Proposed project explanation

1. State in non-technical terminology the objective(s) of the proposed research, and provide an outline of the method by which the objective(s) will be reached.  Describe any work related to the project that has already been completed (Maximum 3.5 pages)

Introduction/ Literature review of relevant research




Long-term human endeavours in outer space play a significant role in the new space scenario that emerged with the end of the Cold War (Logsdon, 1998). The International Space Station–the first permanent civil settlement of human beings located in low-earth orbit at an altitude of approximately 386 kilometres- is the most ambitious and transcendental project of human settlements in outer space. Despite the fact that none of the reasons usually identified by the Criminology literature are present in space missions or their crewmembers, criminal and deviant conflicts are expected to occur in long-term human missions in outer space, as has been corroborated in recent multi-culturally diverse space experiences (Hermida, 2006a, 2006b).


Literature review


The criminology literature has been prolifically probing the causes of why people commit crimes (Sutherland & Cressey, 1966; Quinney, 1979; Merton, 1938; Hirschi, 1969; Lemert, 1951; Bonger, 1916; Shaw & McKay, 1969); Durkheim, 1966; Beccaria, 1986); Lombroso, 1972; Sellin, 1938; Colvin, 2000). However, the Criminology discipline has proved to be incapable of explaining the causes of criminality in outer space (Hermida, 2006a). This has been attributed to the lack of a thorough understanding of the –coercive- experiences that astronauts and other members of long-term human missions experience in outer space (Hermida, 2006 b). The current criminal justice regime of the International Space Station is premised on a repressive approach to criminality, a rigid chain of command on-orbit; and a disciplinary policy that relies on psychological and physical coercion (Farand, 1997).


Colvin (2000) argues that coercion, which takes place when individuals are forced to behave in a particular way through the use of threat, intimidation, or direct force, is directly connected to crime. The criminological literature has been exploring the role of coercion in the creation of criminality (Baron, 2001, 2003; Tittle, 1995). Despite the fact that the Criminology discipline has enthusiastically accepted Colvin’s Differential Coercion theory (Cullen & Agnew, 1991), none of these works have been used to explain criminality in outer space (Hermida, 2006 a).

Theoretical framework


The proposed new research project will be grounded on Differential Coercion theory (Colvin, 2000) –a criminological theory that focuses on the role of coercion in the creation of criminality. Coercion is a force that compels or intimidates an individual to act out of the fear and anxiety. Colvin (2000) also recognizes that there are situational coercive conditions that may lead to individuals to commit criminal acts. While it has been demonstrated that crewmembers –both expedition and visiting- lack coercive backgrounds (Hermida, 2006a), they are exposed and subject to situational coercive conditions while in outer space.


Objective(s) or activities


The objectives of this research project are threefold. First, this project will contribute to advance criminological theory by examining how coercive experiences in long-term space human endeavours, such as the International Space Station, lead to deviant and criminal behaviour in outer space. The research results will shed light on how astronauts and other members react to experiences of personal and impersonal coercion and how this influences deviance and criminality in outer space. The results of this project will also contribute to the development of a more appropriate Criminal Law and Criminal Justice system for the International Space Station and other long-term human missions in outer space.


Another objective of this study is to use the results to prepare for a SSHRC standard research grant application, which will examine criminality in the International Space Station from a multidisciplinary perspective –Space Law, Criminology, and Criminal Justice. The SSHRC grant will aim at proposing a comprehensive Criminal Justice regime for the International Space Station and other long-term human missions in outer space.


Another equally important objective of this research is to train –undergraduate- students in conducting quantitative and qualitative research in the Criminology field. This will enhance the opportunities for Algoma University College students to acquire research skills.


Strategies to train students


I will actively involve around six students as research assistants in this project. I will organize a workshop to train these students. The goals of the workshop will be to provide students with basic notions and tools of research methodologies. I am planning to mentor my students and involve them at every stage of the research project –from the elaboration of the research proposal to the dissemination of results. This will give students an experience rarely offered to undergraduates at Canadian universities. I expect that this experience will prepare them for independent research at the graduate level.


Connection to my previous research


This new research project will profit from a series of research projects that I have been conducting over the past 10 years on outer space and criminality. I began my research in this area with an examination of the way in which laws are adopted in outer space, focusing on the problems derived from following an expert conception of law reform that neglects to consider the importance of participation of those affected by the law reform (Hermida, 1996, 2004) and which has produced a criminal justice system on the International Space that is inadequate to deal with deviance and criminality (Hermida, 2005a). I also examined the Criminal Law regime engineered for the International Space Station, where I investigated the inadequacy of this regime to deal with criminality in outer space (Hermida, 2005 b). In a seminal work, I examined the main criminological theories to determine if any could explain criminal and deviant acts in Outer Space (Hermida, 2006 a). I recently completed another criminological analysis of astronauts’ criminal behaviour on Earth (Hermida, 2008), which attributes their criminality on Earth to the conditions astronauts experience in Outer Space.


This new proposed study expands my other past research projects by examining the role of coercion in Outer Space and its connection to Outer Space criminality –a task never attempted by the criminological literature before. Additionally, it will propose a plausible explanation of deviant and criminal behaviour in Outer Space.


Methodology – approach (if needed)


I will resort to both quantitative and qualitative methodologies. First, I will interview 20 key outer space players, including astronauts, ground personnel, space agency administrators, and other relevant stakeholders. I will resort to structured interviews to gather data on the various sites of coercion in outer space. Second, I will use open-ended questionnaires with a smaller group of interviewees to gain deeper insights into their experiences in outer space and the role of coercion in these experiences.


Access to interviewees


I have been conducting research on several aspects of the space industry for over 10 years. As a consequence, I have developed a worldwide network of contacts which will help me access the interviewees for this new project. My reputation as a worldwide leading academic in Space Law and Space Criminology will also facilitate access to relevant stakeholders.


Communication of results


I am planning to disseminate the results of this project in, at least, three different ways. First, I will prepare an article for publication in a Criminology refereed journal, which will target the Criminology academic community and professionals concerned with Criminal Justice reform. Second, I will produce another article to send for publication to a Space Law refereed journal, which will target legal scholars specialized in the regulation of outer space issues and space policy-makers concerned with the engineering of a legal framework for the International Space Station and other long-term human missions in outer space. Third, I will organize a presentation at Algoma University College to share the results of this project with AUC students. I will also invite my research assistants to present some aspects of the research project.


Importance of the proposed research and expected results


This project will advance knowledge of Criminology by examining the relationship between coercion and criminality in outer space, a task never attempted so far. This will permit to develop an adequate legal and Criminal Justice regime to deal with deviance and criminality in long-term human missions in outer space. This project will also shed light on the relationship between coercion and crime, and will expectedly redefine Colvin’s conception of coercion. Insights from this project will easily be extrapolated to a myriad of coercive situations that take place on Earth, such as those connected with homelessness, persistent discrimination, underemployment, and substance abuse.


Plans for seeking additional funding (if needed)

This research project will be used to prepare to apply for a SSHRC research grant. I plan to apply to a SSHRC research grant as soon as I complete this study. No additional funds will be sought at this stage.



·         Baron, S. (2001). “Street Youth Labour Market Experiences and Crime.” Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology, 38.

·         Colvin, M. (2000). Crime and Coercion: An Integrated Theory of Chronic Criminality. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

·         Farand, A. (1997). “Space Station Cooperation: Legal Arrangements.” In G. Lafferranderie & D. Crowther (eds.), Outlook on Space Law over the Next 30 Years. The Hague, London, Boston: Kluwer Law International.

  • Hermida, J. (2004). Legal Basis for a National Space Legislation. The Hague, London and Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
  • Hermida, J. (2005a). “Crimes in Space: A Criminological and Criminal Justice Approach to Criminal Acts in Outer Space.” ERCES Quarterly Review, 2 (2).
  • Hermida, J. (2005b.). “Space Law.” In A. Heck (ed.), Organizations and Strategies in Astronomy. Dordrecht, Boston, and London: Springer.

·         Hermida, J. (2006a). “Crimes in Space: A Legal and Criminological Approach to Criminal Acts in Outer Space.” Ann. Air & Sp. L., McGill University, XXXI.

·         Hermida, J. (2006b). “Crimes in Outer Space: Criminal Law Policy Basis for Long-Term Human Presence beyond Low Earth Orbit.” IISL, 48.

  • Hermida, J. (2008). “Astronauts and Crime” in M. Williams (ed.) Space Law (forthcoming).
  • Tittle, C. (1995). Control Balance: Toward a General Theory of Deviance. Boulder: Westview.