In 2018, Richard McNeil-Willson completed a British Research Council funded PhD at the University of Exeter, UK. His dissertation examined the impact of counter-terrorism approaches on Islamist organisations in Western Europe. This involved extended fieldwork periods researching and working alongside Islamist networks in the UK and Denmark, along with interviews with counter-terror policy-makers and practitioners.
Since completing his PhD, he has started a post-doctoral research project at the European University Institute, Florence, assessing the impact of counter-terrorism programs and approaches throughout Europe. He also works for several UK-based research bodies which examine the impacts of counter-terrorism legislation on societal freedoms.
He has also published on terrorism and counter-terrorism, and is currently working with scholars from Edmonton University, Canada, on trans-national counter-terrorism approaches and the tactical responses of Islamist organisations.