The impact of the rapid technological change on peace and security continuously grows and becomes increasingly complex. Against the background of a quickly deteriorating security environment, the international conference SCIENCE · PEACE · SECURITY ’21 (RWTH Aachen University, 8-10 September 2021) examined the role of emerging technologies. The 60 speakers and 220 participants came from the natural, technical and social sciences. Diplomats and representatives from international organisations participated in the discussions. Topics included nuclear, chemical and biological arms control, autonomy in weapon systems, cybersecurity and the militarization of space among others. Find the conference proceedings here.

The main outcome was that all of these issues could be more effectively addressed by new approaches to rigorous interdisciplinary research collaboration to create policy-relevant knowledge and by tightening the nexus between the scientist and policy communities. Both can only be achieved and sustained by funding novel structures that enable scientific-technical scholars to engage on these topics.

Key problems to be addressed by integrating natural, technical and social science perspectives include early risk assessment of potential dual-use research and technologies – especially in bio-security and epidemiology as well as IT and robotic research. Ways forward are the inclusion of norms into technology design as well as addressing questions of responsibility and standards. For military-usable technologies, entirely new regulatory approaches are necessary to prevent escalatory dynamics and to maintain accountability structures, moving from object-based to behaviour-based approaches.

Scientific-technical research contributes to peace and security in positive ways. A prominent example are nuclear verification techniques. While instruments to monitor nonproliferation and test ban commitments benefit from further improvement, many gaps on how to verify future arms control and disarmament agreements still exist and must be urgently closed.

The best cutting-edge scientific and academic expertise that is required for these complex research tasks is found in universities and other independent research institutes. Typically, however, decisionmakers draw knowledge from governmental institutions because of ease and existing connections. Therefore, efforts should be made to better connect the policy and academic communities. Communication between both can be improved by meeting on a regular basis and not only when advice on a specific issue is sought. This can foster more stable relationships and increase an understanding of each other.

Lastly, opportunities should be improved for the younger generation of scientists and technologists to engage with policymakers. It is crucial to educate and engage early-on the next generation of scientifically-literate policymakers and security-aware scientists.

Conference Proceedings published: Science, Peace, Security ’21 : The Impact of new Technologies: Destabilizing or Enabling Resilience? : 8-10 September 2021