Think Tank (6/2022)
Dr Justin Hastings
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Seminar on Adopting a Network Analysis in Nuclear Proliferation Research
07 Nov 2022

The Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies hosted a seminar on network analysis in nuclear proliferation research at the RSIS Lecture Theatre on 7 November 2022. The seminar was delivered by Dr Justin Hastings, Professor of International Relations and Comparative Politics at the University of Sydney.

Dr Hastings explained how a network analysis approach to trade and research relevant to the spread of nuclear materials, technology, and knowledge could be a clear indication of countries’ nuclear-weapon capabilities. He suggested ways where such an approach could improve nuclear non-proliferation, safeguards, and security efforts. He then used network analysis to look at the development of North Korea’s nuclear research community in the context of its science and technology policy, and how this reflected the progress in North Korea’s nuclear weapon programme.

Using a dataset of North Korean domestic scientific journal articles, Dr Hastings assessed the structure of the North Korea’s nuclear research communities from the beginning of the country’s nuclear weapon programme until its capability “completion” in 2018. The networks showed an increasing internal density of research collaborations, suggesting that North Korea was able to improve knowledge transfer, and consolidate its nuclear research community over time. Furthermore, the interconnectivity between different areas of nuclear-related research had increased over time, particularly in the run-up to milestones in North Korea’s nuclear development.

Dr Hastings concluded that North Korea’s authoritarian rule, with the implied inefficiencies in research and development, has not deterred its ability to successfully to develop a nuclear capability and indigenise nuclear-related scientific knowledge. North Korea was eventually able to bring together different research clusters to allow information-sharing and tacit knowledge transfer across research teams and different sub-fields of nuclear science, with tacit implications on the country’s capability to develop nuclear weapons.

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