Broeders wants to establish a centre of excellence for Emerging Technology and Security

He announced this news in a tweet earlier this month: ‘Delighted to announce that I’ve been appointed Full Professor of Global Security and Technology’. So let’s get more closely acquainted with Dennis Broeders (46), who explains why the Institute of Security and Global Affairs (ISGA) is ideal for him, and what his ambitions are for the chair.

Dennis Broeders in front of Campus Den Haag. Photo: Martijn Beekman

From his home office in The Hague, also functioning as a home gym and guest room, Broeders accepts our congratulations online. He is delighted with the appointment, which came into effect retrospectively on 1 January 2021. Previously, Broeders had been associated with ISGA for a number of years, running The Hague Program for Cyber Norms. ‘I was working at the interface between science and the world of policy at the WRR (Scientific Council for Government Policy) when Leiden came calling. Bibi van den Berg (Professor of Cybersecurity Governance) asked me if I was interested in stepping in to lead The Hague Program for Cyber Norms. This role has worked out so well that I’m glad that I’ve now made the full transition to the new chair.’

Good grounding

Broeders says he feels right at home at ISGA. ‘It suits me perfectly. We have a young group that’s growing very fast and where there’s a ‘can do’ mentality, which I love. This is one of the few places in the Dutch academic world where I could really fit, in and where I immediately thought: I actually want to stay here. I’ve always worked at the interface between science and policy, and these go hand in hand here, as you also interact with the world of policy. Although we oversee our own academic role well, we also look at what’s happening around us. You get to talk to policymakers and ministers, and examine where we can enhance one other, which, in my opinion, is an ideal combination.’

‘Although technology is omnipresent, for example in Cyber Security Governance, Intelligence and Security, Diplomacy and Global Affairs research groups, there was still no chair using emerging technologies as a starting point. That’s why I examine how influential these technologies are in the playing field we operate in, with my particular focus on international security.’

Technology as a starting point

The Global Security and Technology chair unites numerous ISGA’s disciplines. ‘Although technology is omnipresent, for example in Cyber Security Governance, Intelligence and Security, Diplomacy and Global Affairs research groups, there was still no chair using emerging technologies as a starting point. That’s why I examine how influential these technologies are in the playing field we operate in, with my particular focus on international security. How do these technologies impact on international power relations and geopolitical competition? Take cyber operations, 5G, quantum computing or Artificial Intelligence, for example. Everyone wants to be first and how should we approach this? This leads to tensions, both civil and military. In this field, you not only study what’s going on, but you also have the freedom to make suggestions and contribute ideas. After all, particularly when it comes to security, there are always two sides to an issue; states want to take advantage of it, militarily or otherwise, but if every country does this at the same time, things won’t be any more secure. So you often need agreements and rules.’

No brake

Broeders is fascinated by the technological world. ‘It brings us so much prosperity, and is so woven into our system, but it can also flatten everything, if there’s a hack or glitch, for example. How we manage our privacy and our data is so vulnerable. Cybercrime is also very close to home; many of my colleagues – and I myself – are waiting for answers from research funding agency NWO (Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research), which has been shut down by a ransomware attack. By its very nature, there is hardly any restriction on technology; while we aren’t exactly sure what effect various developments will have, we do know that we’re all being impacted by them now.’

”There are relatively few centres in Europe looking into this. American talking heads are easy to find, but I want us to be a powerful centre in this respect.’

Becoming a centre of excellence

Broeders’ aim is to create a group within ISGA around this very theme, and to strengthen mutial ties and set up cross-links. In order to become a leading centre in Europe in the field of Emerging Technology and Security. To be able to participate in international debate and to ensure that ‘Leiden’ is well represented. ‘There are relatively few centres in Europe looking into this. American talking heads are easy to find, but I want us to be a powerful centre in this respect.’ Broeders would also like to have more in-depth dialogue with the student body. ‘Students should be aware that this is their future. They don’t all have to work in this field, but they will have to work with it. What’s different is that while we’ve watched all these technologies emerge, for them this is just the way the world is, with digitisation as their point of departure. That’s why I want to go into more detail about it in lectures. What happens technically when you send an email. If you know how the transmission of information operates, you also start asking other questions and look at the vulnerability. I find these questions fascinating. And I have many others, so there’s plenty of work to be done,’ Broeders concludes.

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