British military approaches universities to research psychological warfare

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The British military has approached universities, seeking a partner in a £70m project focused on looking at how the arts, humanities and social sciences can be used to shape security and military strategies focusing on psychological warfare. The research programme is called the Human Social Science Research Capability (HSSRC) programme, and institutions including Cambridge University and Lancaster University and arms companies BAE Systems and QinetiQ were approached. The Guardian reported that the universities have since pulled out of the project, but have given no explanation as to why.

The project is part of the the Ministry of Defence's Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DTSL), and are seeks to recruit psychologists, philosophers and even theologians to research the “targeted manipulation of information in the virtual and physical domains to shape attitudes and beliefs in the cognitive domain” and “communications and messaging [to] UK domestic and defence internal audiences that promote the attraction, health, welfare and resilience of our people (military and civilian)”. DTSL said “targeted manipulation of information” was focused on “communicating with overseas audiences and deterring adversaries who threaten the UK’s interests”.

Forty academics from Cambridge University writing an open letter addressed to the Vice-chancellor, stating “We do not believe that the role of a public university is to involve staff in armed conflicts by acting as a supplier of contract research to the MoD”. The letter also expressed concern that the ouputs of the work would not be open to scrutiny be other academics, and wider fears around the transformation of a research centre into a for-profit institution.

 

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