyclically providing new insights. Tools like ESRI and Analyst Notebook demonstrate the power of analytic tools in focusing an initial search. Analytics improves the process of investigations while forensic psychology knowledge pinpoints leads within the narrowed pool. Psychological principles improve decision-making models that determine which aspects of a crime are the most salient.
Praescient is constantly progressing clients towards more sustainable and holistic uses of mission-enabling data. Data is the oil of the now and the renewable energy of the future. As an intern within the Intelligence Cell Unit and a Forensic Psychology student, it has been eye-opening to witness a different approach to the investigative process, revealing another side of investigations. As discussed, interns have been provided with basic training on tools like Analyst’s Notebook and Esri. As the internship progresses, interns hope to expand upon this existing toolkit and gain experience with text analytics software that uses natural language processing, like Rosoka and Sintelix. It will be rewarding to see any overlaps presented and uncover how use these tools can be used in future career pursuits.