The latest public (in person) lecture from the King’s Wargaming Network:
The Wargaming Network is pleased to announce the 2022 lecture in our King’s Keynote Wargaming Lecture series. The keynote lecture series features current and former Wargaming Network staff discussing their research in wargaming. The lecture will take place on 01 Dec 2022 from 19:00-20:30GMT in the Safra Lecture Theater, King’s Strand Campus. Please register for the lecture here.
Dr. Ivanka Barzashka will take stock of the history of wargaming at King’s and the state of academic discipline. She will discuss the future of wargaming as a method of inquiry, and its potential for helping NATO allies achieve and sustain strategic advantage in a competitive security environment.
Dr. Ivanka Barzashka is the CEO and co-founder of Strand Analytica, US-UK tech startup dedicated to powering the emerging science of wargaming through technology for national security and defence applications. She was a founding director of the King’s Wargaming Network dedicated to developing wargaming as an academic discipline. She served as the WN’s co-director (2018-2019) with Professor Philip Sabin, director (2019-2020), and managing director (2020-2022) working with Dr. David Banks as academic director. In these roles, she was responsible for the WN’s strategic direction, fundraising, international partnerships, management of research and administrative staff, including graduate and undergraduate students, and external advisors and consultants. During her tenure, the WN became ‘one of the more active research groups’ at the School of Security Studies (SoSS) and ‘moved quickly to establish an impressive network that crosses academic and policy arenas,’ according to an independent review of King’s research groups in 2020. As a result, the SoSS recognised wargaming as ‘a priority growth area’ for research and education.
Dr. Barzashka has led academic and policy-relevant studies for King’s College London, the UK Ministry of Defence and the Federation of American Scientists, and has provided testimony to UK Parliament. Her applied research has been at the intersection of technology and strategy, examining questions related to grand strategy, integrated deterrence, nuclear deterrence, crisis escalation, war escalation and termination, nuclear proliferation, and arms control transparency and verification. Barzashka’s fundamental research interests include epistemology, methodology, research integrity and ethics in analytical wargaming. She has developed new empirical methods combining strategic analytical wargaming, decision and risk analysis.
As the Wargaming Network enters its fifth academic year, we are pleased to announce staff promotions and welcome a new cohort of MA and PhD students.
Anna Nettleship will be taking on the role of Managing Director of the Wargaming Network, having served as the network’s coordinator since its inception. As a PhD candidate at the Defence Studies Department, Anna has been developing and applying wargaming as a research method in her dissertation on US Army doctrinal development practices. Since 2019, she has led the wargaming analyst training programme, of which she is an alumnus.
Dr. David Banks is the Wargaming Lecturer at King’s College London War Studies Department and will continue to serve as Academic Director of the King’s Wargaming Network. His wargaming research has investigated the potential use of cyber weapons in future conflicts, as well the use of counter-insurgency techniques against Boko Haram. His current research is focused on determining the epistemological foundations of wargames. In addition to his wargaming research, Dr. Banks is also studying diplomatic practice in international society, with a special emphasis on symbolic and rhetorical diplomacy.
Dr James W.E. Smith is a research fellow in the Department of War Studies having been awarded his PhD from King’s in 2021. As one of our founding members, he continues to input into the future direction of the Wargaming Network. He continues to represent the interests of two of the School of Security Studies themes, Strategic Studies and Military and Political History while leading naval and astro wargaming.
Boukje Kistemaker is entering her second year as a part-time PhD. Her research focuses on transformational (un)learning and the development of organizational intelligence through experiential learning.
Arnel David is continuing his PhD research on prototyping warfare using applied research and experimenting with gaming and artificial intelligence to explore new ways of decision-making, concept development, and organizational learning to improve strategic performance at multiple levels in defence and government. Arnel was recently selected as a National Defense University Scholar to align his research to support and feed into theoretical requirements at the Pentagon.
And we are pleased to welcome Evan D’Alessandro to the cohort of wargaming PhDs here at King’s. Evan is a professional wargamer with a background in environmental science, undersea cables, and modern war in the Pacific. He is researching how immersion is produced and what effects it has in professional wargaming.
Finally, we wish to say farewell to Ivanka Barzashka, a founding co-director of the WN, as she moves on to a full-time role as CEO of Strand Analytica, a US-UK tech startup. Ivanka co-founded Strand Analytica to accelerate the development of strategic wargaming as a science and make advanced tools for game design, data collection and analysis more widely available. She will continue to engage in fundamental research on wargaming epistemology, methodology and ethics, and applied research as a visiting fellow at the Department of War Studies.
We look forward to sharing our upcoming agenda for the 2022-2023 academic year and to your participation in our new slate of wargaming events.
Wargames aren’t employed only by the military. Corporations use them to explore business decisions; government policymakers use them to simulate major events, including pandemics; and they have a role in disaster relief. “The UNHCR has made efforts in various cities to help with the influx of Ukrainian refugees and provide relief to civic centres and to other spaces housing many people and aid workers,” says Lily Boland, co-designer of Don’t Fear the Reaper Drone. “Wargaming and/or simulating some of these crucial aspects of refugee aid work would certainly help organisations like the UN and local institutions to prepare for these scenarios in advance.”
What the situation in Ukraine has shown the world is that the outcomes of military action are becoming less predictable. Russia’s command and control strategy has been found wanting, while Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s innovative and playful use of social media has increased awareness and support for his country in a way that would have been tough to forecast. As Banks puts it, “I’m a huge believer in using historical case studies as much as possible, but a lot of the problems we’re facing in the 21st century are not ones that we have any ready guides for.”
As the world becomes ever more unpredictable and prone to disruptive global events, perhaps new strategies and solutions will be discovered in games like these.
The Wargaming Network is pleased to announce the third lecture in our 2021-2022 public lectures series on wargaming. The theme for this year is evaluating and assessing the impact of wargaming on individuals and organizations and will feature speakers who have made important new contributions to wargaming assessment. The lecture will take place online on 01 June, 17:00-18:30 BST. Please register for the lecture here to receive the log in details for the online event.
Natalia Wojtowicz will showcase different methods of evaluating effectiveness of wargames, compiled from academic, industrial and governmental sector. A comparison of common and distinct factors will be analyzed to connect the effects with structure of the wargame. The question of objectivity of results will be explored based on recent experiments on adjudication. This presentation will be focused on identifying next steps in measuring and evaluating wargames.
Natalia Wojtowicz is a lecturer at the Hague University of Applied Sciences in the Safety and Security Management Programme. She teaches about wargaming, game design, and digital skills. Her research includes effectiveness of wargaming, new methods and experimental implementation. Previously she worked at the NATO Civil-Military Cooperation Center of Excellence, leading the Wargaming, Modelling and Simulation project focused on introducing civilian population into training and education. Later she designed 14 new wargames implemented across NATO. Currently she is researching adjudication in wargaming and testing an upcoming game about uprising in Belarus. You can follow her [on Twitter] at @Wojtowicz_N
The Wargaming Network is pleased to announce the second lecture in our 2021-2022 public lecture series on wargaming. The theme for this year is evaluating and assessing the impact of wargaming on individuals and organizations and will feature speakers who have made important new contributions to wargaming assessment. The lecture will take place online on 12 May, 17:00-18:30 BST. Please register for the lecture here to receive the log in details for the online event.
This lecture will focus on the enhancement of evaluation usefulness as a possible avenue to increase impact, built around Ralf Beerens’ PhD research which seeks to improve the usefulness of disaster response evaluations with respect to their contribution to disaster risk management (available online via: https://portal.research.lu.se/en/publications/improving-disaster-response-evaluations-supporting-advances-in-di). The dynamic disaster response environment in which his research took place, and the challenges it both poses and faces, resembles that of wargames. Overall, this research shows that to gain maximum benefit from disaster response evaluations, the outcomes must be systematic, rigorous, evidence-based and actionable. This is also challenging as this creates a dilemma around the so called ‘rigor-relevance gap’ which refers to the hurdle of simultaneously delivering practitioner relevance and scholarly rigour.
There will be a mixture of scholarly rigour and practitioner relevance by introducing and discussing various approaches, concepts, processes and models such as the research design strategy, design science and evaluation descriptions. This is combined with insights into the Dutch Crisis Management system and practical experiences (with evaluation) as well as key research findings that can be transferred to wargames. This lecture will propose some ways forward and open a conversation regarding how to manage both the process and the products of an evaluation and possible scientific and practical contributions, in order to optimise its usefulness for a range of purposes and users. In general the session is aimed at enhancing our understanding of the role(s) of evaluation in dynamic and complex environments such as disaster risk management and the transfer of these insights to wargames, keeping in mind that it is not the evaluation itself that leads to improvement; it is the use of the evaluation that can lead to improvement. Evaluation should be seen as a means to an end.Dr. Ralf Beerens is a senior researcher at the Netherlands Institute for Public Safety (NIPV) and is also a senior lecturer for the Institute’s Master in Crisis and Public Order Management (MCPM). In September 2021 he received his Ph.D. from Lund University, Division of Risk Management and Societal Safety, where he remains affiliated as a visiting research fellow. In this research he focused on disaster response (exercise) evaluation. He remains particularly interested in the evaluation of the operational performance of (international) emergency response organizations, teams or modules during exercises and crises, which also reflects his professional experience as an evaluator.
The King’s Wargaming Network (King’s College London) has announced the first lecture in their 2021-2022 public lectures series. The theme this year is “evaluating and assessing the impact of wargaming on individuals and organizations.” This first lecture will feature Kate Kuehn on the subject of “the valid and meaningful assessment of wargames.”
Wargames offer a promising avenue for analyzing the quality of plans or decisions as well as for developing and assessing player or team capabilities. Within a military education context, wargames can reproduce authentic, complex environments that facilitate application and integration of critical 21st century learning skills like creativity, collaboration, and problem-solving. At the same time, these dynamic environments pose a challenge for traditional measurement approaches, evidenced by numerous critiques of simulation-based learning, games-based learning, and wargaming assessment practices. Purposeful integration of assessment into wargaming design is essential to demonstrating the value of wargaming for individuals and institutions. This lecture will highlight key principles of sound and meaningful assessment within wargaming contexts, synthesizing literature from measurement and gaming disciplines. The discussion will also integrate lessons from a case study that examined assessment challenges and practices of a U.S. military education program that is rapidly expanding these activities in its curriculum. The findings highlighted key mechanisms and opportunities to “bake assessment in” to wargame design and facilitation. The presentation seeks to offer a guide for practitioners who are seeking to implement valid and meaningful assessment of learning that can be adapted to their own wargaming practices.
Kate Kuehn is the Director of Institutional Research, Assessment, and Planning at Marine Corps University (MCU). In addition to managing the University’s institutional effectiveness process, she supports the evaluation of all MCU professional military education programs and directorates. Kate has spent 12 years working on evaluation and assessment of military education programs, providing advice on the design of learning assessments at the classroom, program, and institutional level. She is a member of the Military Education Assessment Advisory Group and has frequently served on military accreditation teams. Her research focuses on assessment and performance evaluation in complex contexts. More specifically, she is currently focused on assessment in team-based simulated learning environments. Kate has an MA from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and a BA from the College of William and Mary. She is a doctoral candidate at George Mason University’s College of Education and Human Development with specializations in education research methodology and educational psychology. Her dissertation proposes an assessment framework for collaborative, ill-structured games, and examines its application to educational wargaming practice.
The King’s Wargaming Network is recruiting graduate students for its annual Analyst Training for Analytical Wargaming Programme:
The programme provides King’s students with an opportunity to support King’s researchers in the execution of wargames for research purposes.
The programme is now in its sixth year and is highly competitive. Analysts will support a PhD research project examining US Army doctrinal development practices for current and near-future warfighting. The project is led by Anna Nettleship.
If selected, you will:
Receive 8 hours over 4 sessions of practical training in wargame testing, data collection and analysis
Engage with cutting-edge methods and research
Support the in-person or remote execution of a strategic analytical wargame
Wargaming has long practiced as a professional enterprise but is only emerging as an academic discipline. Civilian universities play an important role in bringing established standards of academic excellence to the theory and practice of wargaming for both research and education.
Ensuring excellence in analytical wargames is especially important as governments increasingly looking to wargames to innovate and inform decisions. The pool of analytical wargame providers is rapidly expanding beyond the well-established expert circles.
To achieve and demonstrate research excellence, analytical wargames need to follow established research integrity and ethics principles. Researchers, institutions and funders can then ensure these principles are implemented in practice, and action is taken when behaviours fall short.
Research Integrity & Ethics in Analytical Wargaming
What are these fundamental principles and how do they apply to wargames used for research? I answered this question in a recent presentation at the US Connections Professional Wargaming Conference from an academic perspective informed by King’s College London policies. I also highlighted some challenges facing scholars who wargame. You can listen to the talk here and view my slides below.
The key takeaway: while wargaming scholarship is progressing, there is still a way to go. To properly meet research integrity standards, we need more fundamental research on wargaming, more educational opportunities in wargaming theory, methods and practice, and appropriate publication outlets. It is impossible to follow “disciplinary standard and norms” when scholars do not know or agree what these are. It is difficult to demonstrate rigour in “using appropriate research methods” when scientifically-sound analytical wargaming methods are only beginning to emerge in the open literature and are being applied for the first time for scholarly inquiry. Academics who strive for “transparency and open communication” still have issues publishing wargame findings in reputable journals.
Expectations for Scholars vs Professional Wargamers
But to what extent do research integrity and ethics requirements for analytical wargaming differ for academics versus professional wargamers? To advance this discussion, I offer three propositions.
Most, but Not All, Academic Research Integrity Principles Apply to Professional Wargaming
First, while the general principles for research excellence are fairly standard, a major difference between academic and professional wargaming is the expectation for transparency and open communication. For example, analysts who use wargames to support research for government clients are not expected to make their methods and findings available to others. In contrast, scholars are required to publish research and are promoted on the number of publications.
Responding to Research Misconduct and Questionable Research Practices
Second, the extent to which research integrity principles are applied in practice differs significantly among institutions and sponsors. This includes taking appropriate measures when there is evidence of research misconduct or questionable research practices.
Research misconduct, which includes falsification, fabrication, plagiarism and misrepresentation, is a potentially fireable offence at a university. But could professional wargamers lose their jobs over poor game design or inadequate analysis of gameplay data?
Falsification includes “inappropriate manipulation and/or selection of a research process.” According to this definition, creative injects by a control team that affect or determine outcomes of player decisions, but do not clearly link to research objectives and protocols, would raise questions.
Misrepresentation includes “suppressing relevant results or data, or knowingly, recklessly or by gross negligence representing flawed interpretation of data.” Cherry-picking insights from a plenary discussion, while ignoring gameplay data, would get wargame analysts in trouble in this category.
Another issue is plagiarism. Not acknowledging other people’s “ideas, intellectual property or work (written or otherwise)” in wargame design would be especially problematic in an academic setting but is common practice in the gaming community.
Major Research Ethics Risks
My third proposition concerns research ethics. The ethical issues that arise from the application of a particular analytical wargaming method that collects data from human subjects are mostly the same – regardless of whether the principal investigator works for a university or a government agency. However, the likelihood and consequence of ethical risks materialising will differ significantly in different settings.
Scholars applying for research ethics review of an analytical wargaming process are most worried about preserving anonymity of research participants and ensuring the confidentiality of personal data. This risk arises because wargames are conducted in group settings and require support from large research teams (e.g. rapporteurs and facilitators).
However, scholars can effectively manage these risks by carefully applying best practices, such as minimisation of directly or indirectly identifiable personal data, pseudo-anonymisation, access limitation, data separation and retention policies. These risks can be further reduced by careful recruitment and training of game staff. (At King’s, we spend 6 months selecting and training our wargame rapporteurs.)
For professional wargamers, the major ethical risk is the conflict of interest between them and their sponsor. Stephen Downs-Martin describes the issue well in this article. Research ethics problems deepen when lines of responsibility and accountability are not clearly defined, and when the research process is not (or cannot) be made transparent. Mitigating these risks requires clear communication between a wargame provider and their sponsor but doing so might not be in the self-interest of the parties involved.
Other ethical risks will be just as big, regardless of setting. For example, risks of harm to individuals could result from using wargames to investigate topics that could trigger stress or violence. If a principal investigator uses deception, including not fully informing participants of the purpose of the wargame, this also raises ethics concerns. (Thanks to Rex Brynen for highlighting these points.)
Are Scholars Better Positioned to Ensure Research Excellence in Wargaming?
Ensuring and demonstrating research excellence in wargaming requires understanding, applying, and enforcing integrity and ethics principles. These principles are well established, but expectations differ in academic and professional wargaming settings. Professional wargamers face greater ethical risks than scholars who wargame, and these risks cannot be easily mitigated.
Overall, scholars at universities are better positioned to ensure research excellence in wargaming than their professional wargaming colleagues. This does not mean professional wargamers are less interested in honesty, rigour, transparency, or ethics. Quite on the contrary – the wargaming community of practice is conscious of these risks and limitations, and the topic of this year’s US Connections conference is testimony to this fact. But there are powerful institutional incentives that influence research integrity and ethics in practice, which cannot be wished away.
If people who are professional wargamers want to effectively demonstrate research excellence in wargaming, they should consider a sabbatical to spend some time at a university.
Anna Nettleship at the King’s Wargaming Network has circulated the following announcement:
The Wargaming Network is pleased to announce the availability of the KISG PhD Studentship – Intelligence and Wargaming award for the 2021-2022 academic year. Details are below, interested applicants may find details on the application process here.
The King’s Intelligence and Security Group (KISG) provides a forum for collaborative research and networking between War Studies faculty and PhD students, external partners and affiliate institutions, and practitioners working in intelligence. We bring together a research community with expertise ranging from the history of military and civilian intelligence to contemporary intelligence issues, such as oversight, privatisation, and international liaison. Through an active programme of events, expert workshops and applied research, we foster the public discussion of key issues in intelligence.
This PhD studentship is for a thesis on intelligence and wargaming. The successful applicant will work within KISG but provide a link to the Wargaming Network. We welcome applications on theses that seek to bridge the two disciplines of ‘intelligence’ and ‘wargaming’, particularly around the methodology of forecasting, prediction, and scenario building.
Award value: Home Tuition Fees.
Eligibility criteria: Applicants must have already applied to the War Studies PhD programme and must satisfy the entry requirements of the PhD programme. The studentship is open to citizens from the UK.
Ivanka Barzashka of the Wargaming Network, School of Security Studies, King’s College London has sent around an update on the news and activities at KCL:
King’s Wargaming Network aims to advance wargaming as an academic discipline. In support of this aim, we are pleased to introduce new staff and students focusing on wargaming-related research, and a new programme of educational activities funded by the Faculty of Social Science and Public Policy’s Education Fund and the Department of War Studies.
New Faculty and PhD Students
Dr David Banks joined the Department of War Studies in Aug 2020 as Lecturer in Wargaming and Academic Director of the Wargaming Network. He has designed wargames for education and research on topics such as diplomacy, crises, terrorism, and cyber security. His current research investigates the linkage between theory and rules in game design. Dr Banks is the first faculty member at a civilian university to have wargaming in his title.
Arnel David and Boukje Kistemaker started PhDs on wargaming topics in Jan 2021 at the Department of Defence Studies and the War Studies Department, respectively.
Dr Aggie Hirst has been promoted to Senior Lecturer at the Department of War Studies in recognition of her empirical research on the phenomena of play and immersion, and the US military’s use of wargames and simulations for teaching and training purposes. Her projects have been funded by the Leverhulme Trust and the British Academy.
Analyst Training for Strategic Analytical Wargaming
The WN runs a co-curricular programme to train postgraduate students, research staff and faculty to support Principal Investigators in data collection and analysis of wargames used for research purposes. The 2020-2021 programme focuses on ensuring data quality and research ethics in the shift from in-person to online wargaming to support a Centre for Science and Security Studies research project. Ten new trainees were selected through a competitive 3-stage recruitment process.
Short Courses on Wargaming in Education and Research for PhD Students, Staff and Faculty
The WN launched two new wargaming courses for faculty, staff and postgraduate research students across the Faculty of Social Science and Public Policy. The courses respond to an increased demand for educational and analytical wargames beyond the School of Security Studies.
Wargame Design and Analysis Module for Master’s Students
The Department of War Studies approved a new module for master’s students, which will be co-convened by Dr Banks and Dr Hirst. This module enables the next generation of security and defence analysts to understand and apply wargames as part of their security studies toolkit.
Public Lecture Series on Wargaming Scholarship The WN launched an online public lecture series that features authors of new and noteworthy scholarly publications on wargaming. The next speaker is Dr Jacquelin Schneider who will discuss on 1 Apr 2021 the use of wargames as experiments to understand cyber and nuclear stability.
On June 23, the King’s Wargaming Network will host a virtual lecture by Matt Caffrey on “Wargaming in a Post-Pandemic World: Adapting Institutions to Out-Think and Out-Partner”
We now know we live in a world where a novel illness can take lives, livelihoods and liberties worldwide with rapid speed. At the same time, the character of war is evolving in novel and dangerous ways that are not fully known. Wargaming can help decision makers better understand and address new challenges in a complex and uncertain environment, but reaping these benefits requires the right organisational structures and processes.
For almost 40 years Matt Caffrey has been building organisations to help adapt wargaming to meet evolving threats and opportunities. He will address the following questions:
How have wargaming structures adapted in the past to respond to changes in the strategic environment?
What institutional adaptations are currently underway in the United States and NATO?
What more can and should be done to increase the utility of wargaming to address the full set of threats facing NATO allies?
Matthew B. Caffrey Jr. provides wargame support to the United State’s Air Force Research Laboratory, Air Force Material Command, Air Staff and to NATO. In 1993 he helped found the Connections interdisciplinary wargaming conference.
King’s Wargaming Network is convening an online workshop on 1-2 April 2020 from 12:30 to 17:00 GMT to understand how wargaming methods:
(1) have contributed to research and education of health-related crises,
(2) could be used to understand the short and long-term effects of the current pandemic and how to address them,
(3) could be used to educate and train decision makers and the public.
We are grateful to those who have submitted abstracts. We have an impressive lineup of 20 presenters, including McGill University, University of St Andrews, University of Maryland Advanced Research Laboratory for Intelligence and Security, Université Clermont Auvergne, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Columbia University, Marine Corp University, European Centre for Exellence for Countering Hybrid Threats, Stimson Centre, Mexican Navy Centre for Higher Learning, Netherlands Defence Research Organisation, Global Affairs Canada and industry.
Presentations will feature past and proposed new projects examining the impacts of the pandemic on a range issues, including economic, social (e.g. healthcare, volunteerism and gender equality), political (e.g. regional cooperation in Europe and South East Asia) and military (e.g. hybrid warfare and cyber threats) factors.
Please note that space is very limited and priority will be given to presenters, policymakers and funders.
To register, you will need email the King’s Wargaming Network at firstname.lastname@example.org. If space is still available they will provide the registration link and password.
Ivanka Barzashka, Director of the Wargaming Network at King’s College London, has announced an online workshop on (war)gaming the current COVID-19 pandemic:
We will postpone Strategic Wargaming Week to a later date to focus on using wargaming techniques to understand the impacts of the pandemic and to inform decision makers and the public.
We are convening an online workshop on 1-2 April 2020 to understand how wargaming methods:
(1) have contributed to research and education of health-related crises,
(2) could be used to understand the short and long-term effects of the current pandemic and how to address them,
(3) could be used to educate and train decision makers and the public.
We are inviting presentations on past projects relevant to the current problem, as well and proposed future projects. Those who submitted a proposal under the previous call and wish to present their ideas are kindly asked to resubmit their pitches.
The deadline for abstracts is 25 March 2020. Please submit your proposal here.
You will be informed by 27 March 2020 if your presentation is selected.
If your organisation is interested in supporting potential projects, please get in touch.