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Monthly Members' Newsletter

As we end our third month of lock down, is this the 'new normal'?

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 May, we are discussing approaches to the 'new normal', we've found some exciting free online courses to keep you learning through lock down, our webinar repertoire is expanding, and we're asking what it means to be a warrior in the midst of a pandemic?

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


“We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when, but I know we'll meet again some sunny day. Keep smiling through just like you always do, 'till the blue skies drive the dark clouds far away...” 

The words of Vera Lynn took on a new, and largely unexpected, significance in our VE Day celebrations this month, as we skipped on street parties in favour of more distant affairs. Many of us reminisced on days gone by (quite literally for this innovative street in Chester!), where hugs weren't taboo, beer gardens weren't off-limits, and we could party likes its 1945. Yet, it has been wonderful to see how many people across the country are adapting to the current climate, finding ways to connect and celebrate amidst what now seems to be our 'new normal'. VE Day is particularly important for us at the DRN, and we are extremely proud of all the service and ex-service members among us. We are committed to researching and supporting Armed Forces personnel both on and off the battlefield.

What's more, experiencing VE Day in the middle of a pandemic has raised questions about what it means to be a hero in today's 'new normal'. William Hague has called on the British public to 'Applaud the military on VE Day for their unsung efforts to beat Covid', noting how the 'war' against the coronavirus has carved out new roles for the military. Captain Sir Tom Moore has become the embodiment of a military hero, highlighting the country's support for the millions of NHS and other front-line workers tackling COVID-19. However has 'the cult of the health worker' truly replaced the 'cult of the soldier', and, if so, will this shift result in longer term funding and support for our health service once we're back to 'normal'? 

At the DRN we are embracing this new (digital) normal by extending our Twitter and webinar repertoire. I want to thank all of you who joined our webinar 'I feel like I'm going under...' with Tim West. Owing to your wonderful engagement, we are in the process of planning another webinar - keep your eyes peeled! We are also busy updating our website to include new content and archiving previous newsletters and Twitter Hours for you to look back on. As always, we love to hear your comments and feedback on Twitter.

On behalf of all the DRN, I wish you a happy, healthy month!
In the news...
Militarising the anti-COVID Campaign. In the nearly three months since we officially entered this pandemic, countries around the world have been quick to declare 'war' on COVID-19. While in many places this stops at rhetoric, in others it has empowered militaries to take on heavy-handed policing roles. Indonesia is deploying military personnel to shopping centres and tourist resorts, in the Phillipines, the police and military are empowered to 'shoot' those who 'cause commotion', and in South Africa, commentators have called it an 'eerie throwback to apartheid'. 
Nonetheless, some are pushing back against this militarised response. Michael Bröning, in Politico, declares 'no, we're not at war', critiquing the war analogy for jeopardising much needed 'multilateralism, transparency and solidarity across borders'.Uri Friedman, for the Atlantic, discusses why the US must not rely on the military alone to overcome COVID-19, noting that years of excessive military spending has come at the expense of public health.
What does this mean for the post-COVID military 'normal'? Is this shifting the way we think about war? And, is this the 'new normal' of civil-military relations?
Share your thoughts with us on Twitter!
Running out of lockdown activities? Try a free online course!
As working from home becomes the 'new normal', we've found a number of free defence-related online courses in everything from health and human rights to counterterrorism, conflict, and much more (thanks @benbo_fitzroy on Twitter!). Although these courses are free, many suggest a small fee (around £30-£50) to secure access and accreditation.

Below you can find a list of some of the courses on offer, as well as links with how to sign up. If you know of any others I have missed, don't hesitate to share them with us on Twitter! 
Global Diplomacy: Diplomacy in the Modern World.
SOAS University of London, Dr J. Simon Rofe. Sign up here.

Global Diplomacy: The United Nations in the World.
SOAS University of London, Dr Dan Plesch. Sign up here.
International Women's Health and Human Rights. 
Stanford University, Anne Firth Murray. Sign up here.
The Changing Global Order.
Leiden University, Professor Madeleine Hosli. Sign up here. 

Security and Safety Challenges in a Globalised World.

Leiden University, Professor Bibi van den Berg and Dr Ruth Prins. Sign up here.
Paradoxes of War.
Princeton University, Professor Miguel A. Centeno. Sign up here.
After the Arab Spring - Democratic Aspirations and State Failure.
University of Copenhagen, Dr Ebrahim Afsah. Sign up here.
The Emergence of the Modern Middle East - Part I.
Tel Aviv Univeristy, Professor Asher Susser. Sign up here.
From State Control to Remote Control: Warfare in the 21st Century. University of Bath, Dr Wali Aslam. Sign up here.

Next Generation Biosecurity: Responding to the 21st Century Biorisks. University of Bath, Kathryn Millett and Brett Edwards. Sign up here.
Security, Terrorism, and Counterterrorism.
Murdoch University, Kersti Niilus. Sign up here.
Global Studies: Cultures and Organisations in International Relations. Grenoble École de Management, Professor Yves Schemeil. Sign up here.

Global Studies: The Future of Globalisation.

Grenoble École de Management, Professor Yves Schemeil. Sign up here.
Tipping Points: Climate Change and Society.
University of Exeter, Professor Tim Lenton, Dr Damien Mansell, and Liam Taylor. Sign up here.
Religion and Conflict. 
University of Gronigen, Dr Kim Knibbe, Dr Marjo Buitelaar, and Dr Erin Wilson. Sign up here.
*CALL FOR PAPERS* The Open Review 2020

Stuck for things to do? Why don't you write for The Open Review? A student led, peer-reviewed journal for the social sciences, The Open Review is looking for submissions to its sixth edition! This is a great opportunity for students and young researchers to get publishing experience. This CFP is open to students of all levels of study, and they welcome a range of different article types - so get creative! The deadline for submissions is the 8th July 2020, and if you want to find more information and submission guidelines, check out their website here.   
(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...
  • The Rural List Online: The Defence Gardens Scheme - Nature Based Therapy
We are excited to announce that DRN committee member Sally Coulthard has recently published a report on the 'Defence Garden Scheme' with the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, and is lined up to be the guest speaker at Ruralink's next online event.
Held online on Thursday the 11th June at 6.30pm (BST), this event is an open forum to discuss nature-based therapy, both in general and military-specific. This will also be a good opportunity to find out more about Churchill Fellowships.
We encourage you to read Sally's Fellowship Report in advance, ready for what is sure to be an interesting and engaging discussion. You can find the report, 'The defence gardens scheme; for today's and tomorrow's veterans', here.

To find out more and sign up, visit the Ruralist website or Eventbrite page.
We look forward to (virtually) seeing you there! 
Join Ruralink at 6.30pm on Thursday 11th June to hear Sally discussing the Defence Gardens Scheme.
  • Information Warfare: A U.S. Army Mad Scientist Series of Virtual Events - Weaponization of Social Media.
On Wednesday the 3rd June at 2pm-3pm (EDT), join Dr Marek Posard and Dr Christopher Paul (RAND Corporation) in a webinar to discuss their research on 'Manufacturing Reality with AI'.They will address the weaponization of information, its impact on the conduct of wars, and what this means for the future of warfare.

NOTE: this event is being held in Eastern Daylight Time, so please check how this translates in your respective time zones. 

To sign up and receive your Zoom link, check out their Eventbrite page.
Keep up to date with the latest from the U.S. Army Mad Scientist Series of Virtual Events here.
  • Call for Abstracts: From Combat to Commemoration. Veteran Politics and Memory: A Global Perspective
On the 16th and 17th April 2021, the Department of History at the University of Warwick are holding a conference 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 proposal for 20-minute papers discussing 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, but are by no means limited to:
  • 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

If you are interested in taking part, please submit paper abstracts (max. 300 words) and brief bio(s) to both and by 29th November 2020. Participants will be notified of decisions by the end of December 2020.

You can read the full CFP here. 
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.
#DefResChat Take Six and Seven


This month, we held two Twitter Hours, in which we discussed both defence-related teaching, and how our members have approached questions of methods and methodology. Thanks again to everyone who participated, we are always so happy to see so many new and familiar faces joining us in conversation! Thanks to your engagement, we are in the process of planning a webinar to discuss further our experiences and queries regarding methods and methodology.
06/05/2020- Teaching as a researcher in defence
In this #DefResChat we discussed teaching within the defence space, and teaching and working alongside doing research. Our four questions were:

1)  Do you think teaching war and the military needs to be approached differently to other topics, and how do you find students respond to these topics?

2) What has been the most effective or interesting teaching method you have delivered or experienced in teaching about defence?

3) What has been your experience of teaching while learning?

4) What has been the most useful thing you have been advised or read about teaching defence? (Please share with #DefResResources if you list a resource that might be useful to others and we will add to our webpage).

This discussion was incredibly timely, supporting the community of people managing their research alongside teaching and personal responsibilities, particularly during the lifestyle changes brought on by COVID-19. Some useful resources were shared, and these can be found on the #DefResResources page of our website.

20/05/2020- Methods and Methodology 
In previous #DefResChats we have discussed your research areas, interests, as well as useful resources etc. This #DefResChat was a discussion about the research methods and methodologies we use within the defence space. We hope we can share knowledge and support the community by further understanding the wider range of approaches and ideas explored within our membership. Ideas from this session will inform a webinar which is currently being planned.

The discussion was framed around these questions:

1) What do you consider is your method and methodology?

2) Were you familiar with this on starting your research, and what has helped you adopt these approaches?

3) What was your experience surrounding ethics and these approaches?

4) What advice would you give to any early career researchers wanting to use these methods/ methodologies?  

A broad range of methods and methodologies were presented. Largely those in active discussion were qualitative/ mixed method researchers, sharing how their methods and methodologies have changed throughout their PhD. A desire to learn more about quantitative methodologies was noted. In light of COVID-19, some researchers discussed how they adapted methods to incorporate things such as video conferencing, or had delayed data collection. Ethical considerations and participant signposting consideration highlighted. In line with this, it was recognised that for researchers their topics can often be emotionally challenging. A useful resource centred around the emotional well being of researchers was shared which can be found on the #DefResResources page.

Our next #DefResChat will be on Wednesday the 3rd of June. 
Keep your eyes peeled for more info on Twitter and our website! 

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
One door closes and another one opens?

If you would like to advertise any upcoming opportunities, please let us know via email.
What we're reading...
In Conversation
This month, Lucie Pebay has been in conversation with Professor Olivier Schmitt,Professor of Political Science and Head of the Center for War Studies, University of Southern Denmark.  Professor Schmitt is also a founding member of the French Association for War and Strategic Studies (AEGES) and a board member of the European Initiative for Security Studies (EISS).

Below, Professor Schmitt takes us through his research, useful reading material, and invaluable advice for young researchers...
What are you currently working on? 
I am working on several main projects. The first one is an examination of French defence and security policy since 1991. The main outputs so far have been a number of book chapters and articles (already published or forthcoming), but I am completing the revisions of a book on this topic co-authored with my friend and colleague Alice Pannier from SAIS, and which should be published later this year or early next year.
The second project is a co-edited volume with my CWS colleagues Sten Rynning and Amelie Theussen on temporality and western warfare. We argue that the “Western way of war” is marked by a specific relationship to temporality (understood as the combination of trajectories, perception of time, and pace), which shapes the way we design our armed forces and employ military forces. We thus shed new light on the debate about the declining utility of western military power. The book is also in the revision stage and should come out early next year with Brookings/Chatham house Press.
The third project is a multi-year study of the dynamics of change in the armed forces. Basically, I try to bring some conceptual clarity to a multiplicity of terms routinely employed in the literature but diversely defined (military revolution, transformation, innovation, adaptation, diffusion, emulation, etc.), and to explore the interaction between different mechanisms shaping the trajectory of the armed forces (civil-military relations, threat assessment, technological developments, routines and practices, etc.). As part of the project, I am co-authoring an article with two of my PhD students, Vicky Karyoty and Michael Gjerdstad, comparing the genesis and implementation of three cases of what we call “declared innovation” (States openly claiming to adopt an innovation policy for their armed forces) in the US, France and Russia. And I hope that this project will lead to my next book, looking at patterns of transformation in the armed forces since 1870.

What got you into your field of study in the first place?  
Probably my grandfather. He was a veteran of the Algerian war: he joined a paratrooper regiment as a private, fought for three years and was part of the failed putsch attempt against De Gaulle in 1961. He left the armed forces afterward to work in the naval industry but was evidently deeply marked by the experience. He developed a strong personal interest for military history, especially World War II. Growing up, there were always many military history books around the house for me to look at, and he would also never miss any TV documentary (especially on the Franco-German channel ARTE), which I would end up watching with him. I think that this is what got me interested in defence issues in the first place, and indirectly led me to study political science, and then international relations and war studies.
What was your path to where you are now?  
Quite a bit of luck actually. I started studying political and social sciences in France as an undergrad and interned at the French military mission in Berlin. I thought I wanted to work for the United Nations, and joined the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, for a master in International Affairs. This is where I got my first exposure to what research could be like, when I attended a research seminar on international sanctions led by Prof. Thomas Biersteker, where MA and PhD students were mixed. We had to read about 130 pages every week, and write a 9000 words research paper at the end. It sounds standard for a graduate program, but it was totally new for me: I had joined a professional MA degree, but absolutely adored the research experience.
The second turning point was when I had to write a research paper for a class on international organisations taught by Prof. Stephanie Hofmann, which I ended up writing on the challenges of coalition warfare. I got totally fascinated by the topic and, after several discussions with my professors in Geneva, decided to pursue a PhD. This paper formed the basis of my PhD proposal, with which I approached Prof. Theo Farrell at King’s College London. I was accepted into the program, completed my PhD (thanks to a scholarship from the French MoD) and left Europe for a one-year post-doc at the University of Montréal Centre for International Studies (CERIUM). I was then fortunate to join the Center for War Studies at SDU in 2015.
So in retrospect, I have been lucky to identify what I was really interested in early enough thanks to this research seminar, to find mentors that were always willing to help and support me along the way, and to land a job. As Machiavelli pointed out, our paths are made of both virtù and fortuna: we like to tell ourselves that careers are based on merit, and of course quality work matters, but luck also plays a huge part in it.
What are you currently reading and is it any good?  
I will only talk about books I liked, because I think it is unfair to criticize authors outside of a context in which their argument would be adequately engaged with and they get a chance to respond to criticism.
So here are some books I read recently and found enriching:
  • J.C Sharman, Empires of the Weak, which provides a global context for the so-called “Military Revolution” in Europe.
  • Ben Buchanan, The Hacker and the State, on the “new normal” of cyber conflict
  • Peter Westwick, Stealth, which is a fascinating socio-history of the development of stealth technologies for aviation, and the competition between Lockheed and Northrop Grumann (leading to two very different designs for the F-117 and the B-2).
Next on my reading list are: As leisure, I like reading a lot of science-fiction, and I am currently reading the third volume of the Revenger Trilogy by Alastair Reynolds.   
What is your favourite book in your field of study and why?  
It’s a really hard question, and this is far from being a definitive answer, but I realize I often come back to Michael Howard’s War and the Liberal Conscience, which raises many important political and philosophical questions in a clear, elegant and concise manner.

What advice would you like to give PhD students and early career researchers that you wish someone had said to you?  
I actually think I had been properly “warned” before getting in, so here are some generic advices:
  • Find a group of fellow junior academics while doing your PhD: it is important to socialize, to have moral support, and even opportunities for cooperation.
  • Establish a trust-based relationship with your supervisor early on. Be explicit about what you expect from the supervision and discuss practicalities with your supervisor. 
  • When it comes to publications, find the balance between strategizing and passion. Yes, a well-placed journal article takes time and can have strong positive effects on your career, but passion is ultimately what sustains you in the long run. So don’t necessarily discard a project with less obvious career benefits if you are strongly interested in it: it will keep you motivated and it may even pay off in unexpected ways.  
 Who have been the most influential academics on your professional career?  
As mentioned, a number of people have been amazing mentors and played an important role in my career. First, my thesis supervisor, Theo Farrell, was always extremely supportive of my project. He also managed to drag me into the field of military innovation/military change.
Stephanie Hofmann has also been a wonderful mentor: always friendly and willing to help. I don’t know how many letters of recommendation she wrote for me over the years, but it is a lot… The same goes for Frédéric Mérand, thanks to whom I had a full year of post-doc to concentrate exclusively on publications.
I owe the scholarship that allowed me to do a PhD to Frédéric Ramel and Frédéric Charillon, so I can’t thank them enough for their support. Of course, Sten Rynning hired me at SDU, so he had a strong influence on my career. And finally, I would like to mention the late Bastien Irondelle, with whom I had the chance to co-author a book chapter before he passed away, who was extremely invested in supporting young scholars. My trajectory would have been very different without them.
In terms of intellectual influences, my role-models are Raymond Aron and Michael Howard, which is probably logical for a French scholar of war studies who graduated from King’s College London… Among contemporary researchers, there is too many people I admire to mention them all, but Michael Horowitz, Sarah Kreps, the late Patricia Weitsman, Steve Saideman, Pascal Vennesson, Caitlin Talmadge, Beatrice Heuser, Lawrence Freedman and Elizabeth Kier have, knowingly or unknowingly (I have never met some of them), strongly shaped the way I think about my research.   

Thanks so much, Professor Schmitt! 

You can find our more about Professor Schmitt on his website, or follow him on Twitter (@Olivier1Schmitt)
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. 
NEW BOOK: Our Bodies Their Battlefield
The latest book from Christina Lamb, Sunday Times Chief Foreign Correspondent and award-winning war reporter, explores the suffering and bravery of women in war. Sharing the stories of women from four different continents, Lamb's book is a rallying call to listen and act against rape in war. This is an extraordinarily important read, whether or not you are a scholar of war. Get your copy here.
COVID-19: Impact on Researchers
SMaRteN and Vitae have partnered to conduct research into the impact of COVID-19 on the working lives of doctoral researchers and research staff. They hope to develop a national picture of how doctoral and early career researchers have been affected by the pandemic, with the aim of providing the best support for researchers' professional development.
The survey includes questions relating to the impact of COVID-19 on research work, mental wellbeing, social connection. They further address the impact of COVID-19 on changes to employment outside of academia, living arrangements and caring arrangements and the consequent effect of these changes on research work. The survey considers the support provided by supervisors / line managers and by universities.

Early findings have recently been made available to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week. You can have a look at these initial conclusions and find out about the project here.
You can view the data here.
For more information, contact the SMaRteN Network Coordinator, Laura Beswick,, or follow @vitae_news     
Wavell Room Long Reads
This month,the Wavell Room have published two interesting pieces on what it means to be a 'warrior'. Firstly, Ryan Noordally's piece assess the 'warrior ethos' as aggressive, self-serving, and ultimately toxic, presenting the 'Roman Centurion' as a 'calm, collected' professional alternative.

Gareth W has responded to Noordally by questioning the toxicity of the 'warrior'. Instead, he suggests that cultivating a warrior identity 'requires physical, spiritual, and intellectual engagement' with its ethical basis and purpose in contemporary conflict. He raises important questions about military identity in contemporary soldiering, moving beyond aesthetic to explore what invoking the 'warrior' might mean for military cohesion and belonging today.

You can find more Wavell Room Long Reads here.
Pause for thought...

"Perhaps, too, we will finally start to understand patriotism more as cultivating the health and life of your community, rather than blowing up someone else’s community. Maybe the demilitarization of American patriotism and love of community will be one of the benefits to come out of this whole awful mess."

Mark Lawrence Schrad hopes, in Politico, that a 'new kind of patriotism' could emerge off the back of the COVID-19 crisis. He writes of a patriotism that recognises sacrifice as disconnected from military service, and salutes to the service of the doctors, nurses, caregivers, teachers, and other frontline workers. 

What could this mean for our understanding of the 'Warrior' in a post-COVID world?

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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