Skip to main content

School of Social and Political Science: About


Dominic Johnson awarded grant on "Operational Adaptation"

A grant from the U.S. Office of Naval Research Global enables a ground-breaking conference in Edinburgh, 22-24 June 2010

The objective of the "Operational Adaptation" conference is to explore the role of adaptation, counter-adaptation and adaptability in dealing with novel threats to international security in the 21st century.

Compared to 20th century conflicts between clear-cut nation states, international security today is dominated by unpredictable and rapidly changing threats from non-state actors — such as terrorists, insurgents, transnational criminal networks, ethnic violence, WMD proliferation, as well as major “natural” threats such as pandemic diseases and climate change.

The conference will bring academics and practitioners from the U.S. and Europe together, to share information on how scientific approaches to understanding and achieving effective adaptation can be exploited in counter-insurgency, counter-terrorism, homeland security, and grand strategy. Dominic Johnson's research in biology and evolution offers a framework for understanding the processes of adaptation and counter-adaptation.

The particular focus of this conference will be security threats facing the U.K. and U.S. today, as well as those facing NATO operational forces in, for example, Afghanistan and Iraq. The problem of adaptive responses applies across a striking range of applications: from strategic (e.g. policies and deployments that are resilient), to technical (designing machines and systems that have in- built adaptability), to operational (enacting strategies that remain flexible when deployed), to human behavior (tactics, techniques and procedures that can adapt over short periods of time). 

What would be helpful in meeting the problem of adaptation in 21st century international security is a unifying framework for understanding and exploiting the phenomenon of adaptation and counter- adaptation, and this conference is a first step in laying out the scope, applications, and utility of different approaches.

white image