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Monthly Members' Newsletter

It is not Halloween month without a fright, so this month we've been discussing ethics... 

For new friends, welcome! We are an interdisciplinary network of Masters, PhD and Early Career Researchers focused on defence, security and military topics in relation to policy, strategy, history, culture and society. We hope you find our network interesting, exciting, informative and supportive.

For old friends, thanks for your continued involvement. We would be nothing without you! This October, we've been discussing all things ethics, we've got an interactive game to help you answer those tricky questions, we're picking the brains of some leaders in field, and we're wondering how close we really are to Captain America? Should we be worried or excited?

Scroll down to get up to date with the news, opinions, and events from our members...

If you are looking for a fright this Halloween, look no further than a MODREC application form. As I write this, I am two days away from submitting my ethics application, an extensive 16 page document for which I have laboriously trailed through file upon file of GDPR rules, simulated the risks for every possible scenario, and had more than a few sleepless nights. The prospect of receiving an unfavourable decision fills me with more dread than any potential monsters under the bed. COVID-19 has undoubtedly made this process even more of a minefield for PGR students, who are tasked with proving methodological rigour while entangled within a situation of which none of us have any control. How long is it until Christmas?

But, to give it its due, this process has done its job in making me reflect on the upmost importance of giving this tricky topic some attention. Particularly in the field of defence and security, questions of ethics are paramount to ensuring that our research and actions are safe and secure, proportionate and just. When we work in this space, we have a responsibility not just to our research participants, but also to the academic and policy communities we are contributing to, to conduct research which is ethically conscious.

The 'real' world is giving us ample reason to hold these ethical principles in high regard. While some of us want to meet Captai
n America (hello Chris Evans), others, it seems, are in the process of making him. Current developments in gene editing and artificial intelligence are indicative of a refreshed revolution of military affairs, one which provides both exciting opportunities for the future of military activity, and a whole new set of measures against which ethics panels must judge. These are areas that require as much scrutiny as they do innovation, and I know that many of you in our community are engaged in brilliant work tackling these important questions.

Ethical principles in warfare are both a practical necessity and a source of academic interest in themselves. Just look at the work of our good friends at the Centre for Military Ethics, whose interactive approach to teaching is at the forefront of military education globally. We wholeheartedly believe that bringing academics and practitioners together to discuss these concepts is the most effective way of generating knowledge driven by ethical considerations, and holding those who disagree to account. Thus, despite - and potentially because of - these long days of ethics application editing, I am energized by our community to face this fear head on.

As always, we wish you a happy and healthy month! 

The DRN team
In the News... 
SPOTLIGHT: Ethics in Military Artificial Intelligence.
There's no turning back on AI in the military.
In a world of 5G and cloud-to-edge AI, the military applications of emerging technologies could revolutionise modern and future warfare, however ethical questions remain. How can AI be harnessed safely and effectively? How will AI intersect with current notions of conflict ethics? 
The US DoD has recently published a set of AI ethical principles, and is now tackling the challenge of institutionalising these principles across US missions. The DoD has acknowledged the need to ensure all AI capabilities are used in a lawful and ethical manner. 

Is the US leading the way for the ethical application of AI across warfighting, C2, logistics and maintenance?
King's Centre for Military Ethics 
Whatever your research area and whatever stage you are in the ethics process, we really think you should know about the King's College London Centre for Military Ethics' playing cards. 

The brilliant people at the Centre for Military Ethics, led by Professor David Whetham (check out our interview below!), have developed an innovative education tool to support the teaching of military ethics outside of the classroom environment. Fifty-two questions from across the broad area of military ethics have been carefully developed, based on professional military ethics education curricula, in conjunction with research and testing on military focus groups, and in consultation with specialist lawyers. The questions are matched to playing cards which are available (at cost price) to military units and can be used to prompt informal discussion about the ethical challenges faced in military environments. Question include:

  • Should a soldier challenge an order if they consider it to be illegal? If so, how?
  • Is necessity ever a reason to break the laws of war?
  • Can soldiers refuse to serve if they disagree with their government’s decisions?

To ensure an appropriate ‘take away’ from any discussion, each card has a QR web link to the King’s Centre for Military Ethics webpages where there are additional prompts, questions and information for each question, along with reading and articles. Groups of questions can be thematically linked so impromptu or pre-planned supported discussions can quickly be developed using the open-access material. They’re available in English, Spanish, Arabic, Serbian, French and Turkish, and they’re currently looking at expanding further. The tool will also be available as a free app to download soon thanks to a partnership with KCL and the Inamori Centre at Case Western Reserve University in the US. They also have a military medical ethics version of the tool in development.

Click here to test out the Military Ethics' playing cards app. And have a browse of their website for more information and interesting reading!

... we know ethics is not really a game (but if it was we would win!)
(Virtual) Events...
We might be stuck inside, but this isn't going to stop us connecting as a community. Make sure you've got a strong Wifi signal, because you're going to want to join all of these upcoming webinars...
RUSI, US Presidential Election – How the results will impact International Security
5th November 2020, 4pm (GMT)
As the US Presidential Election result becomes known, experts from RUSI's International Security Studies research group will discuss the foreign policy implications.

The 2020 US Presidential election is one of the most significant for decades in foreign policy terms. The choice for voters is summed up in the contrasting taglines of the candidates’ campaigns: Donald Trump’s America First versus Joe Biden’s Restoring American Leadership.  Yet while there are clear differences between the two candidates regarding the direction that the United States should adopt in its external relations, on some of the key issues, notably regarding China, bipartisan consensus is likely to remain the defining feature of US policy.

The International Security Studies team will discuss the foreign policy challenges for the next US administration and the key choices for Washington of an increasingly complex foreign and security agenda. The discussion will, in particular, consider how the US is likely to approach the growing strength of China, notably in the Indo-Pacific region; Russia’s continuing efforts to challenge and disrupt the western alliance; the ongoing instability of the Middle East; the rise of India as a key US partner in Asia; and the priority that is likely to be given by Washington to sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Veerle Nouwens, Research Fellow, Navigating the Indo-Pacific Programme
  • Emily Ferris, Research Fellow, Russia and the World Programme
  • Dr Aniseh Bassiri Tabrizi, Senior Research Fellow, Unpacking the Middle East and North Africa Programme
  • Dr Andrew Tchie, Senior Research Fellow and Obasanjo Fellow, Africa in Perspective Programme
  • Aaditya Dave, Research Analyst, Navigating the Indo-Pacific Programme
Chair: Neil Melvin, Director International Security Studies, RUSI.

Interested? Sign up
Defence & Security Doctoral Symposium
10th November 2020, 10am-4pm (GMT)

Hosted online by Cranfield University, the Defence and Security Doctoral Symposium provides research students and early career researchers in defence and security with an opportunity to present their work to a sector-wide audience. It covers both technological and social science research.
Who should attend?
This event is designed specifically for researchers with an interest in defence and security research outcomes, including PhD and other research students and their supervisors, early career researchers, representatives from industry, government and other defence and security-relevant NGOs.

Why should you attend?
You will gain exposure to cutting-edge research being undertaken by research students and early career researchers; a breadth of understanding of key issues being investigated across technology and social science focused research; an opportunity to network widely; an understanding of key policy-drivers in defence and security; and an ideal opportunity to engage with defence and security employers.

Make sure you sign up
19th November 2020, 3pm-4pm (GMT)
#NATO2030 is about making sure the Alliance remains ready today to face tomorrow's challenges.
In June of this year, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg launched his outline for NATO 2030 in an online conversation with the Atlantic Council and the German Marshall Fund of the United States. He said: “This is an opportunity to reflect on where we see our Alliance ten years from now, and how it will continue to keep us safe in a more uncertain world”.

Join BISA and their speaker Daniel Drake, Head of the Euro-Atlantic Security Policy Unit (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office/Ministry of Defence), to discuss this important and timely topic. 

Sign up here, and be quick - registration will close 2 hours before the event starts.
As always, keep an eye on our Twitter for new events and opportunities posted/retweeted every day!

Planning a future event?
If you are planning a defence-related event and you would like to reach an audience of like-minded researchers, we'd love to come along! Drop us an email and we can include it in our next newsletter.
If you are interested in any of our events but don't want to go alone, or simply want to expand your network, please reach out on Twitter or drop us an email and we can connect you with fellow DRN members who may be planning to attend.

If you would like to advertise any upcoming opportunities, please let us know via email.
A great opportunity has arisen for researchers to publish within the ‘The International Journal of Human Resource Management'.
This special issue aims to explore...
  • Employers’ perceptions of Service leavers and Reservists.
  • HRM interventions which can support Service leavers and Reservists in work, in particular in relation to the transition from military to civilian work either permanently or between civilian and Reservist roles.
  • How military skills are matched with the needs of, and utilised by, employers.
  • HRM policies and practices to support employers in reconciling civilian work with armed services.
The editors envisage that theoretical contributions will revolve around three key areas of research on HRM and careers:
  • Intersectionality of military service with other characteristics.
  • Reconciling military life with civilian employment.
  • Macro and micro career transitions, and employer support for mid-career job changers and Reservists.
Manuscript deadline is 31st May 2021. In line with IJHRM guidelines, submissions should be 7000-8000 words. Qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods accepted.
For more information about this special issue, click
The 2021 Biennial International Conference of the Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces and Society are calling for papers and panel proposals.
Armed Forces & Society is the leading peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary, and international journal publishing on military establishments, civil-military relations, the use and limits of force in armed conflict and peacekeeping operations, security, and other related topics. It publishes empirical, theoretically-informed articles, research notes, book reviews, and review essays. Its articles may adopt an interdisciplinary, comparative, or historical perspective, use qualitative or quantitative methods, and range from policy-relevant to theoretical themes, but they always meet high standards of scholarly argument, evidence, and readability.

The journal offers the following themes for consideration, but submissions are not limited to these suggestions:
  • Global Coalitions & Cross-National Alliances
  • Social and Personnel Issues
  • Area Studies & Cross-National Analyses of Military Institutions
  • Civil-Military Relations
  • Terrorism, Counter-Terrorism & Counter-Insurgency
  • Post-Cold War Military Operations
  • Cyber Warfare
Deadline for submissions is 15th February 2021. If you are interested in this conference, click here for more information.   
#DefResChat: Ethics

We know that one of the first things the new cohort of Masters students and PGRs will have to grapple with is preparing research ethics submission so we wanted to  bring people together to share experiences and advice. Thank you to everyone who joined us! For those who couldn't make it, we'd love to continue the discussion and share resources over the coming weeks - don't hesitate to introduce yourself to us on Twitter at any time! You can find a quick update of our chat below: 

1) What do you anticipate (or have experienced) being the biggest ethical challenges of your research on defence-related topics?

  • Not having enough host nation knowledge to understand the ethical consequences of the research. I was given a local research assistant to help me, that was invaluable, but the catch-22 was that she wasn’t paid well enough!
  • I found anonymity for serving military more complex than I anticipated. Even if you remove names and ranks, it can be hard to anonymise senior/specific posts where other details may make clear who they are.
  • In emotional interviews revisiting memories of combat, I found it hard to see participant's upset and had to sensitively negotiate when to take a pause and check whether veterans were happy to proceed. I found their determination to share their stories humbling.
  • It's about preparing yourself to be opened to some uncomfortable stories. The PhD researcher needs to make sure that they have in place a process to manage both researcher and participant distress

2) What are your top tips for preparing submissions for ethical approval? 

  • So my advise would be that when you finally think you have completed the form. Put it down, walk away and revisit the form at a later time or day to re-read focusing on fine checking the detail and consistency
  • Extensive use of literature to frame the unique ethical challenges of doing research in your specific area (before going into your procedures on a specific subject i.e. consent)
  • Its good to write your ethics on an informed background, make contact with your key Interlocutors, so that you grasp on key ethical considerations.
  • It is about making connections with key military personnel. Do your research and be prepared to make revisions to your applications. Show willingness to cooperate.

3) What would you recommend reading on ethics for defence related research?

Check out all the great new recommendations we receieved on our ethics resource page here.

Keep your eyes peeled on our website for the next #DefResChat, and don't forget to check for more info on Twitter and our website.

You can also find all our previous #DefResChats on the Archive section of our

Make sure to tag @DefenceResNet and hashtag #DefResChat to join the conversation.

Find Out More
What we're reading...
In Conversation 
This month, we were luck enough to have two In Conversation pieces. Below you can find a taster of our conversations with Dr Frank Ledwidge and Professor David Whetham.
 To read the full interviews, head to our website.
Dr Frank Ledwidge
Dr Ledwidge holds a law degree from Oxford University and received his doctorate in war studies from King’s College London. He worked for seven years as a barrister, and he was an officer in the Royal Naval Reserve for 15 years serving operational tours in the Balkans and Iraq.
He was subsequently a civilian advisor for the UK government in Helmand, Libya and elsewhere. He currently lectures at the Royal Air Force Airmen’s Command Squadron at RAF Halton as part of the Portsmouth University team. He is the author of several books including Losing Small Wars and Aerial Warfare: A Very Short Introduction.
  • What was your pathway to where are you now?

I went to school in Liverpool, my home town and studied law at University in the mid-1980s. I qualified and worked as a criminal and family law barrister for about seven years. During that time I was trained as an officer in the Royal Naval reserve and went onto one of the intelligence branches that was eligible for deployment. So I learned Serbian and Croatian at the military’s expense, and deployed then to Bosnia as a military intelligence officer in 1996 with IFOR, the NATO peacekeeping mission.  There was then another tour with the follow-on SFOR with the stress on finding war criminals on the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia list.  We were quite successful in arresting some of those.

Having been late for the war in Bosnia, I was right on time for the one in Kosovo, which began in 1998. I deployed to Kosovo as part of the British Foreign Office team attached to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) supposedly to monitor a ceasefire, but we found ourselves rather more observing breaches as well as regular war crimes.  I was there at the beginning and also at the end with a short gap in Albania, doing refugee relief with the OSCE.  Once the Kosovans took over, they started the same routines of ethnic cleansing and murder we had seen before the war.

I stayed with the OSCE for a further three years in their mission to Albania, and then another three years working from Poland into the former Soviet Union as a rule of law advisor, specialising in torture prevention and antitrafficking. I was called up to serve a tour in Iraq, again as a military intelligence officer, part of the Iraq Survey Group, looking for weapons of mass destruction.  As you know this was a mission in which we failed to succeed. I spent some time in Afghanistan and Libya, in both cases in roles ‘outside the wire’. I started my PhD in 2010 and finished it in 2015. In 2010, I started working at [Royal Air Force College] Cranwell and here I am now at RAF Halton, which is a very pleasant place to work.

  • What advice would you like to give PhD students and early career researchers that you wish someone had said to you?

Well, the only advice I can give that's of any use would be more general advice, but I think it applies to the academic world. A) have a realistic outlook on what it is likely you're going to be able to achieve and when and B) and much more importantly, is - take a strategic approach. In other words, an idea of where you want it to be and what you want to be doing in five and ten years’ time.

I'm not sure there’s too much point looking out beyond that but maybe if you want to be a professor or something, identify that in early stage. Nowadays of course, things are a bit more difficult than they were when even when I started and they were pretty unstable then, so I'm not sure this advice is going to be of much use.  I think in life, one thing I have learned is - without wishing to patronise-  that it is very important to have a strategy.  In terms of strategy, it's  not the plan that counts, it’s the planning, and all too many of us, including me have failed either to plan or to have a plan. I hope you can see what I mean.

  • Military ethics is also DRN’s current theme for this month, what is the point of military ethics. Why do we have it?

Like any profession has to have an ethical framework, that's what defines a profession that it is bound by its own set of rules and codes of behaviour, and it's able to regulate itself accordingly. In the military profession this is particularly important because the results of failing to do so are, or can be - very often are - fatal, especially to those on the receiving end of their weapons. I have seen quite a lot of ‘shots fired in anger’;  from Serbian armoured infantry supported by tanks assaulting a supposedly defended village, by way of anti-aircraft guns hammering parts of Tripoli to desultory shootouts in dusty Iraqi towns.  In each case, civilians were at the receiving end, amongst the supposed targets of these attacks. Most of the casualties I have encountered though were deliberately murdered.  I would say that 95% of the dead I have seen in whatever context in the areas I have worked were non-combatants killed by combatants, from ‘special forces’ to paramilitaries of one kind or another.

So an awareness of the ethical framework, customs and laws of war is an absolutely essential quality of a military professional without which you are not a military professional; not only an awareness of those laws and customs of war, but the understanding that forms part of your practice, and this is reflected in such matters, which is often forgotten by military professionals, leaders of all kind, and particularly military leaders that this is bound very closely into the commission that officers have from their head of state.  This instructs you to ensure that you are bound by to ensure that that yourself and those under your command comply with the laws and customs of war. It's not an option or a suggestion;  it's an order. I know that in the current parlance, this is all too often ‘up for debate’. What's ‘up for debate’ on occasion are the parameters of those ethics, but the fact that such ethics exist and you're bound by them, and that these define you as a military professional, these matters are not up for debate.

Thank you so much, Frank! 

Professor David Whetham 
Prof Whetham is Professor of Ethics and the Military Profession in the Defence Studies Department of King’s College London. He is the Director of the King’s Centre for Military Ethics and delivers or coordinates the military ethics component of courses for between two and three thousand British and international officers a year at the UK’s Joint Services Command and Staff College. Before joining King’s as a permanent member of staff in 2003, David worked as a BBC researcher and with the OSCE in Kosovo, supporting the 2001 and 2002 elections.
David is currently a Visiting Professorial Fellow at the University of New South Wales and is the Vice President and founding member of the European Chapter of the International Society for Military Ethics (Euro ISME).
  • What is the Centre for Military Ethics?

There’s a clear linkage between ethical behaviour within armed forces and their conduct on operations. Fostering ethical awareness and moral decision-making in military personnel is a proven way of reducing harm and suffering in conflict situations. It would seem obvious that there is substantial benefit for everyone in making them available as widely as possible, but there’s a real lack of quality materials out there that can be used by non-specialists.

Having worked in this area for a sometime, and being unable to meet all of the demand, domestically and internationally, for quality teaching and support, I established the King’s Centre for Military Ethics in 2015, to conduct and coordinate research into the best ways of delivering effective professional military ethics education, and to develop material and tools to support those seeking to do it. We now offer quality distance learning material that can be accessed by anyone, either directly as students, or as a train-the-trainer tool. Because it is intended to be a global asset, available for free to those who need it, we have had input and support from many different military institutions, universities and international organizations. For example, the 18-part Key Concepts in Military Ethics course is available as a blended learning package for institutions. It was created with huge input from the University of New South Wales along with many other partners, and has now been taken by 10s of 1000s military personnel in the UK, Australia, and with Spanish subtitles, by all of the officers passing through the Colombian War College and the Infantry School in Bogota.

  • What are you currently working on?

My main research focus at the moment is working with the team led by Prof Martin Bricknell to get the Military Medical Ethics Education app completed and launched. We have some superb feedback from the beta testing process with medics based in the UK and across the MENA region and have been refining and amending our questions, support materials and the way they fit into an integrated learning package as a result of this.

In addition, I have just received research funding from Innovate UK to explore public perceptions of drones and their potential contribution to monitoring populations during pandemics. This involves working with an exciting tech start-up company. I am also supporting the development of ethical frameworks for the introduction of AI into Defence planning, processes and decision-making.

  • Who have been the most influential academics on your professional career?

I wouldn’t be doing what I do now if it had not been for Michael Walzer. His book Just and Unjust Wars, published in 1977, was enormously influential on me when I read it as a philosophy undergraduate, and started my move into studying all aspects of conflict and the normative questions that it raises. He is still contributing to the debates today, and I continue to find his deeply-considered but pragmatic approach refreshing.

Thanks so much, David!

Want to go back and read last month's interview? You can! We are cataloguing all of our In Conversation pieces separately on our website. If you know someone interesting who would be willing to take part in our In Conversation series, please let us know via email. 
KCL Centre for Military Ethics 
As you have heard from Professor Whetham, the Centre for Military Ethics at Kings College London is an amazing fountain of knowledge for all things ethics related in the defence studies space. They have collated an impressive amount of resources for students and practitioners to grapple with ethical questions regarding everything from the Just War tradition to veterans' wellbeing. 
Next on our reading list is Samantha J. Hope's 'Preventing Sexual Violence as a Weapon of War', as well as Michael Skerker, David Whetham, and Don Carrick's 'Military Virtues'.
Go to there
website to browse the full list of resources.
*NEW BOOKSIf this newsletter has whet your appetite and you are keen to dig deeper into the questions of ethics, both practically and theoretically, check out these new titles...
Morality and Ethics at War: Bridging the Gaps Between the Soldier and the State
By Deane-Peter Baker

This recently published book addresses a fundamental problem: the gap between the diverse moral frameworks defining personal identity on the one hand, and the professional military ethic on the other. You can buy a copy here.
Remote Warfare: New Cultures of Violence
By Rebecca A. Adelman, David Kieran

This new edited book on drone warfare, due to be published at the end of October, broadens the conversation about practicality, efficacy, and ethics of drone warfare. It interrogates the cultural and political dimensions of distant warfare and examines how various stakeholders have responded to the reality of state-sponsored remote violence. You can buy a copy 
Pause for thought...

Could genetic modification protect soldiers from chemical weapons?

This is the question on the mind of a team of US Army scientists this year, who have created a gene therapy that allows mice to make their own nerve agent–beating proteins. In their paper, they state that a one-time pre-exposure application of gene therapy has the potential to provide soldiers protection against multiple nerve agents for weeks and even months. In an Editorial for Molecular Therapy, Associate Professor Peter H. Schwartz weighs in on the ethical dilemmas  of this approach. He asserts that most of his worries:

"stem from the fact that its key use would be on the battlefield. The most challenging questions involve assessing a therapy that is designed to protect soldiers but could also hurt them." 

How do we reconcile this ethical dilemma? And, what could gene editing mean for the future of soldiering?

Let us know on Twitter!
Thank you so much for joining our network.

Have you recently won an award, had your paper published, launched a book or are you organising an event? We want to hear from you! We are always looking for new content for our newsletter and would love to showcase the great work of our members.

For queries, more information, or just to tell us about yourself, don't hesitate to contact us on Twitter @DefenceResNet or at 

The DRN team 
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