A new appreciation of research being carried out on the peninsula
Article by: OCdt Eliza Bruce, 27472 (III), E-veritas correspondent
In response to my curiosity about the kind of research that takes place behind the scenes at RMC, but the very aspect that so distinguishes this institution, Dr. Mike Hennessy, Associate Vice Principal of Research at RMC graciously answered many questions. He mentioned that “at RMC, we have research that covers a whole range of aspects within the various departments, a lot of what you’d expect to see at an average university. Most of the research conducted at and around the campus is directly tied to the Defense Department, which often entails classified subject matter, so the conclusions of such undergraduate and post-graduate studies will not be made public, but this is nevertheless an unseen sector of studies at the college. Having DND as a resource gives us access to many national connections and international communities that allow us to thrive as a faculty, who travel internationally and are always involved with publications, symposiums, etc.”
The 24 year year staff member, at the college went on to say. “We have researchers and post-doctoral people from around the world coming to conduct advanced research on all sorts of things from physics to pace science to cyber security and security policy formulation. A lot of the faculty research is self-directed, and they will work on what they are interested in, or come up with projects they think are valuable in their respective field. Parts of DND give us a list of things they’d like us to work on, and we have experts who shop around to find ideal topics to pursue. Some people can solve problems over night, but for most problems, there are live research communities that feed off of each other to produce questions that can be answered or experimented with by those in the cutting edge of those fields, producing other ways to solve problems, through more poetic or more efficient solutions.”
The 1995 University of New Brunswick PhD (International History) graduate elaborated further.
“As Associate VP of Research, I have a good idea of all research that takes place at the college, manage grant money, and solve problems for people to facilitate so they can get the support and resources they need to carry out research, as well as to set the conditions, get security clearances, and advertise opportunities for research to take place. My personal interest became cybersecurity, and the recent document I contributed to, “Cybersecurity: A Generic Reference Curriculum,” has bearing on the international effort for NATO, and illustrates the international collaboration needed to produce something like this for where there was a military and national need. In all, research involves having an area of interest in which one brings their skills to bear.”
Being a Top 40 institution for research since at least 2000, the RMC wealth of research bears great impact on the realm of education and infrastructures/research communities of the world, and simply this much knowledge is incredibly inspiring for cadets such as myself looking towards any similar research projects in the future.
When asked about her current research project, Dr. Jane Boulden, Department of Political Science, responded enthusiastically with details about where the process and experience has led her in her work so far. It has been a long-term endeavour, starting with being asked to do a chapter on the United Nations Security Council on ethnic conflict.
Dr. Boulden a holder of four degrees from Queen’s University: B.A.H., M.A., and Ph.D., all in International Relations, as well as an LL.M. in International Law was very generous with her time.
“A lot of research work already involved this topic, but there was no good way to look up Security Council resolutions regarding ethnic conflict because they simply do not use that terminology due to legalities. They do not pass judgement, and prefer to use the different approach of using phrases like ‘conflict’ and ‘warring groups’ instead, per se, ‘civil war’.
They try to encourage parties to find their own way to come to a resolution. In the UN Charter, the Council is prohibited from doing anything in states, except for Chapter 7. However, since they do not want to use force, they must avoid things like saying ‘civil war’ or ‘sanctions’. They will call on member states to refrain from trades or make concessions, but the average person cannot type in key words and find those resolutions.”
Dr. Boulden has served as a consultant to the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of National Defence, as well as to a variety of research organizations and think tanks, and she has been awarded funding from the United States Institute of Peace, the Carnegie Corporation of New York and was a senior researcher on a project funded by the Ford Foundation.
In short, she has impressive credentials.
“My research goal, therefore, was to create a database that codes the resolutions in terminologies that the average person would utilise for research, or policy-making. For example, all the times civil war and human rights, democracy, etc. might have come up in all the records. I had many research assistants and employed Endnote for categories, which made it easier for use and orientation, but this will change soon because the project has become enormous. The database is currently done and up to date, and took so long because there was so much work to be done. The publisher will handle the database online, but wants me to write a book as a result of the entire process. That’s the hard part! It’s what I’m trying to do right now, and it can be difficult because the life and duties of a professor continually present themselves, so it just takes a while to piece it all together.”
The Canada Research Chair in International Relations provided more background.
“What I realized I needed to look at was the proceedings of the Council, cross-reference by data, and check them because the words alone might not give us clues—and this was both interesting and boring! It especially fascinating to see them in early years working it out, defining goals, how they would do it, with the Cold War sinking in and by year 3 you start to see how it stalemates. Before, you see them discuss conflict in public in ways they don’t now, with ‘informals’ where they dealt with issues, then spoke their conclusions in public. As work got bigger, members experienced split responsibilities, and there were not enough staff, they worked through it all privately.”
An internationally recognized expert in ‘The UN and terrorism’, Dr. Boulden, shared some more insightful information.
“I haven’t interviewed people yet, but they didn’t want to say something in public before they were sure about it in private due to the social/legal/military implications. The moves in Bosnian conflict were due to how they were reading the signals sent from the Security Council, and this would often determine whether they would act or not act. They were careful about word usage and had off-record proceedings; many had personal notes but nothing formal. Here, one can see they were constructing their own identity, which is what eventually leads toward peacekeeping (originated with Suez Crisis) and is summed up with three points: impartiality, government consent, minimal use of force.
Wrapping up the very interesting interview, the former Adjunct Professor in the Department of Political Studies, Queen’s University left me with these words of wisdom.
“The Council is not a court, so they get parties to decide for themselves. Peacekeeping was a result of these principles already in play with the Council. My book is title: What the Council Thinks, and traces the process of how these ideas came about and what they are. Democratic choice is a must, and these are implied principles from the start in 1946, the result of other political decision-making to meet better resolutions that also included human rights, or the idea that you can’t do anything that contravenes human rights. The Council does have an identity that includes the nation-state game, but also the pursuit of a set of principles. Other branches of this topic I consider are where does consistency come from over time and what is the role of permanent/non-permanent members? My book is set to be released in about another year.”
After talking to Dr. Boulden, I have gained a new appreciation for the sheer amount of effort, critical thought, discipline, and drive that must motivate a research project. It is humbling to think of the brilliant minds we have housed here at the college who can contribute so greatly to their fields. Awareness of the research that goes on at RMC is vital for the up and coming leadership generation, especially regarding topics such as Boulden’s work, which will become more relevant later on in our officer careers.