Defence Research Network

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Monthly Members' Newsletter

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 July, we are exploring the ways war interacts with technology, we've got some interesting new online courses and funding opportunities for you, we're meeting the editors of our favourite journals, and we're celebrating an extraordinary female engineer

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


"Will anything we can come up with in the COVID-19 fightback match these wartime inventions? The answer remains to be seen. In the meantime, reports of human ingenuity in the face of adversity provide a welcome glimmer of light." 

Ever since COVID-19 turned the world upside down, there has been a rush to find innovative ways to cope with this strange new environment. Alongside the vaccine race, numerous ingenious, life-saving, and sometimes outright strange products have been hitting the market in an effort to outsmart 2020's biggest adversary. Many have likened this coronavirus-induced innovation to the technological advancements during the Second World War - everything from rocket technology to superglue came about as a result of wartime imaginations.This precedent has given Peter Beech, writing for the World Economic Forum, an optimistic "glimmer of light" as the world continues to battle both the virus and its related afflictions of fear and uncertainty.

Yet, could these technological developments encourage a less public-spirited creativity? As the presence of automation, surveillance, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and robotics become a naturalised part of our socially-distanced lives, concerns loom about the future of privacy, as well as the possibility of hostile actors taking advantage of this moment to initiate cyber attacks or consolidate lethal autonomous weapons. News of Russian disinformation campaigns aimed at "aggravating" the public health crisis in the West comes as the UK publishes its long awaited report into Russian interference into British domestic politics. The question is now, then, how do we innovate against adversity in the era of digitalisation whilst still holding on to peace, security, and our democratic freedoms?

Inspired by this thought, this month's newsletter is themed around war and technology. We are lucky to have a wide range of scholars amongst our membership who are far better placed than I to confront these concerns, and we were delighted (once again) with your engagement during our recent Twitter hour on this topic. Nonetheless, whatever your field, innovation is at the forefront of everyone's minds as both research and leisure plans are disrupted by the pandemic. With our Twitter hours and webinars, online courses and conversations, we at the DRN are committed to digitising as much as possible to make this unusual period a little easier for you all.

On behalf of everyone at the DRN, I wish you a happy, healthy month!
In the news...
A new world war over technology?
Tensions between the US and China have escalated further this month, sparking what CNN calls a "new world war over technology" and the Eurasia Group has dubbed a 'virtual Berlin Wall'.
Foreign Policy has identified viral video app TikTok as the "central front" in this conflict, as the Trump administration considers banning the app over national security concerns. This comes alongside TikTok's recent ban in India after fatal military clashes at their border with China, as well as the UK's recent move to ban 5G equipment from Chinese firm Huawei, citing security issues. While John Kemp at Reuters discusses the potential effects of US-Chinese stand-off on energy flows, Graham Allison, of Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Centre, asks whether this tech war could "trigger a real war with China?" Amid tech rows and coronavirus-related distractions, China has "wielded its military might" across South East Asia. The jury is still out as to whether the US will escalate their response militarily. What do you think? Is the tech war a catalyst for more? Or, is the "China threat" an "election-year ploy"? Let us know on Twitter!
What's new?
*In case you missed it!* Watch DRN Webinar #2 on Research Methods 
Thank you to everyone who participated. If you have any feedback, or want to suggest ideas for our next webinar, please get in contact on Twitter or via email. 
Demilitarism Inc. Online Courses
This autumn, DRN friend, veteran, activist, and academic Dr Ben Schrader is holding two 10-week online courses designed to teach you all things war and militarism, and particularly in relation to the events of 2020 so far. These courses cover everything from understanding and problematizing militarism as a concept, to recognising and challenging its influence on policing, politics, and the pandemic. Ben's experience as not only a soldier and an academic, but also as an anti-war activist and social justice campaigner make him a unique voice to learn about military power and its encroachment into civilian life.

The courses are donation based, with a suggested donation of $20 per session. Find out more and sign up for his courses on Ben's website.

You can also pick up Ben's book, 'Fight to Live, Live to Fight: Veteran Activism after War', here!
Meet the Editors! Journals Unmasked - BISA Webinar 
Meet the editors is always a popular feature of the annual BISA conference, allowing students and researchers to connect with and pose questions to editors from a range of journals. Although the conference was sadly cancelled this year due to COVID-19, BISA and Chatham House put together a virtual meeting so that hopeful authors did not miss this valuable opportunity.

The speakers were:

  • Ambreena Manji - African Affairs
  • Victoria Basham - Critical Military Studies
  • Ted Newman - European Journal of International Security
  • Andrew Dorman - International Affairs
  • Emily Taylor - Journal of Cyber Policy
  • Martin Coward - Review of International Studies
You can watch the whole webinar below, or find some written tips taken from the event here.
As lockdowns ease, our calendars are beginning to look a bit busier again. Make sure you add these exciting events to your diary now before it's too late!
  • What is a Battlefield, Who is a Fighter? 
On the 1st and 2nd October 2020, the Centre for War Studies at the University of Southern Denmark is hosting their annual conference both at the university and virtually (depending on travel restrictions).

The conference will consider contemporary challenges in the changing face of war centred around two themes: what is a battlefield, and who is a fighter. In both fields, recent experience shows that traditional notions and assumptions have dramatically shifted.
Yet, are policies, definitions, and institutions keeping up? An interdisciplinary interrogation of who fights, why, where, and how will be accompanied by questioning state responses to challenges to their monopoly on violence.

To participate, submit your 500 word paper abstract and short personal bio (max 300 words) to by the 15th August 2020. Additionally, your papers (max 5,000 words) must be submitted in advance, by the 15th September 2020. It is hoped that these papers will turn into a post-conference publication.

If the conference is able to go ahead in person, there will be limited funds available to support travel to Odense, Denmark and accommodation in town. If you require this, don't forget to mention it in your email. For more information, check out their event on Facebook.
  • From Combat to Commemoration. Veteran Politics and Memory: A Global Perspective 
The Department of History at the University of Warwick have announced a call for participants for their conference 'From Combat to Commemoration. Veteran Politics and Memory: A Global Perspective'
This conference seeks to bring together scholars to explore the experience of veterans, and particularly the politics of veteran memory and commemoration, from a global, comparative perspective. They hope to publish the resulting papers in an edited collection that will approach veteran memory from a range of different disciplinary, temporal, and geographic perspectives.

They are inviting proposals for 20-minute papers that discuss any aspect of veteran politics and memory, from the ancient world to the present. Complete panel proposals are also very welcome (panels/papers which seek to explore different conflicts/countries/periods are especially encouraged). Possible themes include:
  • Commemoration and memory
  • Veteran social movements and associations
  • Veteran cultural contributions (documentary evidence, art, etc.)
  • Political power of veterans
  • Veteran trauma, health and emotions
  • Veteran protest and dissent
  • (Inter)national veteran networks
  • Family and intergenerational memory
  • Monuments, statues, and re-enactments
  • Travel and battlefield tourism
  • Museums and heritage
Although a little while off yet (the conference will be held on the 16th and 17th April 2021), start thinking now as the deadline for abstracts is  29th November 2020.
You must submit your paper abstracts (max. 300 words) and brief bio(s) to and Participants will be notified of decisions by the end of December 2020.
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.
Support our Community
Can you help Gemma out? Access the questionnaire here.
#DefResChat War and Technology
In this month's Twitter Hour we discussed War and Technology. The conversation touched on everything from the history of military communication to technology's role in promoting the mental wellbeing of service members, thank you to everyone who participated! If you missed it this time, Hannah has provided a summary of our main talking points. 
To take this topic further... over on our blog Dan has written a piece about war, technology, and our Twitter hour which I would highly recommend! Check it out here.

Q1) What comes to mind when we say war and technology? Is it technology for good, for example, humanitarian support, or technology to wage war? Tell us your thoughts.

·      Whether we think of military hardware in terms of capabilities or what it will be used for.

·      Delivery of relevant technology in times of continuously changing warfare.

·      Lack of expertise in specialist areas e.g. cyber warfare.

·      How technology influences the way in which war is described and thought about.

·      Technology being used to wage war and then adapted for humanitarian use especially technology used in logistics.

·      War brings an increase in technological developments (e.g. radar, trauma equipment, new materials) with positive applications for society.

·      Technology appears to offer quicker, precise, possibly more humane, ways of waging wars although not always reality.

·      Available technology has always shaped warfare: symbiotic if often unpredictable relationship between civil and military technology.

·      Peaceful crossovers such as food preservation techniques.

Q2) Taking a step back, and exploring the historical perspective, how has war and technology changed over the last 100 years?

·      Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) are mindblowing in that decades ago it could take weeks to get to the battlefield.

·      Speed of information flow and decision-making is determined by digital technology but speed of manoeuvre is still determined by the internal combustion engine.

·      Development of military communications is probably the biggest catalyst for changes in warfare. Would there have been Blitzkrieg, Deep Battle or modern manoeuvre warfare without advances in battlefield comms?

·      Change in where technological developments are driven from. Once it was military lead, today the military is more often a consumer and in most cases lacks the resources to lead across multiple tech fields.

·      Medical advances due to war mean that frontline first aid has changed beyond all recognition. Injuries that were certain death in the field or lingering death in the hospital are now survivable.

Q3) What role do you think technology will play in future conflicts? Are we moving towards strictly cyber warfare or do you still see a role for "boots on the ground"?

·      More use of autonomous systems and cyber weapons, mixed with militarisation of social media platforms to provide disinformation and grow internal dissent.

·      Not all warfare is sophisticated so you will always need boots on the ground, especially when taking geographical differences into account.

·      Moving towards an era when technology and the soldier are much closer, perhaps even integrated thanks to biotech developments.

·      Hybrid warfare will become the norm with technology such as Bluetooth being used to detect that everyone is in the helicopter on return, to remote measurement technology or biomarkers.

Q4) Moving away from war, how can we, as researchers, support the development of technology to support the Armed Forces Community in its health and wellbeing post conflict?

·      Sharing our reach online to help health and wellbeing

·      Trying to understand the problem, conducting rigorous research and develop technology suitable for the coalface.

·      Development of ‘talking therapy’ AI systems to support people in the field and after they return.

Our next #DefResChat will be on Women, Peace and Security next Wednesday 5th August. Keep your eyes peeled on Twitter and our website for more information.

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

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

Find Out More
If you would like to advertise any upcoming opportunities, please let us know via email.
Women's History Network Fellowship
The Women's History Network is offering a grant of up to £750 to support the direct costs of those researching women’s history, who are not employed in higher education. The research should be intended to lead to a published outcome and costs that will be covered include, for example, travel and accommodation when visiting archives, photocopying or photographic licences required for work in archives. If this sounds like you, be quick! the deadline for applications is 1st August 2020 (this Saturday!). Successful applicant(s) will be contacted by 1st September 2020. For more information, check out their website here.
Cumberland Lodge Scholarships
Cumberland Lodge are offering committed PhD students the opportunity to earn a two year scholarship, a chance to network with peers and senior figures in academia and beyond, play an active role in Cumberland Lodge's interdisciplinary conferences, consultations, and lectures, as well as receiving ongoing mentoring from their staff.
This is an excellent opportunity for students to work across disciplines and develop valuable skills in networking and public engagement, all the while deepening their understanding of pressing societal issues. The charitable fund provides scholars attending their events with meals, accommodation and travel costs within the UK. What's more, scholars are eligible to apply for a Personal Development Grant of up to £300 during the scholarship period. Applications for 2021-23 will open early in 2021. To find out more, get in touch with their Programme team. 
What we're reading...
In Conversation
This July, Dan has been in conversation with Professor Neil Greenberg, Professor of Defence Mental Health, consultant occupational and forensic psychiatrist at Kings College London. Professor Greenberg is currently working on MeT4VeT which is a digital technology project for mental health. Here he gives us an insight into how his research has been influenced by the pandemic, along with tips for students and early career researchers for finding your footing in academia.
  • What are you currently working on? 
At the present the team are working on a number of project looking at moral injury in veterans. Moral injury is the psychological distress which follows being exposed to situations which breach someone’s moral or ethical code. Whilst they are not mental health problems, our previous research has shown that they predispose people to suffering with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), depression and indeed suicidality. To date, there are no manualised treatment for moral injury related mental health disorders and we were delighted to be awarded a grant from the Forces in Mind Trust to help develop a standardised treatment approach to moral injury related mental health problems for veterans. We are also working on looking at what the impact of COVID-19 has been on NHS staff who also may have experienced moral injuries as a result of working during the pandemic.
  • What got your into your field of study in the first place? 
I joined the Royal Navy when I was 21 and served for 23 years being lucky enough to travel the world in ships, submarines and with the Royal Marines Commandos as a general doctor and then psychiatrist. This got me interested in military life and the mental health impact that challenging incidents have on employees and what organisations can do to effectively support their staff. I was lucky enough to be the Defence Professor of Mental Health for a number of years before I retired from the Royal Navy in 2013 and my current research interested are an evolution of those I developed whilst in service.
  • What was your path to where you are now? 
I would like to translate the great work that has been done with the military, veterans, and their families in order to help staff working in other trauma-exposed organisations such as the media, the emergency services, the NHS and various branches of the Government such as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I think there such good lessons that can be translated [not simply exported] to non-military organisations that will be able to help many staff carrying out vitally important roles for the nation that it would be wasteful not to explore this further. I have been privileged to be able to work closely with the NHS during the pandemic to help better support the mental health of NHS staff.
  • How are you finding working from home? 
During the early part of the pandemic I was asked to set up and run the mental health strategy for staff at the London Nightingale Hospital, so I was not at home all the time. However, over the last few months home working has been rather good most of the time although I am indebted to my fabulous wife for doing the lion’s share of child care [I have done some!]. I am looking forward to travelling to work and other meetings soon though; I have nearly had my fill of webinars and remote meetings.
  • What advice would you like to give PhD students and early career researchers that you wish someone had said to you? 
To jump into a boat [research field] that is of interest to you without being too focused on getting exactly the role you want. I think if you let a boat travel in a positive direction for a while, you’ll often see sights [and other boats] which will stimulate your interest. Singlemindedness is useful when it comes to getting tasks done, it’s not helpful when you are trying to plan what your future should be. Just like walking up a hill, you sometimes can’t see the next summit until you get to the top of the foothill you are walking on. Also make sure you find good mentors and role models even if they are not your direct line manager/supervisors – in my experience approached properly most academics are content to share their stories with early career researchers. Don’t be afraid to ask for opportunities; don’t just wait to be asked.
  • What are your top tips for getting published? 
Offer to help out on projects of all sorts. If someone is talking about needing bits of papers written, or getting an old manuscript into a form ready for submission to a journal, put your hand up and offer to help. Once again, proactivity can make a big difference. I have found that enthusiastic and willing junior staff (students or early career researchers) have been able to turn bits of data or old papers into papers that have been published. Many seniors academics are have lots of nearly written documents or not quite analysed datasets sitting around, ask them if they do and if you can help get it into print.

Thank you so much, Professor Greenberg!
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. 
Don't forget to check out our blog over on the DRN website. As well as Dan's great piece on war and technology, this month we have a great interview with Lt Col Diane Allen about her book Forewarned, as well as her new Project 2021. Keep your eyes peeled in next month's newsletter for more information on this! 
NEW BOOKS: Adventures in Aeronautical Design: The Life of Hilda M Lyon
Published last month, Dr Nina Baker's new book puts the spotlight on Hilda M Lyon, a pioneering aeronautical engineer active in the early days of aviation. Not only was she an established mathematician, engineer, and researcher, she was also one of a select group of female scientific civil servants at the Royal Aircraft Establishment. During WWII she worked to ensure the safety of planes and submarines, and after her death the US submarine the Albacore incorporated her 'Lyon Shape' into their design. This book is a long-overdue celebration of a brilliant mind in defence and security, get your copy here!
The Dragons and the Snakes
The newest release from counterinsurgency expert David Kilcullen, The Dragons and the Snakes argues that the highly technological way of waging war refined by the US and its allies in the last 25 years is no longer viable. Kilcullen demonstrates how, while the US military has narrowly focused on counterterrorism, China and Russia have devised strategies to counteract American power. He also highlights how, despite having its roots in the US military, GPS technology has been harnessed by non-state actors such as al Qaeda, ISIS, and Hezbollah, eroding the West's technological advantage. You can read an except of the book here, and buy your copy here.
NEW PAPER: Forum: Militarization 2.0: Communication and the Normalization of Political Violence in the Digital Age
This forum piece recently published in International Studies Review brings some interesting insight into militarisation and political violence in an age of digital technologies and mass communication. Covering everything from video games to social media, celebrity leaders, arms traders, and insurgent groups, this is essential reading for anyone researching the evolution of military power and the continued normalisation of political violence. What's more, it is open access! Read it now, here.
Pause for thought...

"AI technology will change much about the battlefield of the future, but nothing will change America's steadfast commitment to responsible and lawful behavior."

Earlier this year, US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper led the US military towards adopting a series of ethical principles for the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in both combat and non-combat operations. These principles requires the use of AI by the military to be responsible, equitable, traceable, reliable, and governable. Despite its noble goals, some critics worry that this amounts to an "ethics-washing project", with intentionally broad language. Others suggest it is a move to build confidence with the tech industry for a new iteration of the military-industrial complex. At the same time, many AI experts are calling to ban 'killer robots' entirely.

What do you think?

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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