NETWORK FOR CRITICAL ENGAGEMENT WITH THE DEFENCE ESTABLISHMENT

INITIATOR FUND 

Project period: January – March 2018 

GW4 Community Leads 

University of Bath: Paul Higate 

University of Bristol: Tim Edmunds  

Cardiff University: Victoria Basham (PI) and Huw Bennett  

University of Exeter: Owen Thomas 

Project outcomes 
Our network will foster dialogue on how dissenting voices on defence and security are articulated in Britain, and on how that dissent can be received productively by policy-makers and the wider public. 

Background 

The defence establishment suffers periodically from ‘bunker mentalities’, groupthink or failures in historical memory. Both academic research (including by the applicants) and state-sponsored investigations (e.g. Baha Mousa and Chilcot) have argued this problem can be addressed through greater dialogue between the defence establishment and a diverse range of critical, dissenting academic and practitioner voices. Academics and practitioners need space to collectively consider how their critiques can be better informed and better expressed in order to begin moving beyond our respective bunkers to work across the divides.  Our network will thus foster dialogue on how dissenting voices on defence and security are articulated in Britain, and on how that dissent can be received productively by policy-makers and the wider public. 

The network will bring together academics and practitioners scrutinising three key areas: 1) the practice of defence and provision of security, (2) how the defence establishment manages its legal and moral obligations under national and supranational norms and laws, and 3) how support and protection of the rights of military personnel and their families is maintained. Practitioners will therefore include: coroners, legal professionals, non-governmental organisations, journalists, civil servants and members of think-tanks and policy institutes. Protecting the freedom and security of liberal democratic nations like the UK and its society and citizens, and ensuring that its commitment to social justice within the UK and in places where the UK defence establishment operates, often means asking challenging questions about whether the defence establishment has acted appropriately and learned lessons from previous challenges. By developing deeper understanding between academics and practitioners of how their knowledge can be shared, the network will provide more incisive critique on these issues to the defence establishment and policymakers. 

Project summary 

The Network has been invaluable for enabling the sharing of well-established expertise on the defence establishment across the GW4 and beyond. The applicants on this grant already had excellent networks in academia and in the practitioner community but by bringing these together, we have deepened and broadened our profiles and that of the research being conducted at GW4 institutions in ways that we could not have done as individuals.  

The community held a series of events and workshops to develop a deeper understanding between academics and practitioners of how their knowledge can be shared and used to provide more incisive critique to the defence establishment and policymakers. A final workshop allowed the community to reflect on and identify which key areas pertaining to social harm warrant further research, and how to begin building an evidence base of value to academics, practitioners and policymakers. The community remains active, and community members have gone on to receive funding to continue this research. 

Community site (GW4 Portal)