Strategic Governance of Science and Technology: Pathways to Security

A joint LSE-SPRU project involving HSP researchers to improve our understanding of how the pathways and trajectories taken by science and technology shape, and are shaped by, changing discourses on security.

For most of the 20th century warfare was understood as something that happens between nation states. Most security technology was therefore developed for conventional warfare between States, with military technologies increasingly drawing on and contributing towards civilian technologies. Recently, however, new threats to security have emerged and organised violence is now often undertaken by irregular military units, insurgencies and non-state actors. As a result, the traditional way of thinking about security, and the technologies that were developed in the 20th century to support it, are increasingly out of date. Current security technologies and military doctrine are often ineffective at dealing with this new environment, and may be making people less secure.

At present our understanding of what ‘security’ is, and what appropriate technologies might support it, are in transition. This research project seeks to understand how technology shapes and is shaped by changing ways of thinking about security. On the one hand, emerging areas of science and technology have the potential to create a growing threat to individual, national and international security. As a result, the control of technology has risen up the security agenda.

As technologies develop and new opportunities and applications emerge, certain pathways of change are selected, while others are closed off. The focus of this project is on how technologies move along particular pathways so as to understand why and how certain pathways are opened up and closed down. The project will explore how different groups of people in society understand and influence those pathways, and how the direction of technical change changes the distribution of risks and rewards in society.

By building a detailed historical understanding of the development of technologies of security concern, for example synthetic biology, neuroscience, advanced robotics and big data, as well as geoenegineering and IEDs, the project will help policy makers understand their potential risks and also any positive opportunities they raise. These case studies will allow the project to understand how the vulnerabilities and benefits are distributed in society; the analysis will be used to improve understanding of what can be done to influence the direction of technical change.


Lead Research Organization: London School of Economics and Political Science, UK

Collaboration with: National Academy of Sciences, University of Sussex (UK), University of Bath (Bath), University of Exeter (UK).

People involved in the project:

Mary Kaldor (Principal Investigator), James Revill, Andy Stirling and Paul Nightingale (Co-Investigators), Catherine Jefferson and Caitriona McLeish (Researchers).

To find out more about the project, please visit the website.

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