Scientists for Global Responsibility

At some time in 2016, for rather convoluted reasons to do with supporting the Peace Tax Seven,  I started getting emails from a Scientists for Global Responsibility (SGR) mailing list.  Today’s was a job ad for them.  I can’t apply because I don’t have the essentials in the person spec., but their web site is interesting.

The ethics around the technology developments required of modern warfare are a major part of their raison d’etre, and they were formed from peace groups merging.  They are affiliated with a number of peace organisations, each of which I need to investigate as both sources of information and as potential employers.  They are concerned about the military influence on science and technology research.  They have information booklets on ethical careers.  They have a list of potential ethical employers in the peace sector.  They have resources on security and disarmament.  They produce reports and briefings including security.  They have dozens of newsletters I need to go through.

I have joined their mailing list proper.  I have joined their LinkedIn group.  Today I post my membership off to them.

Their Wikipedia page is a bit thin.  Here’s someone else’s words about them.

They do get articles published like this one in the Guardian.

I firmly expect a bunch of committed scientists can provide me with loads of data for evidence-based peace.

I had not heard of SGR before – this highlights the problem I found at the start in 2012: where is the peace industry? The arms industry has a fantastically high profile, the peace industry is barely mentioned other than to criticise white poppies.

Bias regarding fear of war allowing wars to happen

As creatures, we are very poor at assessing risk.  This knowledge was reinforced by what I learned in the Open University module DD210 Living psychology: from the everyday to the extraordinary.  I suspect that is one of the reasons we allow wars to happen.

On the same theme The Ostrich Paradox: Why We Underprepare for Disasters by Robert Meyer and Howard Kunreuther may be a relevant and useful read.  It looks as though they consider why we allow things to happen.  They highlight six behaviours:

  1. Amnesia bias: only focussing on recent experience so we forget the experience of past wars.
  2. Optimism bias: we are optimistic by nature and although know wars happen, believe wars will not happen to us.
  3. Single action bias: it is enough to make one small act of protest thinking that will be enough to protect us.
  4. Myopia: only considering the short term, that war won’t happen soon so it will never happen.
  5. Inertia: it is too hard to face the problem and tackle it, when it might not even happen, thereby allowing it to happen.
  6. Herding: doing what we perceive everyone else to do, which is nothing, so nobody does anything.

But that list does not tell us what to do about them; perhaps the rest of their book does.

Optimistic about water wars

I have often heard it suggested or assumed that the next wars will be over water.  The International Water Management Institute is not so pessimistic.  Their article ‘Promoting cooperation through management of transboundary water resources‘ says:

Research is challenging the conventional wisdom that conflict over water leads to war.  The water wars hypothesis has its roots in earlier research carried out on a small number of transboundary rivers such as the Indus, Jordan and the Nile…because they had experienced water-related disputes.  Specific events cited as evidence include Israel’s bombing of Syria’s attempts to divert the Jordan’s headwater and military threats by Egypt against any country building dams in the upstream water of the Nile.  However, while some links made between conflict and water were valid, they did not necessarily represent the norm.

and

while it is true that there has been conflict related to water in a handful of international basins, in the rest of the world’s approximately 300 shared basins the record has been largely positive.

War is not inevitable.

This paper is an example of research into alternatives to international conflict over a specific resource resulting in evidence-based cases of violent conflict not being required to resole international problems regarding resource issues.  So if someone says to you “The next wars will be about water” you can now say “No, they won’t.  Water may be involved but we now know it is more likely to result in international co-operation.

What is the learned journal for peace?

I started writing this in August 2015 and got stuck.

I’ve been wondering something for a week or two.  If I want to do research into alternatives to war, and there is such a thing as Peace Studies, then there must be a relevant learned journal.  The place where relevant articles are published for peer review.  I should have subscribed to it ages ago.  But what and where is it?

Courtesy of Google I see there is more than one. Searches I have tried:

  • “learned journal” “peace studies”
  • “peer-reviewed journal” “peace studies”

Searches I need to do: The OU library.

Results…



Title: Conflict Management and Peace Science
ISSN: Digital: 15499219 Print: 07388942
Publisher: Peace Science Society (International)
URL: http://cmp.sagepub.com/
Desc’n: A peer-reviewed journal. Contains scientific papers on topics such as: international conflict; arms races; the effect of international trade on political interactions; foreign policy decision making; international mediation; and game theoretic approaches to conflict and cooperation. Features original and review articles focused on news and events related to the scientific study of conflict and peace.
Began: 1973
Frequency: 5 times per year (supposedly)
Cost: One article: £18. Either one issue or one year: £69
Comment: About 5 articles per issue. Only abstracts available online. Looks more like war studies than peace studies.



Title: Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal
ISSN: Electronic: 1911-9933 Print: 1911-0359
Publisher: The International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS)
URL: scholarcommons.usf.edu/gsp
Desc’n: A much-needed forum for discussion. Fosters awareness of the atrocities linked to genocide while promoting the necessity of prevention. This peer-reviewed journal publishes articles on the latest developments in policy, research, and theory from various disciplines including history, political science, sociology, psychology, international law, criminal justice, women’s studies, religion, philosophy, literature, anthropology and art history.
Began: 2006
Frequency: 3 issues / year
Cost: Free
Comment: About 10 articles per issue.



Title: The International Journal for Peace Studies
ISSN: ?
Publisher: The International Peace Research Association (IPRA)
URL: www.gmu.edu/programs/icar/ijps
Desc’n: An educational research journal with articles on the causes and solutions to the social, cultural, and ethnic conflicts in the world.
Began: 1996
Frequency: 2 issues per year
Cost: Free
Comment: All articles are available online



Title: Journal of Conflict Resolution
ISSN: Digital: 15528766 Paper: 00220027
Publisher: Peace Science Society (International)
URL: jcr.sagepub.com
Desc’n: Peer-reviewed, provides scholars and researchers with the latest studies and theories on the causes of and solutions to the full range of human conflict. Focuses on conflict between and within states, but also explores a variety of inter-group and interpersonal conflicts that may help in understanding problems of war and peace.
Began: 1957
Frequency: 8 times / year, supposedly.
Cost: £17 for an article. £107 for, probably, a year.
Comment: About 8 articles per issue.



Title: Journal of Peace Research
ISSN: 00223433
Publisher: Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)
URL: jpr.sagepub.com
Desc’n: An interdisciplinary and international peer reviewed bimonthly journal of scholarly work in peace research.  Strives for a global focus on conflict and peacemaking.  Encourages a wide conception of peace, but focuses on the causes of violence and conflict resolution.
Began: 1964
Frequency: Bi-monthly
Cost: £80 per something.  Probably a year.
Comment: Can download a few articles.  Can subscribe to the Table of Contents.



Title: Journal of Peace Studies
ISSN: ?
Publisher: International Centre for Peace Studies
URL: www.icpsnet.org/journal.php
Desc’n: An interdisciplinary approach and aims at promoting peace and understanding among societies of the world in general and South Asian societies in particular.
Began: 1993
Frequency: Quarterly
Cost: ?  I cannot see how to obtain it.
Comment: Produced by the International Center for Peace Studies



Title: Peace Research: The Canadian Journal of Peace and Conflict Studies
ISSN: 0008-4697
Publisher: Menno Simons College, Canadian Mennonite University
URL: www.peaceresearch.ca
Desc’n: Canada’s oldest and primary scholarly journal in its area.  Distributed internationally.  Publishes broadly on issues of conflict, violence, poverty, just peace and human well-being. Peace and conflict studies holds peace as a value, and peaceful methods as the most desirable form of conflict transformation.
Began: 1969
Frequency: Twice a year
Cost: $US 60 / year
Comment: Can download a few articles from 2007 to 2013 for free.



Title: Peace Studies Journal
ISSN: 2151-0806
Publisher: Central New York Peace Studies Consortium
URL: peacestudiesjournal.org/about-psj
Desc’n: An international peer-reviewed scholarly open access journal in the field of peace, conflict and justice studies.
Began: 2007
Frequency: 4 issues / year
Cost: Free
Comment: About 5 articles per issue.



Title: x
ISSN: ?
Publisher: x
URL: x
Desc’n: x
Began: x
Frequency: x
Cost: x
Comment: x


Center for Peacemaking Practice, School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University



Now in February 2017 it has just dawned on me to search the OU Library for journals with ‘peace’ in the name where they have the text available online and it is within the last 20 years and in English.  They hold ten items:

Title: Conflict management and peace science (Online)
Author: Peace Science Society (International)
Subjects: International relations — Research — Periodicals; Peace — Research – Periodicals
Publisher: Thousand Oaks, Calif. : Sage Publications
Identifier: ISSN:0738-8942
Publication date(s): 1980-1999
Opinion: looks good.

Title: Journal of peace education (Online)
Author: International Peace Research Association. Peace Education Commission.
Subjects: Peace — Study and teaching — Periodicals; Peace — Periodicals; Peace; Peace — Study and teaching
Publisher: Abingdon, Oxfordshire : Carfax Pub.
Identifier: ISSN:1740-0201
Publication date(s): 2004
Opinion: looks really interesting and relevant.

Title: Journal of international peace operations (Online)
Author: International Peace Operations Association.; International Stability Operations Association, issuing body.
Subjects: Peaceful change (International relations) — Periodicals; Political science — Foreign relations — Periodicals; Peaceful change (International relations)
Publisher: Washington, DC : International Peace Operations Association
Identifier: ISSN:1933-8198
Publication date(s): 2006
Opinion: stuck in the weird OU ‘loop11’ loop.

Title: Global change, peace & security.
Author: La Trobe University. Centre for Dialogue, issuing body.; La Trobe University. Institute for Human Security, issuing body.
Subjects: Security, International — Periodicals; Peaceful change (International relations) — Periodicals
Publisher: Abingdon, Oxfordshire : Routledge
Identifier: ISSN:1478-1158
Publication date(s): ©2003-
Opinion: has some really interesting looking articles.

Title: Journal of aggression, conflict and peace research Elektronische Ressource
Publisher: Bingley Emerald
Publication date(s): 2009-
Opinion: Primarily about interpersonal violence, does have a few articles on international violence.

Title: The journal of peace, prosperity & freedom.
Author: Liberty Australia (Organization)
Subjects: Libertarianism — Australia — Periodicals
Publisher: Brunswick, VIC : Liberty Australia
Identifier: ISSN:2200-3037
Publication date(s): 2012]-
Opinion: Three issues and nothing of interest.

Title: International journal of engineering, social justice and peace.
Subjects: Engineering ethics — Periodicals; Engineering — Social aspects — Periodicals
Publisher: Kingston, Ontario : Queen’s University
Identifier: ISSN:1927-9434
Publication date(s): 2012-
Opinion: Can’t get to it online (it has moved) and it doesn’t look relevant anyway.

Title: Peace and democracy in South Asia .
Author: Stockholms universitet. Politics of Development Group.; Asiawide Network.
Subjects: Peace — Periodicals; Democracy — South Asia — Periodicals; South Asia — Periodicals
Publisher: Malaysia : Asiawide Network
Publication date(s): c2004-
Opinion: three issues.  Cannot see anything immediately relevant.

Title: Performance and accountability report
Author: Peace Corps (U.S.)
Subjects: Peace Corps (U.S.) — Periodicals; Peace Corps (U.S.)
Publisher: Washington, DC : Peace Corps
Identifier: ISSN:1930-1251
Publication date(s): 2004-
Opinion: Useless, broken link.

Advice on assessing a source

I have just read a free ebook and I cannot determine if it is factual or not.  If anyone else is familiar with it, or looking for a distraction, I’d appreciate another’s opinion edit: no need; I’ve worked it out.

Title: The Diary of a U-boat Commander

By: Sir William Stephen Richard King-Hall

Described on FeedBooks: http://www.feedbooks.com/book/4208:The diary of a World War One U-Boat commander. As well as being a fascinating glimpse of life on the German U-boats during the intense submarine blockade, this also reminds us there were humans involved – on both sides of the action – as we read too of the intimate thoughts and intense love of a man longing for his sweetheart.

It begins after World War One with a U-Boat commander requesting a British officer returns another U-Boat commander’s personal diary.  The British officer refuses and decides he will get it translated and published.  What follows is the German’s diary, with translator’s notes.

It is categorised in the ebook collections as non-fiction.  But reading it, it doesn’t feel right.  It feels like someone writing a fictitious diary designed to show what a horrid man a German U-Boat commander is, but who could not get it published before the war ended and published it as it is instead.  As if it was meant as propaganda: “Look what we found”.

It is by (note I am careful to say he is not the author) Sir William Stephen Richard King-Hall.  He was a journalist, politician and playwright, suggesting he may have made the book up.  But he was a naval officer until 1929.

Wikipedia lists this book against Stephen King-Hall link and suggests he was the translator, for what that’s worth.

On ManyBooks, it is listed under ‘Fiction and Literature’ and the reviewers conclude it is fiction, yet plausible.

A quick skim through  A North Sea diary, 1914-1918 by Commander Stephen King-Hall, does not refer to the incident of him getting access to a U-boat commander’s stuff.

A description on Archive.org suggests it is fiction – warning contains spoilers.  They have an online copy of the original, with one review which also cannot determine if it is fiction or not.

A search for the details of the U-boat commander, Karl von Schenk of U122 … gives me the answer.  Of course there are fanatics who trace every ship and its commanding officer, duh.  I knew that.  Should have done that first.  He never existed.

Now, having written all that, I’m going to post it anyway, just as a way of reinforcing the message to myself: do not automatically trust sources that say they are genuine, even when published by distinguished honourable gentlemen with titles, honours and military careers.  (After all, he was also a politician… thoughtful )


Advice given to me:

For what it’s worth, Simon, I tend to look for reviews of books about which I have doubts in academic journals. If no academics have reviewed the book then I start to wonder. Obviously with so many books being published, many will not be reviewed so that’s not the end of it. In this case, I would have wondered about the fact that the author also wrote plays, children’s books and for Children’s Hour. Again, no doubt there are excellent historians who also write or wrote fiction, but, again, it raises a question. However, I gather from the reader reviews that it becomes obvious as you reach the final chapters that the book you asked about is fiction.

But even that isn’t enough to discredit it. King-Hall was apparently awarded a gold medal by the Royal Institution of International Affairs for his thesis on submarine warfare and served in the 11th submarine flotilla in the First World War. There is a possibility, therefore, that the technical detail could be accurate.

On the whole, though, if I had been faced with this question I would probably have put the book aside on the basis that I’ve got too much information from reliable sources without getting bogged down in figuring out how good this is.


My response:

You’ve described the path I took very accurately.  I bounced up and down on that see-saw of doubt many times.  I would have put it aside as irrelevant but for an essay but I wanted to use to practise determining the veracity of sources.  I get the impression part of A327 is teaching us to think “just who really wrote this, and why?*

I particularly wanted to know because the main character is not at all likeable, but totally plausible.  As a Prussian Junker, he gave opinions that seemed to explain how Germany was led by the sort of people who would start a war of conquest as a matter of entitlement.  What made me suspicious was the main character got to do a couple of cross-service activities on short postings and that felt unlikely.

But it was the consequences of its accuracy that bothered me.  Either I was learning valuable insights about German society and culture from a painfully honest artefact written from the heart, or I was being misled by a disingenuous and fatuous work of propaganda or revenge from an embittered victor.

Upon reflection, now knowing it is fiction says more about its author than it does about the Germans.  Knowing it to be fiction being passed off as factual diary, one could use it as evidence to claim “Look how the British want to blame the Prussians for the war, rub Germany’s nose in their loss, obviously the British wanted revenge out of hatred, and would make up lies to show how bad the Germans were, no wonder the Germans complained about the reparations, the reparations must have been unfair, WW2 was the fault of the British“.  Same artefact, totally opposite potential interpretation of history from the one deviously intended by the author.

Was there much material like this?  Were loads of people putting out anti-German literature or was this unusual?  Did it influence the Paris peace talks and European relations in the next two decades?  Alternatively, would anyone reading it at the time have laughed it off knowing full well it was just a light-hearted jab at the nasty stereotypical Hun by another veteran letting off steam?  I don’t know, and it makes me wonder.  What I suppose I’d need for that would be reviews of the book written at the time.

* They are.  Learning outcome 4: The ability to identify, gather and evaluate historical evidence and the work of historians critically; to appreciate the qualities of different kinds of texts, images, audio and visual sources; and see the need to adjust your approach in line with purpose.

This is the sort of work I want: peace informatics

There is a group on LinkedIn called Peace Informatics describing itself:

This group brings together researchers, practitioners and other professionals who want to explore how Big Data can be applied in the field of peace and security. The group’s moderators provide regular updates with cutting edge information about related developments and aim to exchange views among network members about lessons learned, latest insights and potential collaboration.

Peace Informatics is initiated and run by the Peace Informatics Lab at Leiden University (Campus The Hague). The Peace Informatics Lab consists of a number of interconnected projects that explore new ways of Big Data methodologies in the field of peace & security.

I’m not convinced about the hype around ‘big data’ (my views come from decades of experience working with large databases, data analysis and business analysis rather than marketing bumf), but I am impressed with what I have seen of Leiden University, having done some of their MOOC courses.

But this could be a field where my IT experience would be very useful.  Now, how to get my foot in the door…?

Chilcot, briefly

At the most sympathetic interpretation, the second Gulf War was initiated on poor quality intelligence, incomplete intelligence, contrary to evidence-based failure to find WMDs, an overly-keen desire to initiate war, a premature decision to initiate war, a lack of collaborative decision making and not listening to objections and alternatives.

So, it should not have been initiated.

Tony Blair is a war-monger.

I don’t think we learned anything we did not know already.

There’s also no discussion going on about alternatives – which is what I have been feeling and saying for years.  Stop looking for reasons to go to war – which is what happened here – but instead look for evidence-based, properly-researched, alternatives.

First Level 3 module chosen

After my experience this past academic year, there is no way I am doing more than 60 credits at once at Level 3, that is, full-time study while working.  The year saved is not worth the stress, the loss of value-for-money from skipping material, the lost opportunity from not having time to read around the subject nor the impact on the grade.  And at Open University Level 3, it’s all about the grade since that is most of the final grade weighting.

I was going to do A333 Key questions in philosophy but my experience of A222 Exploring philosophy has put me off.  It was not what I thought it would be.

I had also planned to do DD301 Crime and justice as it includes ‘trans-national policing, international criminal courts and universal human rights‘ but those are only a minor part of the syllabus.  Also, it is intended for those going into ‘crime prevention and conflict resolution‘ (amongst other things) and my desired career is in conflict prevention.  Similar, but not the same thing.  I’ll need to have another think.

I downloaded the list of all the 107 Level 3 modules available to me and went through each module in turn, deciding afresh if I wanted or needed to do it.  A day’s work turned that into a shortlist of 12.

So many things to consider:

  • When does the module first run?  (DD317 Advanced Social Psychology should have started this October but will be October 2017 and DD311 Crime, harm and the state in October 2019 which is one year too late for me to do it.)
  • When does the module cease to be available?
  • 30 credits or 60 credits?
  • Does it have an exam?
  • Is there team work?  (No thank you.  I’ve carried others before, and discovered you don’t get any thanks for doing so.  A shame, as that has put me off S382 Astrophysics which I really fancied.)
  • Will it help my career?
  • I only have 120 credits left (or 150 if I’m devious and willing to add another year by doing 30, then 60 then 60).
  • Which 60 credits I want locked into the 300 credits that make up the open (non-honours) component.  (What a weird rule.)
  • Whether I want a name degree (that was a realistic option until A222 put me off philosophy).
  • Will I enjoy it?  (I can’t excel at something I do not enjoy.)
  • Ought I to do it for my career?  (Peace Studies.)
  • Will I learn something useful?

I really fancy S350 Evaluating contemporary science as it would be interesting, challenging and probably very useful to me.  One is expected to research, produce and present a scientific paper as practice for being a real scientist!  I could do something on sensor reliability in unmanned ground vehicles (or autonomous fighting machines, multi-function utility vehicle, warbots, kill-bots, autonomous drones, call ’em what you will) or the environmental impact of war in an oil-producing region.

But, it is 30 credits and I have talked myself out of the other 30 credit modules.  I’ll re-consider it this time next year.

I think I have settled on which one to do next, A327 Europe 1914-1989: war, peace, modernity, mostly because it will look relevant on a Master’s Degree application and because it ought to be relatively easy for me.  I’ve been informally studying war and how & why it happens for decades, so those parts ought not to be too alien.  However, although the title sounds relevant, I’m not terribly interested in war in history as a subject of study because that has changed nothing.  My interest is evidence-based peace process research.  But, I shall use it as a corridor of doorways to other paths to study.

Risk: what will be new to me is that it is a history module and I’ve never done one of those.  I wonder what new skills and methods I will need for that.

I’ve bought and downloaded the A327 exam paper for 2015 and it asks for “Write a commentary on the following primary source extract…” but I do not know what a ‘commentary’ looks like.  It also says “Answer the following thematic question” but what is a thematic question and what is special about how one answers one?

I have asked those queries on the Arts & Humanities forum and I hope somebody understands.  I should probably ask it on the Open Degree forum – the polymathic folk there might understand my concern better.

Meanwhile I can do advance reading by getting the set book and by going through the OpenLearn material that has been produced based on this very module.

How might post-traumatic stress disorder change warfare?

This is a brief note from thinking about Open University DD210 Living Psychology module, book 2, chapter 13, page 149…172 ‘3. The impact of extreme circumstances‘, ‘4. Recovery, resilience and post-traumatic growth‘ and ‘5. Perils, pitfalls and positive effects of psychological interventions‘.

Post-traumatic stress disorder.  People can be damaged by what they are ordered to do; might this change how warfare is conducted?

Millennia ago and centuries, marching off to another country or city allowed preparation time, bonding and training time on the way there.  On the way back there was lots of time for reflection with those who had been through the same experience, done in an environment of routine, with physical activity and done outdoors.  Might that have prevented PTSD for most people?  Is PTSD a phenomenon that arrived with the ability to leave the front line and go home fairly quickly?

Might the consequences of PTSD on military personnel make government change the way warfare is conducted so that it is prevented?  If so, what will that look like?

Is PTSD just an infantry complaint?  Do snipers get it worse than combat area engineers?  Do bomber crews get PTSD?  What about drone pilots who work 9-5 and go home every evening?  Who suffers most: conscripts, volunteers or militia?  Do revolutionaries / guerillas / freedom fighters get it?  Do victors get it?  Is it worse for those who suffer defeat?  How bad is it for child soldiers?

How bad is it for civilians in a war zone?  Refugees?  Survivors?  Orphans?  (And does anyone in governments care about civilians in war zones? It does not seem so.)

What research is being done in PTSD?  By whom?  Why?  Is it for peaceful purposes to demonstrate how warfare is bad, or to make warfare and killing less stressful for the troops so that it can continue?

Finding and documenting empirical evidence for peace

Utilitarianism is the aim of choosing ones actions (be they of individuals or governments) such that the most happiness is achieved for the most people.  However, empirical evidence is required to quantify the results of the various possible actions.  Also, definitions are required for ‘happiness’ and scales are required to quantify the measures.  This was the aim of 18th century philosopher Jeremy Bentham when considering such things as social policy for punishing criminals.

I suppose what I want to achieve is to gather together empirical data for the cost and implications of different approaches to preventing international violent conflict as well as for conducting international violent conflict, such that the various options can be considered in a measurable way.  Utilitarianism is a way of doing this by—at the risk of oversimplification—using the formula:

happiness = pleasure - pain

I am thinking more along the lines of:

peace = positive outcome expected - negative implications

where ‘violent conflict’ is quantified and included with the investment cost to form the ‘negative implications’.  Those wanting to start a war must be claiming a positive outcome, so that can be quantified too.

This should help eliminate, or at least help counter, “for our security” and “because they are a threat” and other such woolly thinking from the decision making, at least publicly.  It is also more human than my original idea which was purely cost-based.