My central research aim is to explore governance and capacity-building activities associated with the pursuit of security.
In general terms I understand security governance as encapsulating the rules and regulations established, alongside the resources deployed, in order to respond to presented security challenges. Making and implementing decisions in this area is a difficult process, particularly where challenges to security are interconnected and transnational and multiple actors – state and non-state – are involved in the development and implementation of responses to insecurity. Good governance rests on the sustainable application of a series of key principles focusing on the rule of law, transparency, effectiveness, accountability to give four examples. Capacity-building meanwhile encapsulates the ways and means through which perceived gaps between what should and can be done in terms of enhancing security are addressed. As a result of this research focus I am as intrigued about what some may describe as the small things, the procedural, even (incorrectly in my view!) the mundane, as I am with the grand strategies out of which most policies emerge. Leadership and team-building, co-operation mechanisms and knowledge production and exchange, are the kind of issues I examine.
My central research aim is underpinned by my belief that the desire for, and pursuit of, security shapes lives universally and on a continual basis, and as such associated security practices and their impacts should be better understood.
I draw predominantly upon insights from Security Studies literature in my work, although I also seek to use literature in other fields and think through how insights from it might relate to security governance and capacity-building. For example, I completed an MBA qualification in 2020 which helped increase my exposure to literature on topics such as leadership, decision-making, organisational development and learning.
Although security is an essentially contested concept, I regard Paul Williams’ overarching definition of the concept, located in his edited book Security Studies: An Introduction (2008, p. 5), as a useful starting point. Security, Williams notes, ‘…is most commonly associated with the alleviation of threats to cherished values; especially those which, if left unchecked, threaten the survival of a particular referent object in the near future’. In all my research I embrace what could be described as non-traditional approaches to security. More specifically, I understand the label ‘non-traditional’ to refer, in very basic and broad terms, to those approaches which embrace the conceptualisation of security as socially constructed. Here the central assumption made is that our understanding of what it means to be secure, what issues are regarded as security issues, indeed what is regarded as the reality of security as a whole is constructed inter-subjectively through processes of negotiation and contestation. This approach means that I generally embrace a qualitative research methodology, utilising methods such as discourse analysis and semi-structured interviews to examine how different actors think and act in relation to security.
To explore security governance and capacity-building I predominantly examine responses to armed violence and illicit activities associated with the maritime domain. My research interest in maritime security stems from recognition that the maritime domain has significant economic, political and social importance. The vast majority of global trade moves by sea, the global population living near the sea is growing, and the economic potential of the oceans is being increasingly recognised. There is a nexus between (in)security at sea and on land, and there is a relationship between security and sustainable development efforts that needs to be better understood. As such a better understanding of (in)security in the maritime domain is important to enhance human wellbeing. Despite this, I believe that many governments and indeed wider populations have a degree of ‘sea blindness’ – not focusing on or fully understanding the maritime domain – which can diminish efforts to enhance security in these spaces. I also believe that with a wide range of inter-connected security challenges evident, multiple legal frameworks operating, a plethora of security stakeholders to consider (public, private and third sectors), and emerging trends such as the growing role of new technology; the maritime domain is also a fascinating arena to delve in to some of the complexities of security governance and capacity-building today.
My maritime security research is currently focused on three areas:
Port and Coastal Security
My interest in ports stem from the important position they play as nodes in the global supply chain, hubs in the transport network and as border management locations. I conceptualise ports as geographic sites encapsulating a variety of vessels, facilities and associated practices, which, in security terms, could be both targets of criminality and violence and/or vulnerable spaces exploited by those with the intent to commit criminal and violent acts elsewhere. I understand coastal security in wider terms as encapsulating the whole coastline, including ports but also harbours and inlets, out to the limit of a state’s territorial waters (up to 12 nautical miles from the baseline). My interest in this space principally stems from its immediate connection to ports.
- I am examining governance structures that could help different actors come together to share insights and tackle challenges in the maritime domain. More specifically, I am interested in the way networked governance might work in the response to irregular migration by small boats across the English Channel.
- I also explore security threats and responses in relation to critical infrastructure situated in port and coastal areas such as off-shore energy infrastructures
The maritime security considerations of Small Island Developing States (SIDS)
Many SIDS are in significant geo-strategic positions and/or have substantial ocean resources which offer great potential for their development, but also requires deep consideration of their maritime security. For example, some SIDS have been exploited by those involved in transnational organised crime leading to them becoming transit nodes in the movement of illegal goods undermining economic growth and creating political and social instability. I am interested in how SIDS conceptualise their maritime security needs and the ways in which they seek to enhance their maritime security individually or with others.
- My current work here is focused on better understanding how SIDS offer leadership insights for other (small) states based on their maritime security activities.
Institutional Memory in Maritime Security
Learning from past practice – successes and failures – is a crucial step in ensuring more effective activity in the future. Yet in the midst of fast-moving events, high staff turnover and evermore competitive demands on resources; opportunities to explore what has been done and reflect on its significance can be few in number and irregular in frequency.
- I am looking at the ways in which institutional memory is thought about in the maritime security context and what role it currently plays – and should play – in how we think about capacity-building activity.
Beyond my research on security governance and capacity-building, I have a deep interest in education policy and practice. I am a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, I served as the Director of Postgraduate Taught Programmes in my research centre for four years (2015-19), I was the first Director of Coventry University’s MA in Maritime Security and I have designed and delivered programmes for a range of non-HE audiences including the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (as was). I was also a Governor at a Coventry primary school. I am particularly interested in the design and implementation of courses that blend face-to-face and online components. As part of my recent MBA qualification, I worked in a small team to undertake a consultancy project to explore the factors necessary for the successful adoption of blended learning within Coventry University. I am also a qualified PRINCE2 practitioner.
Outside of my academic role, my interest in governance continues, as I enjoy reading and exploring topics associated with the governance of the United Kingdom including constitutional and political reform and policy implementation.
In terms of my previous research you can read my PhD thesis on the securitisation of UK maritime infrastructure in the context of responses to international terrorism here.
You can learn more about my publications, research funding and presentations here.