Military Ethics Education Network

Submitting Institution

University of Hull

Unit of Assessment

Politics and International Studies

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Philosophy and Religious Studies: Applied Ethics, Philosophy

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Summary of the impact

This case study focuses on the impact of the body of research produced by various members of the UoA's Military Ethics Education Network (MEEN). This impact has been achieved through two main routes. The first comprises the impact of MEEN research on the teaching of ethics education in military and war colleges in Europe, North America, Australia and Israel. The second comprises the inclusion of explicit ethical considerations in training and pre-deployment briefings within the armed forces of the relevant countries. These forms of impact have been achieved both through publications and also through direct dissemination of ideas. The publications have formed the explicit basis of discussion at specially-organised targeted conferences and other teaching events and are used widely in the curricula of military ethics courses in military academies internationally.

Underpinning research

Research in military ethics education at the University of Hull began in the early 2000s as an emerging research cluster in the then-Department of Politics and International Studies. A concerted impact programme developed from 2005 onwards, with the running of practitioner-oriented conferences and workshops on ethics education and the military. Two `Ethics Training and Development in the Military' workshops were held at the University of Hull in June 2006 and May 2007 (funded by grant income totalling £10,863 from the Arts and Humanities Research Council) and in conjunction with Hull's Institute of Applied Ethics, a research and impact initiative that itself includes several MEEN members. These workshops brought together academics, serving officers from armed forces around the world, and military and civilian teachers of military ethics in military academies and war colleges. Ten countries were represented (Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, UK, USA). Findings and research presented at the workshops were disseminated through the volume Ethics Education in the Military, which laid the foundation of and became an essential reference for discussion of military ethics education around the world. It was became the first in a series of books on military ethics produced by members of the UoA. The conferences and the volumes stimulated the formation of the `International Network for the Study of Ethics Education in the Military', and has become a key medium for the interaction of practitioners and academics in the field (see section 4, below).

The most recent stage of the MEEN project was conceived under the aegis of the Institute for Applied Ethics and led by Professor James Connelly. A three-year £82,163 research grant was awarded in 2008 by the Leverhulme Trust (Ref: F/00 181/O). Research on the Leverhulme project commenced in the autumn of 2008, with the key researchers at Hull being Connelly (Project Leader) and Don Carrick (Project administrator). Important contributions were made also by Hull-based academics in War and Security Studies, David Lonsdale, Christopher Martin and Caroline Kennedy. The project was inaugurated at the French Military Academy, St Cyr in June 2008, at an event attended by leading MEEN associates. The next phase comprised first, the establishment of the role and importance of ethical understanding on active service; secondly, research into the most appropriate ways of provided ethical training and education to military personnel. Hence, in April 2009, interviews were conducted with officers at Tern Hill barracks both pre and post-Afghanistan deployment. This was followed by teaching observation and interviews at the UK Defence Academy, Shrivenham in November 2008 and interviews and participant observation in training exercises `Exercise Broadsword', at Sandhurst Military Academy training camp. At this point the international dimension of the research project was developed further, with an extended research trip to the USA and Canada in early 2010. Activities included teaching observation, interviews with officers, interviews with cadets, interviews with teachers and trainers. Places visited included: Royal Military College of Canada; Army Ethics Education, University of Ottawa; US Military Academy, West Point; US Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs; US Naval Academy, Annapolis; National Defense University, Washington DC; US Naval War College. During this visit, members of MEEN were consulted and interviewed. Work in the UK continued with interviews with serving officers and troops at Catterick Barracks (March 2010) and with Royal Navy and Royal Marines chaplains in Exeter and Plymouth (May 2010). Teaching observations and curriculum discussions continued with visits to the Dutch Military Academy (NLDA), Breda, Netherlands in early 2011 and to the Krigskollen (Norwegian Defence Academy), Oslo, Norway.

Findings were, and continue to be, disseminated and discussed in papers presented to conferences and meetings with serving officers. Through this dialogue they entered the mainstream of ethical discussion in both the academy and the military.

The findings of the body of research can be summarised as follows:

  • Pre-deployment ethics briefings are now increasingly integral parts of pre-deployment preparation
  • Convergence on the view that ethical training in the armed forces should be an integrated part of training
  • Retreat from excessive reliance on individual character development and/or institutional ethos
  • Recognition of need for the development and teaching of moral reasoning (rather than moral philosophy or the `moral compass' view)

Appreciation of the value of case studies when developing abilities to resolve ethical dilemmas.

References to the research

• Don Carrick, Nigel de Lee, Paul Robinson, eds., Ethics Education in the Military (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008).


• James Connelly. Paul Robinson, Don Carrick, eds., Ethics Education for Irregular Warfare (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2009).


• James Connelly and Don Carrick, `Ethical and Legal Reasoning About War in a Time of Terror', in A. Hehir, N. Kuhrt, and A. Mumford (eds), War, Law and Ethics in a Time of Terror (London: Routledge, 2011), pp. 44-57.

• Caroline Kennedy and Andrew Mumford, `Is torture ever justified? Torture, rights and rules from Northern Ireland to Iraq', in A.F. Lang, jnr, and A.R. Beattie, eds., War, Torture and Terrorism: Rethinking the rules of international security (London and New York: Routledge, 2009), pp.54-68.


• Caroline Kennedy, `Tactics of Mistake: "Torture", security and the ethics of "liberal" wars after 9/11', in Annika Bergmann-Rosamond and Mark Phythian, eds., War, Ethics and Justice (Routledge, 2011), pp.9-21.

• David Lonsdale, `A View from Realism', in David Whetham, ed., Ethics, Law and Military Operations (Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, 2011), pp.29-43.

Details of the impact

The influence of the body of research extends into the military and military and defence academies of a number of countries throughout the world. These texts and other collections in Ashgate's Military and Defence Ethics series, edited by the MEEN research team, have become standard points of reference for discussion of military ethics education in military and defence academies around the world. The research of the project has also dovetailed with the work of the International Society for Military Ethics, originally US-based and now with a European branch inaugurated in conjunction with MEEN. This ensures dissemination wherever military ethics education is practised. The impact of this research is attested to by a Senior Lecturer from the Defence Studies Department of the Joint Services Command and Staff College, in the UK Defence College, Shrivenham: `Books in the Ethics Education series are in the Staff College library and are used extensively by students researching aspects of ethics and law education and training in the military. These aren't "normal" students, but those studying on the Advanced Command and Staff Course preparing for senior leadership positions and therefore with influence on the way the profession develops in the future...I have seen MEEN-related publications cited in Canada, Serbia, Brazil and even Colombia by professionals involved in military training and education'. This picture is endorsed by a Senior Lecturer from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, when he writes (see section 5 below): `I have taken some of the ethical insights highlighted by my membership of MEEN to countries such as the Congo, Sudan, Brunei, Saudi Arabia and many others'; moreover, `The MEEN edited volumes are widely consulted here by British Army officer students at the RMAS'.

Prior to the work of MEEN, ethics education in the military was typically seen as peripheral and generally entrusted (depending on location and service) to non-specialists, chaplains or their equivalents and regarded as essentially a matter of private morality. This has changed, partly as a result of changing forms, means, purposes and theatres of warfare, together with a different understanding of the roles and responsibilities of both officers and other military personnel. MEEN has been at the forefront of thinking through the implications of these changes. Hence the welcome given to the project both in supporting its research and also in the activity of disseminating and drawing on it, its personnel and its publications. The impact is acknowledge thus, by the Stockdale Professor of Professional Military Ethics of the US Naval War College (see section 5): `it is safe to say that no other group has as much knowledge of the ways ethics education in the military is approached and delivered globally as does the MEEN group...I'm not aware of any other individual or group who have made a systematic comparative study on an international level'. This impact is corroborated by a Senior Lecturer (UK Defence College, Shrivenham; see section 5): `MEEN did the very necessary job of asking the right questions at just the right time thus prompting much thought within different militaries and by those academics interested in studying them'.

A key part of the MEEN research has been the identification and spreading of good practice through the military academies of the world as well as having direct contact with military personnel on active service. This has been done continuously through personal contact, consultation, visits, conferences, email and other exchanges and publications. Impact can be grouped under four categories: ethics in training and education; ethics as an integral part of military reasoning; pre-deployment briefings; post-deployment briefings and interviews.

Indicatively: the importance of the International Network for the Study of Ethics Education in the Military and the UoA's significance in its creation and operations is attested to by the Stockdale Center for Ethics and Leadership of the US Naval Academy (see section 5) who writes: `in addition to improving pedagogical practice, the network became known as a community of scholarly inquiry devoted to exploring some of the most significant contemporary issues within the field of military ethics itself', evidence `suggest[s] that [its relevant outputs'] impact has been likewise international and widespread'. Moreover, `the collaboration fostered by this project resulted in establishing in Europe and the UK a new chapter of the International Society of Military Ethics...This simply would not have occurred without the support and active engagement of the original participants in MEEN'.

  1. Ethics in training and education. The curricula of a number of military academies include reference to the MEEN programme and its outputs. In particular, the value and use of case studies has been developed and refined; dependence on the notion that ethics is imbibed as part of character training and development without the need for explicit consideration of ethical reasoning has been successfully challenged; consideration of the integration of ethics into the curriculum and training for officers has affected the provision of training. An Ethics Education in the Military model education programme is being developed and will be used as a template for setting up courses of study in the emerging democracies and elsewhere. This includes dissemination of best practice, e.g. consideration of the use of the Krigskollen (Norway Military academy) model in constructing a military ethics teaching programme at the Romanian Military academy (ongoing). Practice and curriculum design in the established military academies who are active members of (or closely associated with) the network continue to be modified and developed in consequence of discussion and consultation with the members of the project (see section 5 below).
  2. Ethics as an integral component of military reasoning. Active consultations and engagements with the military have influenced directly the way in which serving officers think about ethical issues integral to military practice. This occurred through engagement with those directly employed to teaching military ethics or to train character development, and high ranking officers in the armed forces pushing the military ethics education agenda. Examples include Commodore Keble, Royal Navy, engagements with the French Army and Air Force, the US army, air force, and navy, the Canadian army. (See letters from Stockdale Center for Ethics and Leadership cited in section 5).
  3. Pre-deployment briefings. The preparation and training that officers received prior to military engagement in the past typically did not include explicit reference to ethics and ethical reasoning as such. The MEEN project has helped introduce an explicit ethics component in pre-deployment training, and has, by invitation, taken part in pre-deployment briefings. (See letter from the Commodore of the Royal Navy cited in section 5.)
  4. Post-deployment de-briefings and interviews. These took place both in the initial phases of the research, feeding in to understanding of the nature of the problems and challenges of ethics education in the military, and also in its later phases, at which point feedback on MEEN research was directly forthcoming from active military participants. The sessions were also, in themselves, regarded as valuable by many participants in enhancing their own ethical awareness. (See letter from the Senior Lecturer, Royal Military Academy, section 5).

Dissemination events

The MEEN project has disseminated lessons from its research directly to members of the group through conferences, workshops and other forums, and to the military more generally through briefings, interviews and discussions, and publication in Ashgate's Military and Defence Ethics series. Major dissemination events/locations include: UK Defence Academy, Shrivenham; French Air Force Academy, Salon-en-Provence; pre-deployment briefing, Royal Marines, Stonehouse Barracks, Exeter; International Society for Military Ethics (ISME Europe). We have established a military ethics email and web based discussion thread attracting contributions from officers and educators from around the world and run an active Twitter feed.

Sources to corroborate the impact

  • Letter Senior Lecturer, Department of Communication & Applied Behavioural Science, Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst
  • Letter from, Commodore, Royal Navy, Portsmouth
  • Letter from Stockdale Center for Ethics and Leadership, US Naval Academy, Annapolis
  • Letter from the Stockdale Professor of Professional Military Ethics, US Naval War College
  • Letter from Senior Lecturer, War Studies, Kings College, London and Joint Services Staff and Command College, Shrivenham
  • US Army War College Library Ethics Bibliography: