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f you are looking for a fright this Halloween, look no further than a MODREC application form. As I write this, I am two days away from submitting my ethics application, an extensive 16 page document for which I have laboriously trailed through file upon file of GDPR rules, simulated the risks for every possible scenario, and had more than a few sleepless nights. The prospect of receiving an unfavourable decision fills me with more dread than any potential monsters under the bed. COVID-19 has undoubtedly made this process even more of a minefield for PGR students, who are tasked with proving methodological rigour while entangled within a situation of which none of us have any control. How long is it until Christmas?
But, to give it its due, this process has done its job in making me reflect on the upmost importance of giving this tricky topic some attention. Particularly in the field of defence and security, questions of ethics are paramount to ensuring that our research and actions are safe and secure, proportionate and just. When we work in this space, we have a responsibility not just to our research participants, but also to the academic and policy communities we are contributing to, to conduct research which is ethically conscious.
The 'real' world is giving us ample reason to hold these ethical principles in high regard. While some of us want to meet Captain America (hello Chris Evans), others, it seems, are in the process of making him. Current developments in gene editing and artificial intelligence are indicative of a refreshed revolution of military affairs, one which provides both exciting opportunities for the future of military activity, and a whole new set of measures against which ethics panels must judge. These are areas that require as much scrutiny as they do innovation, and I know that many of you in our community are engaged in brilliant work tackling these important questions.
Every time September rolls around, I can't help but wonder where the summer went. Is it that time of year already? (Surely not); Have I achieved what I set out to over summer? (Don't be silly); Am I prepared to begin learning again? (What's learning?) - Getting ready for the new term is always a shock to the system.
Nonetheless, this year's 'back to school' season is a bigger shock than ever - and is unsurprisingly looking very different. We're either going into our eighth month (year?) of working from home or frantically trying to book study space online. And, if we do go to campus, will we see our family ever again? Fieldwork plans seem like a distant memory, while sleepless nights over class sizes and timetables are accompanied by the looming worry of being blamed for a public health crisis. I think it's fair to say that this is not exactly how any of us imagined navigating a research degree would be.
Unfortunately, the new school year also means that a few of our team are moving on and around. I am very sad to say that this will be the last newsletter I write to you all. I want to say a massive thank you to everyone who has read and engaged with this platform over the past year, it has been an absolute pleasure to write about the wonderful things our community is doing, watch our readership grow, and hear your feedback on Twitter. Particularly in these strange and isolating times, knowing that we can connect as a collective has brought me great comfort - I hope that I have played a little part in bringing this community to you, too. Luckily, endings inevitably lead to new beginnings, and the DRN is looking for someone to take over where I have left off! We are also on the lookout for a Twitter Manager to manage our social media presence. Interested? Read below for more information on how to get involved.
"...women are very much combatants in this battle. This is a unique moment to examine frontline nurses as the foot-soldiers of this campaign and explore what it means for our understanding of women as combatants."
Who earns a place on the 'frontline' is a question that has been debated almost as consistently, and as contentiously, as the futility of war itself. Although it was 2018 before women were able to serve in all combat roles in the British Armed Forces, history has shown us that perseverance and a rebellious streak enticed women to the battlefield centuries earlier. The implicit masculinity of the soldier is questioned as far back as Boudica, through to Agnes Hotot, Christian 'Kit' Cavanagh, Hannah Snell and many many more. Infamous WW2 French Resistance fighter and "most decorated heroine of WWII" Nancy Wake once told an interviewer "I don’t see why we women should just wave our men a proud goodbye and then knit them balaclavas."
That being said, as the character of war changes, the 'frontlines' are shifting too - seemingly ridding us of rigid ideas of soldiering. Gone are the days when women must conceal their femininity to serve their country; the British Army now directly appeals (albeit not without criticism) to a new type of recruit, one which embraces all genders, sexualities, ethnicities and faiths. Yet, will Britain's "modern military" be able to overcome deep-seated ideals of masculinity underpinning war and soldiering?
This July, we are exploring the ways war interacts with technology, we've got some interesting new online courses and funding opportunities for you, we're meeting the editors of our favourite journals, and we're celebrating an extraordinary female engineer.
Ever since COVID-19 turned the world upside down, there has been a rush to find innovative ways to cope with this strange new environment. Alongside the vaccine race, numerous ingenious, life-saving, and sometimes outright strange products have been hitting the market in an effort to outsmart 2020's biggest adversary. Many have likened this coronavirus-induced innovation to the technological advancements during the Second World War - everything from rocket technology to superglue came about as a result of wartime imaginations.This precedent has given Peter Beech, writing for the World Economic Forum, an optimistic "glimmer of light" as the world continues to battle both the virus and its related afflictions of fear and uncertainty.
Whether lockdown has you completing your bookshelf or struggling to make it past the first the page, we've got your reading covered this June...
We are asking you what you're reading, we're supporting Black Lives Matter in the British Army, we're looking forward to our second webinar, and we're evaluating the merits of science fiction to a military education.
"You are travelling essentially. Reading is a state of freedom - the freedom of the mind, the freedom of the imagination, and there is no better cure to feeling nailed to the spot than reading"
As we end our third month of lock down, is this the 'new normal'?
“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.
As the world around us changes, let the DRN newsletter be the one constant in your life...
As Germany tentatively reopened some of its shops and services earlier this week, Chancellor Angela Merkel urged the German public to remain disciplined regarding social distancing rules to avoid jeopardising the country's so far impressive resilience to COVID-19. Although she admitted that we are "still at the beginnig", Merkel reiterated that with nationwide cooperation it would be possible to emerge safely and sustainably on the other side of this crisis.
"The crisis we face from the coronavirus is on a scale of a major war...”
These were the words of Senator Bernie Sanders addressing a recent news conference, fiercely rebuking the leadership of President Trump amidst the global pandemic that is COVID-19. While Sanders predicts casualties on par with WWII, his rival Mr Biden furnishes his ‘Public Health Advisory Committee’ with former homeland security and counterterrorism advisors. At the same time, there are armed police locking down the streets of Europe, while in the UK we are gearing up for the potential launch of our own military response, code-named Operation Broadshare.
From Service to "Civvy Street" and Beyond, Making the Transition
Last month we discussed the launch of Veterans Work’s new report Moving On. The aim of this report was to examine the factors motivating veterans when making the transition from the military to the civilian job market. In so doing, Veteran’s Work hopes to positively impact transition support and recruitment, making businesses aware of both the skills and perspectives ex-service personnel can bring to their corporations. The report's central themes are questions of location, salary expectations, and experiences of finding a job, and its outcomes highlight that ‘quality of life’ concerns often find veterans away from big cities or less likely to commute. Veterans Work thus urges employers to offer flexible or remote working to tap into the ex-military talent pool.
“If it isn’t a national security issue, what is?"
Last month, former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnball criticised current leader Scott Morrison's response to the deadly bushfires which have devastated the country, call for the immediate restructuring of emergency management to deal with this unprecedented "national security issue". Turnball was not alone in calling for such change. The New York Times labelled the crisis an 'Atomic Bomb,' while MP for the New South Wales Electorate of Eden-Monaro, Mike Kelly, called for national mobilisation in the form of a civil defence corps.
This December, we wanted to say thank you to everyone who attended our relaunch event, as well as introduce our new website, invite you to our January Twitter hour and let you know about some of the amazing defence-based projects our members are involved with.