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Monthly Members' Newsletter

With 2020 (finally) coming to an end, we hope you've all had a restful holiday period. For our first newsletter of 2021, we are rounding off 2020 with some reflections and resolutions.

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 January, we are reflecting on the New Year, sharing our ups and downs of 2020 and our hopes for the coming year. We've collated our favourite resources of the year and we're asking what's to be expected for the defence and security world in 2021?

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

Happy New Year! It's been quite a year, hasn't it?!

As I prepared for this New Year's newsletter I thought back to its 2020 counterpart and I saw a year that began and ended with equal parts struggle, survival, and solidarity. Although none of us could have imagined the enormity of COVID-19 back in January 2020, the bushfires fires which ripped through Australia were our first taste of crisis. Dramatically highlighting the effects of climate change and setting the scene for what became one of the warmest years on record, fires also raged in Serbia and California, while Indonesia, Kenya, and Uganda suffered destructive flooding.

In other news, US drone strikes, the assassination of Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani, and the corresponding deterioration of international nuclear relations saw us hurtling towards WWIII. In this environment, you'd be forgiven for taking David Cameron's warnings at face value as the Brexit transition period formally began. On the other side of the pond, the Black Lives Matter movement pierced through the coronavirus news, invigorating international outrage and civil unrest in response to the killing of Black people by police. The summer also saw the start of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as the devastating explosion in Beirut which tore through the city and toppled the Lebanese government. The US election turned communities against one another, and information warfare impacted states and civilians alike.

And, in all this, who can forget COVID-19? While writing our newsletters in March, April, and May on this 'invisible war' and the 'new normal', not for a moment did I think that I would still be in lockdown 10 months later. Although there is undoubtedly more to say about the disasters of 2020 than this brief editorial can hold, as security and defence researchers we must focus on both war and its aftermath. Our jobs took on new meanings as we attempted to navigate the rhetoric of war which has threaded together much of this year. While the meanings of pain, war, and violence have mutated in unexpected ways, security has also meant many things this year...

It meant a safe space to live
It meant a protected environment 
It meant racial justice
It meant stable employment
It meant an end to hate and bigotry
It meant a vaccine

At the same time, our heroes were redefined as... 

Key workers

While 2020 has taken so much from us - our loved ones, our jobs, our time, our ambitions, our freedom, our sanity, our security - I am eternally impressed by the strength and solidarity shown by so many. As governments across the world roll out their vaccines, the security community should train their eyes on these heroes to understand what peace could mean in 2021. The fireworks which lit up London this New Years shone the words 'hope' and 'together'. Despite this year of crises, these words clearly still hold enormous power.

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

The DRN Team 
In the News... 
What will the geopolitical challenges of 2021 be?
The International Institute for Strategic Studies is here to help us with a podcast exploring the potential flashpoints in 2021. Discussing everything from the decline of multiculturalism and the rules-based international system, to the future of the US-China rivalry in the Biden era, the Sounds Strategic 'Et tu 2021?' provides the perfect look forward to security and geopolitics in 2021. Listen on the IISS website! 
Army Technology examines how the technology themes that have dominated 2020 might progress into next year. Whilst it may be tempting to look to Sci-fi technology, Berenice Healey and Harry Lye consider optionally crewed systems, the new START nuclear treaty championed by the Biden administration, how the Internet of Things (IoT) is poised to dominate, and whether space is the new hybrid domain. Read their full analysis on Army Technology. 
What we've been up to... 
Happy New Year from the DRN!
No one can deny this has been a tough year. Many of us have been tested and pushed to our limits, with sadness and uncertainty becoming the overriding theme of 2020. However, it hasn't been all bad. This happy little dog is here to remind you of the good moments of 2020 (big or small), helping us take the lessons we have learnt over the past 12 months into 2021. In this vein, some of our DRN Committee wanted to share their 2020 highs, reflections, and recommendations...
Emily's highlight of 2020 was presenting at the International Feminist Journal of Politics' Conference 'Subversions and Solidarities through Feminist Collaborations and Crossings' at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, on March 6th and 7th. 

"Although it seems like a decade ago now - just weeks before we were locked down in the UK - I have tried to carry the enthusiasm and positivity I felt during those two days with me through the rollercoaster of this pandemic. 
It was amazing to see how academic collaboration and solidarity were being fostered over emails, video conferences, and pre-recorded presentations even in those early and most uncertain stages of COVID-19. The value of that time together only grew as the lockdowns stretched across 2020, reminding me that friends and mentors are there even when we can't see them.
As with most events in 2021, this year's IFJP Conference is going virtual. Scheduled to take place on the 17th-20th February, the conference is aptly themed 'feminist connections in global politics'. Although the deadline for submissions has passed, I would strongly encourage any feminist academics to sign up. Register before January 15th for early-bird pricing! Find out more and register here."
Sally has recommended the brilliant book 'TRIBE- On Homecoming and Belonging' by Sebastian Junger, published by

"In the words of the Sunday Times review- Tribe is ‘ fascinating, insightful and built on real and difficult experiences’. and, as the Guardian review asks- ‘rather than asking how we can save our returning servicemen and women. Junger challenges us to take a hard look in the mirror and ask whether we can save ourselves’.
Personally, I found this book compelling. It struck a chord with my research on veterans mental health conducted as part of a Churchill Fellowship. Sebastian’s thoughts concur with my findings and a central theme of a loss of identity for military personnel when transitioning from a military to civilian community.  While TRIBE focuses on the challenges of returning home from war, there are many parallels on the challenges for some, on leaving service life and transitioning successfully into civilian employment, society and community.

Highly recommended."
Hannah has been reflecting on what she has learnt over the course of her PhD studies as the end is approaching. She led a session with her PhD cohort at the University of Bath to share ‘what we wish we’d known’ and has put together a summary which she hopes this will be of interest to the wider DRN community. 
"I think it is easy to underestimate what has been lost in the move to isolated home working in terms of chatting to our peers over a coffee in the office or in the margins of face to face conferences. I was fascinated in chatting to colleagues about our different working routines from periods of intensity followed by total breaks or very structured programmes and came to realise that we all have different approaches and different PhDs but will get to the same end.
I learnt a lot about publishing this year, from the disappointment of my first article being rejected followed by its later acceptance in a different journal. I read somewhere that all writing, even single author, is collaborative and that it is the feedback from journal reviewers, peers and supervisors that develops an article and this realisation has been really reassuring to me this year and helped me to see the feedback differently."
Lee's highlight was attending the Veterans’ Mental Health Conference 2020: Bridging the Gap at King's College London on the 12th March.

"I was fortunate to have my research poster accepted to display at Kings College. There was a great turnout and I was able to network with other academics, charities and policymakers.
The opening keynote was given by Johnny Mercer, Minister for Defence, People and Veterans. It was great to witness what is being done to improve the mental health of veterans and reduce the stigma associated with poor mental health. The conference continued with presentations from leading academics on an array of different topics. I feel very lucky to have been able to attend the conference and I learnt a great deal."
Veronika has shared with us both her professional and personal resolutions for 2021.

"My professional highlight of 2020 was getting a permanent position in academia; I am a Teaching Fellow at the University of Portsmouth, based at RAF Halton. Getting a permanent position wasn’t easy, it was very stressful (and halfway through the pandemic too!) but I’m incredibly happy that I got there in the end.
It also involved a move from Lincolnshire to Buckinghamshire and saying goodbye to my wonderful colleagues at the RAF College Cranwell. On the bright side, I’ve got to meet new, wonderful people in my new job. 

My professional resolution is to publish more, and also to become a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. My personal resolution is to read all the books by Stephen King I haven’t read yet (I’ve read over two dozen so far)."
What are your reflections and resolutions? Let us know on Twitter!
(Virtual) Events...
12th January, 3pm.
Join this virtual event celebrating the launch of a new RUSI study examining the future of the corps echelon in NATO, its role on the future battlefield, and how it will need to be resourced.

The paper considers the capabilities that the future corps will require and the challenges in rationalising the corps echelon within NATO. It argues that overcoming interoperability challenges requires extensive exercising with subordinate formations, which necessitates a shift in NATO from ‘rapid reaction’ to being ‘long prepared’. At the launch event the authors, Lt Gen (Retd) Sean MacFarland and Dr Jack Watling, will share their findings.
In the LSE Centre for Women, Peace and Security's first 'In Conversation with' event, director Sanam Naraghi Anderlini will delve into her guests' real world experiences and efforts to bring the vision and promise of the WPS agenda to life. She will welcome HRH Sophie Windsor, the Countess of Wessex, alongside Visaka Dharmadasa, Founder of the Association of War Affected Women, and Abir Hajibrahim, Co-Founder of Mobaderoon. They will discuss their entry into the policy and practice of peace and security, their personal reflections and analyses, their achievements, motivations, persistent challenges, as well as their hopes for the future. 
Pre-registration is required for this event, registration will open after 10am via Zoom on Tuesday 5 January. For any queries email
20th January, 12.30pm - 1.30pm.
How are we to account for the productive power of global public opinion research, as something that plays a part in both the creation of populations and the conditions for the possibility of their governance?
This talk tackles this question by critically examining the production of data and knowledge on Middle Eastern publics, starting in the early twentieth century. Drawing attention to the connections between colonial administration, political patronage, and the history and development of American social science, Dr Kiran Phull considers how scientific opinion polling is intimately bound up in the structuring of global social knowledge as a political project. The event will be chaired by Dr Amanda Chisholm. To register visit this KCL webpage. 
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.
'Sharing War Memories' Conference Call
Le Mans University is calling for papers for their conference being held on 22nd June - 24th June 2021 titled 'Sharing War Memories - From the Military to the Civilian'.

Deadline: 30th January 2021
For more information, click
ESRC SWDTP Postdoctoral Fellowships
The ESRC is inviting applications for postdoctoral fellowships to be based at the SWDTP institutions of the University of Bath, the University of Bristol, the University of Exeter, Plymouth University and the University of West of England.

Deadline: 4pm on 23rd March 2021
For more information, click
here, or email
New Researchers Special Issue
The British Journal of Military History is calling for papers on any aspect of military history. This special issue focuses on PhD students or those that have graduated from a PhD within the last 18 months. MA students are also encouraged to submit.

Deadline: 10am on 4th May 2021

For further information, take a look at the call for submissions or email Zack White at 
Supporting our Community...
Georgie Eckersley, a PhD researcher from Keele University, is recruiting participants for a study that seeks to explore veterans' wellbeing post-transition. 

For further details about the study click here or contact Georgie at
Researchers from the University of Central Lancashire and the University of Salford are looking for participants for their study, funded by the Forces in Mind Trust. The study aims to understand the transition to civilian life for ex-service personnel with physical conditions as a direct result of service, or acquired whilst in service.

For further details, take a look at the recruitment poster below, or contact Dr Celia Hynes at or Dr Cormac Lawler at 
Fr David Smith from Birmingham City University is recruiting participants for a study that seeks to understand the personal effect that warfighting has on soldiers.

For further details, take a look at the recruitment poster below, or contact Fr David Smith at
The Veterans and Families Institute (VFI) at Anglia Ruskin University is carrying out a project surrounding RN/RM service leavers and their transition to civilian life.

For more information, take a look at the recruitment poster below, or contact the lead researcher - 
#DefResChat: Reflecting on 2020
For our final #TwitterHour of the year, we thought we would reflect on the past year and look forward to the coming one. Many thanks to everyone who has taken part. It was wonderful to read about your achievements of 2020 and goals for 2021.

Looking back...
Q1) What has been your professional highlight of the last year?
  • Getting a full time post just a year after my viva. At times I thought that wasn’t possible but opportunities do pop up! Stay positive.
  • Adapting and completing all interviews for my MSc thesis on loneliness and social isolation in the ex-military population. The small steps are good achievements in the current climate!
  • Doing field research/capacity assessment in Somalia.
  • Finishing off a year of teaching (most of it online due to Covid) then getting a new job that I love. PhD has been a bit of a write off this year, to be honest. 
  • Honestly, finally getting PhD funding has been the best thing that’s happened this year! 
  • Completing MSc data capture! Now to write about it...... 
  • Having my first article accepted, felt good after the low of having it rejected earlier. I read somewhere about writing, even as sole author, being collaborative because of reviewer input. Am starting to see rejection as part of the process that led to acceptance. 
  • Designing a #wargame for an artillery unit to use during COVID to keep proficient in mission tasks. 
  • Getting my book published after 15 years of research and writing. And having people say nice things about it.
Q2) Has there been a piece of research or literature that has particularly influenced your work over the last year?
  • Definitely Travis Mills 'As Tough as They Come'. A personal account of becoming a quadruple amputee. 
  • Piercing the Fog of War: The Theory and Practice of Command in the British and German Armies, 1918-1940 by Martin Samuels, published in 2019, has been really important for my research into intelligence doctrine, which will be the basis of chapter 1. 
  • I’d add anything by @kennethpayne01 on AI and @davidwhetham 
  • Not a great deal on loneliness and social isolation in UKAF but systematic review a great start. Wilson et al 2018. 
  • The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich opened my eyes to women's stories of combat, it is so well curated and powerful. 
  • I’ve been impressed by Sinews of War and Trade: Shipping and Capitalism in the Arabian Peninsula by Laleh Khalili.
Looking forward...
Q3) What professional goals have you set (or hoping to set!) next year?
  • Thesis submission at the end of March. Then having the time to read something not thesis literature related! And then probably go back to Google Scholar to see what I missed. 
  • Finish my thesis - due to submit mid-February! Can't believe it will actually end, my children can't remember me not being a student! 
  • Growing @freeman_air and encouraging academics like DRN colleagues to contribute. Would love ideas for debate on contemporary air and space power. 
  • Publish my theory development part 2! 
  • Introduction, lit review and 1st chapter done. Formally restart my studies on 1st April. Get through transfer and be confirmed on my PhD programme (and hopefully give my first paper at a conference). 
  • Yes, getting through transfer is definitely one of my big goals for the next year, too! 
  • Maybe a role in research once I achieve my MSc. 
  • None. Just getting through. Not assuming that anything approaching a productive environment will emerge.
Q4) Is there anything you'd like the DRN to focus on as a theme for next year?
  • In a hopeful return to normality, how about focussing on  conferences. Tips for presenting, favourite conferences etc etc. 
  • Also in case that takes a little while - what about a session on best practice for online. The good, the bad and the ugly!!
  • Piercing the Fog of War: The Theory and Practice of Command in the British and German Armies, 1918-1940 by Martin Samuels.
  • The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich.
  • Sinews of War and Trade: Shipping and Capitalism in the Arabian Peninsula by Laleh Khalili.
  • As Tough as They Come by Travis Mills.
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...
Military Courts, Civil-Military Relations, and the Legal Battle for Democracy
The Politics of Military Justice

By Brett J. Kyle, Andrew G. Reiter.
Fortunately, 2020 is finally over. Whilst it may not have been the best year, it still brought us some interesting reads, including this book on military justice. This book examines the operation and reform of military courts in democratic countries. It draws on an impressive dataset of 120 countries and shows how military justice has evolved over two centuries. Furthermore, it contains historical case studies of several countries, including the United States, Pakistan and others. 
Those working in the fields of democracy, civil-military relations, human rights and the rule of law will find this book interesting. You can buy a copy here.
What happens post-Brexit?
Even though these two books are not the newest, they are quite topical and worth reading. These edited books address various challenges and problems in European defence and they examine the impact of Brexit on aspects of security and defence.
The United Kingdom’s Defence After Brexit: Britain’s Alliances, Coalitions, and Partnerships 
By Rob Johnson and Janne Matlary

You can buy a copy 
Peace, Security and Defence Cooperation in Post-Brexit Europe: Risks and Opportunities
By Cornelia-Adriana Baciu and John Doyle

You can buy a copy 

Adventures in Aeronautical Design: The Life of Hilda M. Lyon by Nina Baker, reviewed by Hannah West

The aircraft control systems familiar to today’s aircrew and engineers contain anti-phugoid software-based, in part, on Hilda Lyon’s research on longitudinal dynamic stability. Her ‘Lyon shape’ for submarine hull design has influenced US submarine design from the 1950s onwards. Had Hilda Lyon’s life not been cut short at the age of 50 by an operation in 1946, she would surely have gone on to pioneer even greater innovations in aeroelasticity and aircraft stability. And yet, as a female former naval air engineer myself, I had never heard of Hilda Lyon and am consequently grateful to Nina Baker for this concise and thorough chronology of her life.

To read more of this review check out our latest blog post here.

Want to go back and read last month's 'In Conversation' 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. 
Pause for thought...

Each year the first of January comes around and I religiously list all the achievements I plan to accomplish by the year's end. These typically consist of eating better foods, running more miles, and writing more, and more, and more words. While setting writing targets is important for every ambitious postgraduate student, 2020 has shown that placing too much value on productivity and self-improvement can cause self-care and self-trust to fall by the wayside.

This article in the New York Times is encouraging us to downsize our resolutions this year, acknowledging that “In a year like this we need to give ourselves more grace and forgiveness and have more self-compassion”. Although this is especially true after the 'crisis' of 2020, it is important not to let go of this compassion as we head into 2021 and beyond. 

Maybe this year I will finally focus on quality over quantity?!

What do you think? What are your resolutions? Or, are you forgoing resolutions altogether this year? Let us know on Twitter!
Here's to a manageable 2021! Love, the DRN x
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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