Thursday, December 30, 2010

Happy Hogmanay!

It's New Year's Eve - and over 12 months since my last post. That is seriously slack. Sorry folks, but I promise to try harder in the coming year.

Shortly before Christmas the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) in Canberra published a modest paper they had commissioned me to write: "Risks and rewards: Defence R&D in Australia". If you haven't seen it you can download it here:

http://www.aspi.org.au/publications/publication_details.aspx?ContentID=276&pubtype=-1

My paper set out to describe the current defence R&D environment in Australia and how this relates to the ADF's capital equipment acquisition plans, and highlight what seem to me to be some incongruities.

Shortly after, on 27 December (it must have been a very slow news day in the national capital!), The Canberra Times published a news story by defence reporter David Ellery under the headline "Skimpy research on Defence gear". It was very flattering to be described as a "leading academic" and the author of the so-called "Ferguson report", but I should point out David Ellery didn't try to contact me in connection with the story and if you're interested in the subject I'd urge you to read my paper rather than accept his interpretation at face value.

It's an interesting experience being on the other side of the editorial transaction, so to speak. The Canberra Times story highlights the difficulties faced by the media in trying to understand and then interpret against a tight deadline often-complex situations, technologies and arguments for a non-specialist readership. David Ellery does a good job, as do his peers in the other mainstream newspapers, but the subtleties of the defence market mean that reporters and readers alike can sometimes become confused (and God knows I'm not immune to this....); without trying to draw too long a bow, this looks like a good argument for more openness between Defence and the media so that the media have a better general understanding of what's going on and therefore are better able to place new information and breaking stories more accurately into context. That would do more for Defence's reputation in the long term than the "small target" media strategy adopted by the current government and most of its predecessors.

Meanwhile, tonight is what we Scots call Hogmanay. This is the traditional Scottish mid-winter and new year celebration (Christmas Day wasn't even a public holiday in Scotland in my childhood!).

Once the revelries are over I'll be back on deck.

Wishing you all a very happy new year and the very best for 2011