#DefResChat the Defence Research Network's monthly Twitter hour began in January 2020. We give an overview of when these sessions took place, and what was discussed below.


08/01/2020: Connecting the Defence Research Community

On the 8th of January we held our first ever Twitter Hour, #DefResChat . The purpose to connect members of our Defence Research Network and learn about who is in it, what research is going on and what we can do as a community of early career researchers to support each other.

Our launch topic discussed the research you are doing, what you are doing and what you support you need from the wider defence research community to get you there? The discussion was prompted by 4 questions:

Q1 - What is your research about?

Through the discussion within our network we have a wealth of MA, MSc, PhD, Post-Doc Early career researchers with different perspectives and interests which broadly include, history, technology, intelligence, creative methods (theatre, autoethnography), Reservists, technology, leadership, medicine, chronic pain, psychology, combined and service specific work, policy, national and international.

Q2 - What does the support you have as a early career defence researcher look like? (resources, peers etc)

The current support available to the network appear to include people who have connections with the Armed Forces, local support hubs such as the Northern Network, supervisors and topic specific support.

Q3 - What support would you like to give or receive to support you in your academic journey?

Some of the suggestions about support people would like to give following #DefResChat include sharing expertise, participating in a mentoring scheme, knowledge exchange, proof reading, collaborative work. Suggestions about useful support or resources include recruitment support, details of events or references, MODREC support, MOD Expert input, events outside of London, networking, seminars, support towards funding, Peer review groups. Connecting to write papers and book chapters.

Q4 - What sort of topics would you like to see future #DefResChat host? Would you also like to host them yourself?

Tips and pointers for applying for a PhD, funding application, defined stages in the PhD process, starting off, ethics, surveys, interviews, analysis. Engaging with MOD Experts.


12/02/2020: Military to Civilian Transition

There is an ongoing global discussion into how transition from the Armed Forces can be better understood and in different contexts. This discussion invited researchers from a range of professional backgrounds to share knowledge. Here is a brief summary of some of the things that were discussed.

The initial discussion surrounded problematic terms associated with Military Transition. A very interesting thread emerged about the term veteran. The group identified the term veteran as problematic and a one size fits all, and it was discussed that the term may be a barrier or facilitator to appropriate support. Preferred terms included ex-service, former service included RAF Retired. The debate into what the term means has also been discussed outside of this #DefResChat in arenas such as the #VeteransWork Debate.

The term Veteran and its relation to gender was also discussed and the impact the term veteran has on former service women as a potential alienator to individuals and the wider community; the image of a veteran is often portrayed as a ‘bad, sad and mad’ male. This poses the question, does changing the narrative surrounding what a veteran is require support from the media to recognise the diversity of individuals recruited into the Armed Forces.  Other problematic terms identified were ‘transition’ and ‘soft skills’.

Discussions that came throughout the #DefResChat included what the transition journey was like for different individuals including reservists who are concurrently civilian and serving. Also, a very interesting discussion was held about the nature of recruitment whether conscripted individuals, and volunteers have different military career trajectories and subsequently different transition experiences.

Finally, interesting comments made in regard to support required to transition included making sure family and friends, the Armed Forces Community, were considered. Also the importance of holistic focus on supporting employment and recognising transferable skills throughout a military career.

This short summary gives an overview of the #DefResChat . For those who participated we hope you found the conversation stimulating.


11/03/2020: Counterinsurgency

We held our third #DefResChat on the topic of Counterinsurgency. Once again, we are so excited and grateful to all who participated. If you missed it, our host for the evening, Hannah, has provided us with a summary of what was discussed:

Hot on the heels of the recent Counterinsurgency (COIN) Forum, we held the March Twitter hour on the same subject. Thank you to everyone who took part, it was great to get everyone together again but this time virtually and to hear from some new voices. Our #DefResChat was guided by the following questions:

Question 1: Tell us what your counterinsurgency research is about?
Question 2: Why study counterinsurgency today (and what are the challenges)?
Question 3: Where are the gaps in counterinsurgency scholarship?
Question 4: What is the best thing you've read about counterinsurgency?

I thought I would share quick canter through the main discussion points. The opening question sparked some interesting discussion about how difficult it can be to pin down a definition of counterinsurgency from the multitude of synonymous terms to the question of what is not COIN. Contributors described the imperative to study COIN as resulting from the prevalence of such conflicts and importance of learning historical lessons especially in light of a shift back towards conventional operations in Western militaries post Afghanistan/Iraq. We identified gaps in our understanding of local perspectives and the causes which have arguably been neglected in favour of concentrating on COIN tactics. If you would like to read more about what was said, please check out the #DefResChat. I thought I would end by sharing the reading list contributed in response to question 4:

  • ‘Learning to eat soup with a knife’ by John Nagl
  • ‘A bright shining lie’ by Neil Sheehan
  • ‘A Feminist Approach to British Counterinsurgency’ by Claire Duncanson and Hilary Cornish
  • ‘The New Counter-insurgency Era in Critical Perspective’ ed. by Celeste Ward Gventer, David Martin Jones and MLR Smith
  • ‘The Political Impossibility of Modern Counterinsurgency’ by M.L.R Smith and David Jones
  • ‘War From the Ground Up: Twenty first century combat as politics’ by Emile Simpson
  • ‘Counterinsurgency’ by David Kilcullen

08/04/ 2020: Connection through COVID-19

Our monthly Twitter chat #DefResChat discussed how as a network we can provide online connectivity for early career researchers researching defence related matters. In light of the global changes taking place due to COVID-19 we wanted to focus on how we can further connect and support our network of friends and colleagues throughout their academic journey. We opened this up to those outside of the defence sphere so that we can share and build a pool of useful resources that we can all share. The topic was discussed around these 4 questions:


Q1 - How has COVID-19 impacted your work i.e. work/ life balance/ family/ access to materials?

Q2 - Are there any useful resources you have found to help you that you would recommend manage work?

Q3 - In terms of research can you see any ways that you could help/ support pandemic responses in future?

Q4 - Finally, do you have any useful health and wellbeing tips or good news stories to share?

The discussion highlighted the range of differences in peoples personal circumstances whether house sharing, living alone or with families. These circumstances highlighted a range of different issues such as where and how to work. Interestingly, a lot of discussion surrounded the concept of motivation.

We discussed some of the networking and online tools that have been helpful, such as Zoom and Slaack as a way to connect and work with colleagues. We also discussed making routines and rosters for all members in the household. Keeping the good stuff in where possible and adapting it as appropriate.


22/04/2020 - Research, Resources and me in 280

This #DefResChat invited participants to present their research and encourage further discussion into what their research is about, resources they have found useful and any resources that have been adapted to allow access at this time. We also used this #DefResChat to launch our aim to collate useful resources within the academic defence community on to our website linking them using the #DefResResources.

The questions for this #DefResChat were:

Q1 - In a virtual 3MT style, in 280 characters please share what you can about what your research is about and details to date.

Q2 - We are all at different stages of our research, please could you indicate, useful resources you have accessed throughout your research?

Q3 - In the current COVID-19 climate, have you had any problems accessing certain resources or have some become more accessible/ available? Please share useful resources with the #DefResResources.

Q4 - What sort of resources would you like help accessing or gaining knowledge on?

It was interesting to note that although the discussion was quiet at the time. In the days following #DefResChat there has been lots of input into this topic, which included individuals sharing their work and discussing commonalities. An interesting topic which has come up in many of the chats are around leadership and psychological themes. It would be interesting to perhaps host a discussion around psychology and military research.

It has been fabulous to see the number of individuals supporting us to build our #DefResResources materials. We will include what has been tweeted to us on a separate part of the website so that it's easily accessible. When asked what was missing it was mentioned that some historical and non-operational records/ equipment wasn't accessible to do research. This follows the work of the National Archives to open up the materials to access to requested materials online.

As a personal reflection on research and accessibility at this time. A question that has continually come to mind is about the balance in academia between personal and professional lives. Even if all of the resources you need could be made available, could they be completely digested if time you need must be allocated elsewhere? It highlights perhaps some issues in academia more broadly and the need to recognise the messiness of doing research and its impact at different life stages/ circumstance. Thank you to all of those who contributed to this chat, it highlights that through sharing experience within a network we can connect personally and academically, hopefully helpful at this time.


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 recent #DefResChats we have discussed what people are doing in their research, their focus and also useful resources etc. This #DefResChat was a discussion about the research methods and methodologies people are using within the defence space. We hope we can share knowledge and support the community by further understanding the wider range of approaches and ideas. Ideas from this session will inform a webinar which is currently being planned.

The discussion was framed around these questions:

Q1 - What do you consider is your method and methodology?

Q2 - Were you familiar with this on starting your research, and what has helped you adopt these approaches?

Q3 - What was your experience surrounding ethics and these approaches?

Q4 - 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 the 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 recognized that for researchers the topic can often be challenging a useful resource centered around the emotional wellbeing of researchers was shared which can be found on the #DefResResources page. The discussion appeared to stimulate lots of discussion and a desire and thus it is appropriate for us to plan a webinar, more details to be released soon.


10/06/2020 - Books and Publications

In #DefResChat this week, we were talking all things books. Here are the books and publications you shared with us:

Q1 What are the Key, go-to texts in your field of research?

Does Khaki Become You: The Militarization of Women’s Lives by Cynthia Enloe (1988)

Rebelocracy: Social Order in the Colombian Civil War by Ana Arjona (2017)

Raising Churchill’s Army: The British Army and the War Against Germany 1919-45 by David French (2001)

Armies of the Young: Child Soldiers in War and Terrorism by David Rosen (2005)

Young Soldiers: Why They Choose to Fight by Rachel Brett (2004)

Squaddies: Portrait of a Subculture by John Hockey (2006)

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini (2007)

Losing Small Wars: British Military Failure in the 9/11 Wars by Frank Ledwidge (2017)

Unwinnable: Britain’s War in Afghanistan, 2001–2014 by Theo Farrell (2018)

Q2 Have any books caused you to change or consider new methodologies for your research?

Heartful Autoethnography by Carolyn Ellis in Quantative Health Research, Sept, 1999 https://doi.org/10.1177/104973299129122153

“You do not live in my skin”: embodiment, voice, and the veteran in Critical Military Studies, vol 2, 2016 by Sarah Bulmer & David Jackson https://doi.org/10.1080/23337486.2015.1118799

Conducting Terrorism Field Research: A Guide by Adam Dolnik (ed) (2013)

The Innocent Anthropologist: Notes from a Mud Hut by Nigel Barley (2011)

Writing Up Qualitative Research by Harry Wolcott (2011)

Doing Interviews by Svend Brinkmann & Steinar Kvale (2018)

Designing and using research questionnaires in Management Research Review, vol 37, No 3, 2014 https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/MRR-02-2013-0027/full/html

Focus group methodology: a review in International Journal of Social Research Methodology, vol 1, issue 3, 1998 https://doi.org/10.1080/13645579.1998.10846874

The IRA in Britain, 1919-1923: In the Heart of Enemy Lines by Gerrard Noonan (2017)

Statecraft by Stealth: Secret Intelligence and British Rule in Palestine by Steven Wagner (2019)

Q3 Are there any new or forthcoming books that excite you?

Intelligence, Command and Military Operations: The Eighth Army Campaign in Italy 1943-45 by Kevin Jones (2021)

Women on the Frontline: British Servicewomen’s Path to Combat by Kathleen Sherit (2020)

Rebel Politics: a Political Sociology of Armed Struggle in Myanmar’s borderlands by David Brenner (2019)

Forget “militarization”: race, disability and the “martial politics” of the police and of the university by Alison Howell in International Feminist Journal of Politics, vol 20, issue 2, 2018 https://doi.org/10.1080/14616742.2018.1447310

Browned Off and Bloody-Minded: The British Soldier Goes to War 1939-45 by Alan Allport (2017)

Fighting the People’s War by Jonathan Fennell (2019)

Behind the Enigma: The Authorised History of GCHQ, Britain’s Secret Cyber-Intelligence Agency by John Ferris (2020)

Neath’s Forgotten Hero: the Life of Henry Coombe-Tennant by Bernard Lewis (2021)

Soviet Defectors: Revelations of Renegade Intelligence Officers, 1924-1954 by Kevin Riehle (2020)

Q4 What is the one book you would recommend someone reads as an introduction to your field of research?

War and Gender by Joshua Goldstein (2009)

The End of Aspiration?: Social Mobility and Our Children’s Fading Prospects by Duncan Exley (2019)

The Intelligencers: British Military Intelligence from the Middle Ages to 1929 by Brian Parritt (2011)

War From The Ground Up: Twenty-First Century Combat as Politics by Emile Simpson (2012)


08/07/2020 - War and Technology

1) 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

2) 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 sue to war mean that frontline first aid has changed our of all recognition. Injuries that were certain death in the field or lingering death in the hospital are now survivable.

3) 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 of biomarkers.

4) 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.


12/08/20 - Women, Peace and Security

1) How does gender shape how we think about war?

·      Who makes the 'stereotypical' soldier? And who 'deserves' protecting...? I find it interesting to think about how gender intersects with race here.

·      War is inherently gendered, in its simplest form women are usually framed as 'victims' requiring protection whilst soldiering is viewed as a masculine role - protector & warrior.

·      Gender also influence what we think war is. War traditionally has been 1,000 battlefield deaths. Deaths of (predominantely male) soldiers. Some of the move towards human security is recognizing that security does not begin and end on the battlefield.

·      It's one of the main reasons why it took til 2018 for all combat roles to open up for women in the British Army.  It leads to marginalisation in operations that focus on kinetic effect, but more importantly it has constrained mil ops effect in contemporary conflict.


2) What have been the biggest turning points for women’s military service in the last decade?

·      My favourite part of this timeline has to be "1813-64 A surgeon of the Empire: Dr James Barry had a distinguished career as an army surgeon. On his death, he was discovered to have been a woman."

Soldiers of 2nd Battalion, The Royal Highland Fusiliers, Helmand, 2011

A timeline of women in the Army

·      I am currently reading Kathleen Sherit's 'Women on the Frontline: British Servicewomen's Path to Combat' and particularly fascinated by the decade preceding my joining up in 2000. So much changed in the early 90s: women at sea, operational flying.


3) ‘How successful has the Women, Peace and Security Agenda been in bringing together practitioners, policymakers and academics, particularly in protecting against gender-based violence in warzones?

·      There are some interesting post-colonial critiques to the WPS agenda that I believe are summed up perfectly by @swatipash here:

The WPS Agenda


4) What resources (books, films, podcasts, websites, networks) would you recommend to learn more about Women, Peace and Security?

Check out our updated WPS resource page: https://defenceresnet.org/women-peace-and-security/


16/09/2020 - Back to School

We wanted teo reach out to the new cohort of Masters students, PGRs and ECRs with our theme of 'Back to School' and encourage a conversation across these groups to share experiences. It was great to hear from so many new voices engaging with our #DefResChat questions:

1) What are you researching and where? (Please tag in your institutions and research centres.)

We heard from researchers working on everything from military transition and PTSD to peacekeeping and civil wars and hopefully we connected some of them with others working on the same topics.


2) What methodologies are you using?

Reflecting the diversity of our network we heard from researchers working on Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis, autoethnography, mixed methods, qualitative comparitive analysis and it was great to see people with similar approaches sharing experiences.


3) What questions do you have about your forthcoming studies (ethics, access, resources, study tips, wellbeing)?

Researchers shared how networking has really helped them and the positive responses they have had to reaching out to more established academics; there were some questions about ethics and MODREC and a fascinating discussion about how to write which covered structured routines to free writing.


4) How best can @DefenceResNet help you? Do you have any resources/networks you would like us to share with the community?

Researchers again encouraged others to reach out using twitter to more senior academics to build networks. And we flagged up our resource pages for more information.


14/10/2020 - 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. This is how the conversation panned out:

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.