Reward Research for Being Useful — Not Just Flashy

October 4, 2022


“Too many countries have built a research pipeline that venerates prizes and papers above all else. People and their problems get left out as scientists chase novelty and the prestige it brings. For many years, I was complicit. I oversaw basic research programmes across the US Department of Defense, determined to make sure that the United States led in science. Eventually, I realized it was equally important that research programmes lead towards tangible benefits: better national security, regional floodplain management, or a product or practice that results in better, safer lives.

Too often, in my experience, the more applied a proposal is, the less likely it is to be funded. Once a researcher finishes a project and publishes the paper, they simply go on to the next proposal — the next big, new idea, constantly chasing novelty, the bleeding edge of science. What a waste.”

Reconfigurations and Revolutions

September 29, 2022

The Andrew W. Marshall Foundation


Presentations of the Inaugural Andrew W. Marshall Paper Prizes

on Future Reconfigurations in Asia 2045 and New Revolutions in Military Affairs

Reconfigurations: How might technology companies change the way nation states interact with each other and achieve their strategic objectives? How might they impact the configuration of the balance of power in Asia?

Revolutions: What are the prospects for artificial intelligence (AI) initiating a new revolution in military affairs? What are the potential frameworks for understanding a future AI RMA?

This two-part webinar will feature a discussion with Treston Wheat, winner of the paper prize on Future Reconfigurations in Asia 2045, and a discussion with Owen J. Daniels, winner of the paper prize on New Revolutions in Military Affairs. A Q&A session will follow.

Submit questions during the event to

This virtual event is on the record and open to the media.


Jaymie Durnan, AWMF Co-founder and Chairman

“A State in Disguise of a Merchant”: Balance of Power and Multinational Corporations in the Reconfiguration of Asia
Treston Wheat, Andrew May

The “AI RMA”: The Revolution Has Not Arrived (Yet)
Owen J. Daniels, Bob Angevine

Question & Answer Session
Treston Wheat, Owen J. Daniels

Closing Remarks
Jaymie Durnan

Immaterial Competition: Rethinking the Roles of Economics and Technology in the US-China Rivalry

May 19, 2022

The Hudson Institute

Executive Summary

The US-China rivalry is likely to be the fulcrum around which international affairs are structured in the twenty-first century, akin to the Cold War from 1947 to 1991. This rivalry, like its predecessor, emerges from divergent geopolitical interests and imperatives. While the Chinese Communist Party’s aims are many, various, and subject to change, they include its continued control of the Chinese State; economic and technological modernization and leadership; internal order; complete union with Taiwan on Beijing’s terms; certain territorial concessions from its neighbors; and the disestablishment of security arrangements across the Indo-Pacific that it views as threatening and trammeling. The latter three are in direct conflict with US interests and imperatives in the Indo-Pacific: prohibiting China’s unilateral modification of the status quo vis-à-vis Taiwan; preserving the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its allies and partners; and maintaining its military partnerships and presence in the region. These antithetical interests animate a larger struggle for hegemony in the Indo-Pacific and serve as the terms on which this contest will be decided.

Explanations of the rivalry as an ideological contest or a competition born from competing economic interests are less compelling by comparison. The United States and China are motivated to an extent by ideological imperatives, but these do not appear to propel or serve as the central stakes for the rivalry as much as they affect each’s disposition toward the other. Long-standing trade, investment, and commercial disputes and competition, meanwhile, are not so substantial that they motivate the rivalry. While these issues are impactful to niche communities and conspicuous to national policymakers, they are not particularly consequential for national prosperity. The logic of competition, trade, and globalization, in fact, suggests that the US-China commercial relationship is mutually beneficial, notwithstanding each’s concerns with the other’s economic statecraft and market-leading firms.

In their geopolitical rivalry, there are a few key forces or contests of interest: path dependence, regime continuity, prudent strategy, third-party alignments, and the balance of military forces in the Indo-Pacific. Each affects the United States’ and China’s ability to achieve their ends and shapes their rivalry. Economic and technological statecraft, by contrast, is largely peripheral to these ends as it does not effectively advance political objectives relevant to territory, borders, security architectures, and national defense. That is not to suggest that economic and technological factors are irrelevant, however; they shape, constrain, and advantage the United States and China across their rivalry’s key forces and contests of interests.

Particularly noteworthy are economic and technological factors’ impact on the military balance. Tradition and intuition hold that nations with bigger and more advanced economies are better postured to resource, procure, and manufacture military equipment and can therefore generate greater military power. In the case of the US-China military competition, however, total military power is less relevant than the specific military balance in the Indo-Pacific, in which the distribution and strength of forces in the theater, the capability and reliability of key materiel inputs of outsized importance, and the operational concepts and tactics with which each’s military fights are more important. Total military power—and in particular greater military equipment—matters on the margin, of course, if only because the party with the greater mass and quality of materiel will be able to retain more forces in the Indo-Pacific, maintain more of these key materiel inputs, and develop novel operational concepts and tactics tailored to their superior materiel.

Neither the United States’ nor China’s total economic production, public balance sheet, high-technology commercial firms, and scientific production are likely to provide a decisive or lasting advantage on this count. Each country’s economy can support substantially greater military spending, limiting the extent to which one can derive an advantage from the other’s more binding constraints. The capacity and maturity of each country’s defense industrial base is of greater relevance, but these are flexible quotients that investment can improve. This elasticity of defense production suggests that microeconomic endowments may be binding in the short run but variable in the longer run, meaning that policy choices—rather than existing economic endowments—constrain military production. Technological endowments, informing each country’s capacity for broad innovation, are of similarly bounded importance because military technology is somewhat narrow and other factors, such as military procurement processes and inflexibility in concepts of operation, limit the extent to which superior technology translates into military advantage.

The fundamental result of this argument is that the concerns that propel the emerging US-China economic and technological competition are ultimately not all that relevant to the matters at the core to their rivalry and to the instruments of national power most relevant to these issues. The United States should therefore be wary of policies ostensibly demanded by economic and technological competition and may find its interests better served by limiting its rivalry with China to military competition driven by its core geopolitical interests.”

Ending Innovation Tourism

April 19, 2022

GovCon Different Podcast

“Dr. Melissa Flagg calls for an end to innovation tourism in order to regain thought leadership and systematically adopt new innovations as national security becomes fixated on technical superiority.”

Science Policy from the Ground Up

Fall 2021

Issues in Science and Technology

“It’s time to modernize the federal role in the nation’s increasingly decentralized R&D ecosystem and unleash innovation at the local level.”

Plant and Animal Diversity Is Declining, But What About Microbial Diversity?

May 11, 2021

RealClear Science

“With alarms sounding about the declining diversity and populations of plants and animals, we post a related concern with equally profound implications: is the variety of microbial life, including viruses, changing too, and if so, in which direction and how fast? As plant and animal numbers shrink, some specialized microbes associated with them might vanish, too. But is there a net overall reduction occurring? If so, is it good or bad news or irrelevant for our species?”

Time to Measure the Abundance of Ocean Life

March 2021

RealClear Science

“As humanity enters what the United Nations has designated the Ocean Decade, we do not know the total amount of marine life, the biomass, in the oceans.  Many experts firmly believe the abundance of marine life is diminishing. However, we have time series for only a few taxa, and these make up a small fraction of the total amount of life. We have only crude, uncertain estimates of biomass by trophic level.”

Biological Information for the New Blue Economy and the Emerging Role of eDNA


The Rockefeller University

“From microbes to mammals, near shore to mid-ocean, and seafloor to seabirds, humans want and need to know about ocean life. Obvious benefits have derived from more accurate means of locating high-value wild fish for food or for protection in the interests of recreation and conservation. Fishers and dive shop operators may use the same information for opposite purposes. Surveyors have traditionally monitored sea life by observing seafood markets and trawl nets, by diving with goggles and clipboards, and more recently by deploying sonars and cameras, and sieving bits of extracellular DNA shed in seawater.”

A New Institutional Approach to Research Security in the United States

January 2021

Center for Security and Emerging Technology, Georgetown University

“U.S. research security requires trust and collaboration between those conducting R&D and the federal government. Most R&D takes place in the private sector, outside of government authority and control, and researchers are wary of federal government or law enforcement involvement in their work. Despite these challenges, as adversaries work to extract science, technology, data and know-how from the United States, the U.S. government is pursuing an ambitious research security initiative. In order to secure the 78 percent of U.S. R&D funded outside the government, authors Melissa Flagg and Zachary Arnold propose a new, public-private research security clearinghouse, with leadership from academia, business, philanthropy, and government and a presence in the most active R&D hubs across the United States.”