#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.

11/11/20 - Veterans and families: Health and wellbeing

With our #TwitterHour taking place on Armistice Day, we thought we should connect people to share thoughts, experiences and advice related but not limited to veterans and wellbeing. Many thanks to those who joined us and shared their views and tips on how to maintain ourhealth.

1) What words does being an Armed Forces veteran make you think about? And why?  

  • Yes, the word 'veteran' is not one I feel comfortable with, 'ex-military' is what Iusually say. I associate 'veteran' more with America and the 'thank you for yourservice' culture and I just don't think of me when I hear the term.
  • Hidden. Because not all veterans even self-identify as veterans
  • And self-identification   matters   when  we have  things  like  the new Veteran's Railcard in the UK.
  • I agree, so many different experiences even among those who fought in the sameconflict   from   the   same   regiment,   company,   or   platoon!   I   am   a   'veteran'  of Afghanistan, but compared to those who fought in the world wars our experiences couldn't be more different!

2) What is well-being and how do we maintain our wellbeing?

  • Wellbeing can mean a thousand different things but for me it is keeping busy,having a good support network and a purpose in life.
  • Wellbeing is tricky, would say no agreed operational definition  but for me,includes a state of optimal physical and mental health function that does notimpede on daily life #wellbeing.
  • Wellbeing to me is family and friends. On operations the letters and care packageswere vital. The continuing support from my wife over the 8 years since I left thearmy on my uni journey have kept me sane. Playing with my son eases the traumas I read all day for work.


9/12/2020 - Year in Review

Looking back...

  1. 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.

2.  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.
  • This book [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 @kennethpayne01on AI and @davidwhetham
  • Not a great deal on loneliness and social isolation in UKAF but systematic review a great start. Wilson et al 2018.
  • This book [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...

3.   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 achieve my MSc.
  • None. Just getting through. Not assuming that anything approaching a productive environment will emerge.

4.  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 Samuel
  • 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

You can always join past and future conversations. Make sure to tag @DefenceResNet and hashtag #DefResChat.

20/01/2021 - Memory and Memorialisation

We asked you your thoughts on how conflicts are remembered and commemorated, generating an open discussion bringing your own opinions and expertise to the Twitter hour. To help guide the discussions we used these 3 questions:

  1. How have memorialisation practices influenced public memory over the years?
  • I guess by practices we should separate forms of memorialisation and rituals at sites. My view is “forms” are renegotiated periodically between directors (State) creatives (arts) and consumers. This negotiation reflects a debate about who what and why people are remembering. Noting that memory claims and their protagonists compete for resources, legitimacy and position. It’s also vital to ask what’s missing and who is not represented in memorialisation and memory.
  • In terms of negotiation I think Directors (State) realise they can’t “enforce” a model. There has to be negotiation. Creatives are that breed he to audiences and engagement. But the public have to buy in A otherwise “memory” isn’t created/sustained. It’s a balancing act.
  • I can see a thread from WW1 memorialisation to Wootton Bassett. Would be interested in opinions about the way that pre-WW1 mem was done.
  • There's a lot of fascinating work on how this influences not just public memory, but contemporary interpretations of war and the military. Because direct experience is v limited in British society so they fall back on cultural framesWhat does war memorialisation mean to you? Why is it important to you?

2. What does war memorialisation mean to you? Why is it important to you?

  • In part organised memorialisation is important to me because I am told that it must be. I feel able to achieve respectful reflection without communal acts of memorialisation, but they feel integral to the British way.
  • 1) respect for previous generations' sacrifice 2) opportunity to reflect on sacrifice of people I have known 3) sense of partaking in communal act of commemoration
  • For me war memorialisation is about remembering those who didn't come back or whose lives were changed by war but I feel increasingly uncomfortable around some of what I see in the name of remembrance and who is being remembered.
  • Remembrance and respect for past losses whilst recognising what and who is left out of war memorialisation.
  • For me it’s important as it provides insight to society and tensions negotiations in that society (well beyond the UK). It’s how myth, identity, memory claims come to compete and “stick”. “War” memorialisation tells us so much about choice, narratives, emotions, it’s immense!

3.  How inclusive are war memorials?

  • They’re not. They are almost entirely exclusive. But we must remember they are products of circumstance, politics, resources and appropriation.


  • Basham, Victoria 2016. Gender, race, militarism and remembrance: the everyday geopolitics of the poppy. Gender, Place & Culture 23 (6), pp. 883 896. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0966369X.2015.1090406
  • Ferguson, K., & Turnbull, P. 1999. Oh, Say, Can You See: The Semiotics of the Military in Hawai’i. University of Minnesota Press.
  • Freedman, L. 2017. The Future of War: A History. Public Affairs
  • Hines, L. A., Gribble, R., Wessely, S., Dandeker, C., & Fear, N. T. 2015. Are the Armed Forces Understood and Supported by the Public? A View from the United Kingdom. Armed Forces & Society, 41(4), 688–713. https://doi.org/10.1177/0095327X14559975
  • Strachan, H., Harris, R. 2020. The Utility of Military Force and Public Understanding in Today's Britain, Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND Corporation, RR-A213-1. As of January 24, 2021: https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RRA213-1.html
  • Cynthia Enloe, Khaoula Taleb Ibrahimi, Nadine Siegert & Natalya Vince .2018. Our Fighting Sisters: nation, memory and gender in Algeria, 1954–2012, Women's History Review, 27:1, 120-129, DOI: 10.1080/09612025.2017.1384129

Our extensive resources list can be found here.

You can always join past and future conversations. Keep an eye on the page and website for future subjects & make sure to tag @DefenceResNet and hashtag #DefResChat. More info here.

24/02/2021 - Counterinsurgency

This month’s #TwitterHour felt like a virtual roundtable, many of our members contributing with their views and expertise in debating counterinsurgency’s past, present and future role.

  1. How has COIN changed over the past decades?
  • Important changes concern the types of adversaries, increased democratisation of the info domain, conflation with nation building etc
  • I think a change from national/ideological institutions that aspire to some formal political control, to more diverse array: criminal/religious/nihilistic/transnational. Oof course not absolute, but harder to characterise and define. Perhaps this also make them harder to understand
  • Given the current trends in conflict, for example Africa becoming the "next theatre of violent extremism" and the return to great power competition as high priority in national security policies, it should be given much more attention and thought.
  • Conflict draws the attention to the limits of military force. It must be used in concert with other instruments and partners. This is pertinent for both the military and civil agencies

2. Where does counterterrorism end and counterinsurgency begin?

  • Dividing CT and COIN this way is inherently accepting the possibility of a terrorist organization can be legitimate without abandoning violence. Dividing these two by relying only "volume" or deepness is also a reflection of the very same problem. Naming COIN as a more militarized part of CT is making sense in certain context; but COIN conceptualization has happened on the contrary of this claim. This distinction creates a practical problem and I’m dying to hear a satisfying answer on this.
  • Been grappling with this and so I'd be super interested to hear thoughts from everyone, but CT = narrow efforts at disrupting org./tactics/strategy of terrorism, COIN = deeper process of responding to political violence incorporating wider array of responses (but CT a big part?)
  • CT as distinct from processes like negotiations, addressing root causes, service provision etc., whereas these can all be subsumed within forms of COIN? There is some kind of marvellous Venn diagram to be done here
  • Inevitably that Venn diagram will also need to somewhat reflect on the earlier discussion of how we conceive of the enemy in relations to the distinction between these two things, and that in turn would demarcate the two even more.

3. What are the essential themes currently missing from COIN discussions?

  • You'd be surprised if I didn't mention marginalised stories of women as counterinsurgents which my research has found to have been repeatedly omitted from campaign histories. But I would add the role of Private Security Companies although not something I've looked at.
  • Definitely - to what extent have they been employed in offensive/defensive roles, how are they embedded into wider COIN strategy, do they have their own TTPs etc. or align with host forces, if so how do they adapt?
  • In the case of the Malayan Emergency there is still much to do. Hannah is right - marginalised stories of women as counterinsurgents repeatedly omitted from campaign histories - and on both the end of the fighting spectrum I might add! Especially in the colonial cases...
  • A big focus of my research is the role of foreign actors (and challenges of) offering support in counterinsurgency. While extensive research has been dedicated to Iraq and Afghanistan, we have much more to learn from current engagement in African conflicts.
  • The perspective of host-nation governments, security forces would be valuable for both academic and practitioners’ standpoint

You can always join past and future conversations. Keep an eye on the page and website for future subjects & make sure to tag @DefenceResNet and hashtag #DefResChat. More info here.

17/03/2021 - Conferences

For March’s #TwitterHour, we thought about the theme of ‘conferences’: ones to attend, tips on presentations, networking online and what we were most looking forward to when in-person conferences return! Many thanks to all those who contributed to this valuable discussion.

1)   What conferences do you recommend attending in your field?

  • The @societyarmyconference would have been great this year. Sadly it is now online. I am sure the content will be great, but I do miss face to face stuff #DefResChat
  • EISA is great for early career people working in critical military studies - not too massive considering it is an international conference, really supportive audience, lots of relevant sessions!
  • Seconded. If you’re doing feminist work, also highly recommend #IFJP conferences (see http://ifjpglobal.org/conferences).
  • British International Studies Association @MYBISA (https://conference.bisa.ac.uk): registration open now. European International Studies Association @europeanisa (https://eisa-net.org/pec-2021/#topanchor): CfP open now. Great programmes for both, esp for @CritMilStudies    
  • One of my favourites across my journey from MSc to completed PhD has been the bi-annual postgraduate conflict archaeology conference. The last one @pgca2019 was brilliant! Looking forward to the Fields of Conflict 2021 too. I’ve wanted to attend for years #DefResChat
  • HICSS (good excuse to jet to Hawai'i), Cyberdeception, need to expand my horizons though #DefResChat
  • PGR specific, I would recommend the Defence and Security Doctoral Symposium at Shrivenham (https://cranfield.ac.uk/events/symposia/sym-doc). I also went to the inaugural graduate conference for the European War Studies Network @CWSWarStudies and recommend keeping an eye on their programme. #DefResChat

2)    If you've presented at a conference before, what advice do you have for others?

  • Start writing early. Send your paper to the discussant on time (but don’t upload more than abstract to an open site). If you’re new to it: write out your presentation. Plan for less time than you have (it always takes longer). Practice. #DefResChat
  • I made the error once of submitting 2 abstracts and being accepted for both, so ended up presenting for 40 minutes solid!
  • I probably wouldn’t (it’s overdoing it, if you ask me... no one expects perfection). I also don’t like watching/ hearing myself present (though I am getting used to it with all we are doing online these days. Practice mostly helped me in terms of timing it/ feeling ready.
  • Present early and present widely! I dreaded public speaking when I started my PhD and the best thing I did was to throw myself in at the deep end and do loads of conferences in front of different kinds of audiences. It gets easier v quickly #DefResChat
  • Definitely I found the most rewarding conferences was speaking with practitioners, which helped me focus my work in an applied manner!
  • Yes definitely. Some of the most valuable insights came from people who weren’t in my immediate field. Presenting at conferences in my first year also helped me make connections with others that were really helpful when I came to do fieldwork!
  • Practice in front of friends or a supportive audience, but remember you know your subject the most! #DefResChat  
  • The moment is won in the preparation prior. And enjoy the joy in doing it!! #DefResChat
  • I’ve tried both 1. Reading a script 2. Ad lib from a few prepared notes. Have done both well and both poorly. I’m usually above average in anxiety, so I like security of script. But it also constrains if not careful to pause and ad lib a bit. Experiment and see what suits u.
  • I was encouraged to present from early in my PhD and found it has really helped me shape chapters, using powerpoint presentations as the starting point for a first draft chapter. PGR Conferences are a great starting point. #DefResChat
  • Keep it simple - audience will usually be broadly interested and knowledgeable (rather than forensically). 2-3 key messages. Don’t rush. Speak in relaxed (slow) pace
  • Remember that you love your topic and it’s okay to show your enjoyment in your presentation. Engage with your slides and the awesome things you’re getting to show off. It’s a rare opportunity to talk about your little research world & an opportunity to find like minded friends.    
  • Critique own talk beforehand - what would u ask if u were in audience? Prepare stalk responses. I’d also expect a question I don’t understand or is more about the questioner performing knowledge. If in doubt, respond with “be nice to chat at coffee break”.Grinning face

3)   How have you managed to network in online conferences?

  • Of the one online conference I have been to in lockdown, there was great opportunities for rapid virtual networking, e.g. 3 minute speed date format
  • That has been really hard (none of the bigger conferences have managed this well) - but having Twitter convos at the same time has helped. #DefResChat
  • I really enjoyed #NVHOW20 by @SocHistoryWar as a twitter conference. Great to see different media from images to sound/film working really well in this format. Agree networking is more difficult but recommend reaching out, asking follow up questions or using the chat. #DefResChat

4)   What are you looking forward to most about a return to conferences in person?

  • Catching up with friends! Also: Being fully at a conference and not squeezing in other meetings, daily routines, etc; being away from home/office; stumbling upon interesting conversations and people. #DefResChat
  • The queue for tea/coffee. 2ndhand bookstalls. Communal breakfasts.
  • Meeting people in the margins of the conference and making connections you weren't expecting. Arguably more important at early career stage where networks are less established. #DefResChat
  • But also hoping there might be at least some sort of hybrid conference emerge where you can have face to face and online access. Would allow for attendance without travel and increase accessibility for many for lots of reasons. #DefResChat
  • Catching up with colleagues, seeing lots of exciting research. Opportunities you may not get with online conferences for casual chats #DefResChat
  • Yeah massively. Zoom and Skype have been great but we shouldn’t make believe they’re as good as the social interaction we all love.

Recommended Conferences:

  • Defence and Security Doctoral Symposium
  • FiMT conference (tomorrow and next week!)  
  • Society for the History of War    
  • EISA    
  • IFJP conferences  
  • British International Studies Association (upcoming)    
  • European International Studies Association (upcoming)    
  • Postgraduate conflict archaeology conference.    
  • Fields of Conflict 2021    
  • European War Studies Network

You can always join past and future conversations. Make sure to tag @DefenceResNet and hashtag #DefResChat.

07/04/2021  - Service Children

Our #TwitterHour for this month was on the theme of service children. Our theme this month ties in with April being the #monthofthemilitarychild. Many thanks to everyone who has taken part. It was wonderful to engage with you all and to hear about your research with service children both in the UK and beyond.

Q1) What drew you to want to conduct research with service children?

  • For me, my own experiences of being a service child made me want to conduct research in this field. I feel passionate about listening to and valuing the experiences of an often-overlooked part of the Armed Forces community.
  • Do you find a lot of researchers in this field were service children themselves?
  • Definitely! I've found that the majority of people I've spoken to involved in research and/or practice with service children have a connection to the Armed Forces. Whether as a child, a partner, other family relation, serving member or a veteran (or indeed several!).
  • I agree! There is often some form of military connection. However, I do know a few people who do not have a military connection that does research in this field. I am always so fascinated to hear how people become connected to military, Veteran, and family research.
  • Although I grew up in a military family, it wasn't until I was completing my Bachelor of Education degree that I discovered a lack of Canadian research that focused on the educational experiences of military-connected children. Pursuing this field of research is a great way to combine my personal experience of growing up as a military-connected child with my professional knowledge as an educator.

Q2) What research are you currently working on or have worked on that focuses on service children?

  • I am currently looking to better understand the school transition experiences of adolescents living in Canadian military families. I am talking to adolescents, parents, and educators to get a multi-perspective understanding.
  • My current PhD research focuses on the educational experiences of service children in English state schools and how the Service Pupil Premium (SPP) can be used to better support their needs. Specifically, I'm looking at researching in schools where the numbers of service children (identified through being an SPP recipient) are low as this has been identified as an issue in recent reports including ones from the @CommonsDefence,  @SCISS_NEAC & #LivingInOurShoes
  • My current doctoral thesis is an IPA study exploring the educational experiences of secondary school students from military families. At the time of interview my participants were attending schools in England and Wales.
  • I’m currently looking at mental health and resilience in teens living with a military parent and an #OSI and #PTSD

Q3) What are some challenges/difficulties you’ve experienced conducting research with (service) children? Bonus question! What tips do you have to help with researching this group or children in general?

  • Dr Michael Hall's @scipalliance report 'Listening to Learn: the voices of service children' presents several examples of how adults could listen to the experiences of service children in meaningful ways.
  • Whilst on the topic of voice, we must mention the superb work of @NeverSuch @ladylucyfrench. For further information on their recent project, 'Voices of Armed Forces Children', please see their webpage.
  • I was just poised to link to Dr Michael Hall’s excellent report and then saw it was already here.  @RCET_Scot is also an excellent advocate for listening to Service children.
  • For more, you can check out the 'Voice of Schools Project' webpage, the Service Children's Progression Alliance's Report 'Listening to Learn', and the Royal Caledonian Education Trust webpage.

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.

19/05/2021 - Military Bodies

This month’s #TwitterHour discussed a new thematic area for the DRN: 'The Military Body in Times of War'. We are grateful to our contributors for sharing their expertise and thoughts on the military body.

Q1) Tell us about your research and/or the current debates in the study of the military body in times of war?

  • My last piece of work was a chapter for a book written about the embodied experience of having served and carrying that into post service life. There is a connection between the mind and body through embodiments. It is this that links us to culture, i.e. The military.
  • My research explores how women's war labour has been made invisible and how they have negotiated a place in the 'front line'. Discursive constructions of women in 'front line combat' have drawn on the imagery of servicewomen's bodies: femininity, uniform, bearing arms.
  • Still early into my PhD project. Part of my research looks at how violence inflicted upon military bodies is linked to collective imaginaries of a vulnerable national body politic.
  • One aspect of my research concentrates on whether a gender-neutral special forces is possible in the U.S. using Norway's Hunter Troops as a good example.
  • I'm in the second stage of my PhD looking at needs and behaviour profiles of veterans when enlisting and transitioning out of the armed forces.
  • I'm currently researching the provision of prostheses and care to amputees in the First and Second World Wars.
  • I'm researching the psychological impact of the incurable asbestos-caused illness mesothelioma on UK veterans. I am interested in how military training around the body and pain may impact this.

Q2) How does war impact a service person's body?

  • I believe it gives them a new identity that is both shaped by experiences within the military (and its values) and during war. A transformative experience.
  • Yes, I think there are two identities. There is the been on active service whilst you are still serving gives you an identity with your peer group. The second being the identity of war veteran placed upon you by societal and historical narratives.
  • On my goodness. Simply through the embodiments we carry from such an experience. In simple terms why does the sound of a jet screaming overhead still raise my anxiety and induce fight or flight because it is an embodied part of my experiences of the Falklands war.
  • Numerous ways! But, naturally, my focus is on how war resulted in many men returning from the front as disabled ex-servicemen. I focus on the physical disability of limb loss, but, as we know, there are a range of physical and metal wounds resulting from war.
  • Interesting Op Granby created many problems due to many different things. Some Veterans severely disabled, others manage their injuries, vaccinations, depleted uranium, smoke, chemicals, organo-phosphates NAPs.

Q3) What has changed about how we understand the military body in times of war?

  • For very long military body was synonymous to elite alpha males; the discussion has slowly changed to say that military body is the body that protects a country and that can be a woman’s, a man’s, gender neutral. it’s not only frontline but also cyber war.
  • I’m not sure it has. Perhaps it is society that has changed. I think the military body during war is still based on archetypal hero images. The returning hero or the sacrifice of the hero. It is portrayed in a certain way through its representation in media.
  • I saw this new research about the image of the military body and how it seems to need enhancing artificially.

Q4) What are the myths and misconceptions about the military body in times of war?

  • It's worth to not just explore military body as exclusively 'human', but how it interacts with technologies/ how technologies are discursively produced as acting in combat. Masters' cyborg soldiers come to mind.
  • Humanity is an interesting misconception. I have witnessed a great deal of humanity during the Falklands war/Northern Ireland. I also think the notion of strength comes from the connectedness you have with the people you are fighting with. A collective strength.
  • That is a difficult one. However I feel myths and misconceptions are routed in historical narratives of what it is like to go to war. These come from 'outsiders'. They feed into stereotypes and polarised views on impact of war. Mad bad sad.  But after the guns stop.
  • That the military body has to always be “strong”; the idea that showing vulnerability/humanity is a sign of weakness rather than strength.
  • I think there is a question about whose bodies even are military bodies? Is a Private Security Contractor or Civilian Government Official working with the military in a war zone in any way classed as a military body. How are their bodies treated differently?
  • Transitioning from military life means you have to reckon that at some point you've personally killed someone, and personal experiences are guarded by some soldiers to their graves. One serviceman put it "Combat turns you into an asshole or a coward." By them it is not glorified.

Our most recent Twitter hour, co-hosted by the Freeman Air and Space Institute, focused on the theme of Air and Space power. Follow them on Twitter! @freeman_air

1: What are you researching on in the field of air and space power right now and from which disciplinary perspective?

2: How have drones changed how militaries think about air power?

  • Obviously cheap and effectively fast drone swarms with a small amount of explosives can attack ground targets unexpectedly, so we've seen anti-drone weapons designed. In the air, there is the possibility secret quadrotors exist that can outperform any human piloted aircraft.
  • What do people think about the term 'drone'. How useful is unmanned Slightly frowning face uncrewed or remote. These all seem to be problematic terms. So perhaps drone is best?
  • Is the level of pilot control a factor in the name? With unmanned and uncrewed there is an emphasis on the absence of a person but I suppose remote suggests remotely controlled by someone. 'Drone' has a very robotic/automated sound to me.
  • And remote suggests a lack of distance when Reaper crews might argue that they are intimately involved/close to the enemy. Distance is a contested concept with drones/uncrewed.
  • I think there is a wider question here regarding the implications of uncrewed technologies in the delivery of Land and Maritime Power. Air’s experience is but the start of a much wider journey.
  • I won’t repeat all my arguments which I made here: https://www.gresham.ac.uk/lectures-and-events/drone-warfare. I’d be interested to hear views on other nations.
  • So much scope for discussion in this Q but I’m most interested in how non-traditional air power states and non-state actors gain capabilities through cheaper drone options

3: What does the militarisation of space mean for future warfare and is space just another domain?

  • Have a look at two papers we published today on space with very interesting and distinct views on space militarisation https://www.kcl.ac.uk/news/the-risks-and-benefits-of-emerging-technologies-in-the-space-power-domain-space-situational-awareness-warfare-and-mediating-space-security
    4: What are biggest ethical challenges of new air and space technologies, from AI to drones, and what can we learn from military history/previous advances in technology?
  • That's a nice simple one to end wit... Oh. hang on....More seriously, I'd start with an unhelpfully wide categorisation: targeting. Where does AI fit in this? Humans in/on/observing the loop? Or not at all? If AI is less likely to make errors than humans (dependent upon state of learning) or even none at all, is there a moral/ethical imperative to employ AI instead of humans?
  • What are the 'acceptable' use of these technologies and by who. Often new norms only occur after the use of technology in war.
  • That we'll always argue about what qualifies as a Revolution in Military Affairs. Are drones? Arguably. AI. Almost certainly. Space Warfare? Is that revolutionary or an extension of war by other means?
  • On a pretty meta level I would say accountability - when we use #AI tools, when we are confronted with black box decision making, skewed data that trains a model, who do we hold accountable for the end result? Programmers, developers, the human-in-the-loop operators? The answer is absolutely difficult but it requires to be considered at the highest level of decision-making before confronted with such scenarios (although perhaps we've already seen such scenarios, thinking of the UAV that allegedly autonomously attacked retreating troops).

We are grateful to our contributors for sharing their expertise and thoughts!
You can always join past and future conversations. Keep an eye on the page and website for future subjects & make sure to tag @DefenceResNet and hashtag #DefResChat.

14/07/2021 - Military Spouses, cohosted by Rethinking Military Spouse Critical Research Group @CriticalSpouse

1. Tell us about your research on military spouses and what methodology you are using?

2. What are the challenges of researching the military spouse?

3. How have representations of the military spouse changed over time and what have been the biggest historical and contemporary influences on this?

4. How do you understand the relationship between military spouses and the military institution and what are the common misconceptions?