Director’s Corner: Next Generation Nuclear Network Launch

While it has been a driving mission of PONI’s to encourage younger involvement in the field since its founding 14 years ago, we realize we have an opportunity and an obligation to rethink how we’ve done that.

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More so than at any time in decades, we need fresh thinking and perspectives on the entire range of issues affecting nuclear weapons policy. The fragile political consensus that has characterized our policy for decades could be at risk, and we need to ensure that the next generation’s leaders are fully prepared to deal with the challenges they face – be it addressing the nuclear ban treaty or preventing a North Korean nuclear attack. While it has been a driving mission of PONI’s to encourage younger involvement in the field since its founding 14 years ago, we realize we have an opportunity and an obligation to rethink how we’ve done that.

In partnership with the iDeas Lab at CSIS, we are very excited to launch our new Next Generation Nuclear Network – a website designed to improve PONI’s online presence. As part of a broader communications strategy, we believe this site will help us reach new audiences, share diverse voices, and provide an avenue for 21st-century scholarship. It serves as a key pillar for PONI’s four objectives for the coming year:

  • Build a Big Tent that welcomes diverse perspectives, communities, and viewpoints.
  • Engage the Full Next Generation Pipeline to encourage new voices to enter the nuclear community, and retain them as they advance.
  • Promote 21st Century Research for 21st Century Scholars by using innovative collaborations and multimedia deliverables.
  • Demand and Provide Excellence to ensure exceptional quality in programs and participants.

Build a Big Tent

Over the past year, we partnered with Ploughshares Fund to co-host a debate series on several key nuclear issues facing the Trump administration. For these events, we brought together leaders from opposing sides and asked them to engage in substantive and respectful debate – two characteristics often lacking in today’s political environment. It was an overwhelming success. The events have garnered nearly 10,000 views on YouTube. Most importantly, this series showed us that there is a strong appetite for bringing together divergent viewpoints in a single venue. We hope to continue these types of engagements over the coming year, particularly on our new website. We will continue to convene and promote diverse view points and new voices.

Engage the Full Next Generation Pipeline

The core tenet of PONI’s mission has always been to engage the next generation and that will never change. Over the past year, however, we have built additional opportunities, particularly through the formalizing of our Mid-Career Cadre. In September, we traveled with a group of about 25 US and UK emerging leaders to the West Coast, where we saw the inside of a missile silo at Vandenberg Air Force Base, met with a number of experts at the Naval Postgraduate School and Middlebury Institute at Monterey, and toured the Nevada Nuclear Site – truly one-of-a-kind opportunities. As PONI enters its teenage years, its early participants have started to make a name for themselves, which makes us proud and hopeful that we can continue to keep them involved in our work. They can now serve as mentors, while we can also provide them with valuable opportunities to continue growing in the field.

We also hope that our new website will provide a platform that helps cultivate new thinking in the field, while providing our network – young, mid-career, and senior leaders alike – a place where they can publish their thoughts on the most relevant topics in the field. The site will also aggregate a listing of other development opportunities in the field, provide resources for in-depth learning on issues across the nuclear field, and list some of the major conferences and events.

Promote 21st Century Research for 21st Century Scholars

In recognition of a changing landscape for the platforms used to share research, we believe that PONI should be adapting as well. Over the past two years, we have made it an important goal to re-think the products we are asking our researchers to produce, and have attempted to incorporate a much more collaborative, multi-disciplinary approach. Two recent projects, both of which will also have significant online components, demonstrate PONI’s commitment to this end.

The first, an online war game examining escalation dynamics in the Baltic region, took about two years to build and represents a collaborative effort between consecutive Nuclear Scholars classes, the PONI staff, and the iDeas Lab web development team at CSIS. Several senior experts reviewed content for the game, and writers came from the military, policy, and scientific fields. The game debuted at PONI’s Fall Conference at Global Strike Command, where it received overwhelmingly positive feedback. We will now be sharing the game with several professors and university programs around the country.

The second project will study the risks posed by emerging technologies to strategic situational awareness thanks to a Carnegie Corporation grant. For the first time, PONI will formally integrate its programming into an outside research project, providing our network the chance to engage with the substance of a PONI project. Throughout the two-year project, researchers will produce short-form essays and scenarios that will be shared on a new website, which will also feature interactive content.

Both of these programs will be promoted heavily on our new website as well.

Demand and Provide Excellence

Lastly, through all of its programming PONI will focus on quality control, preparation, and high standards. Presenters at PONI conferences now go through a rigorous review process with the PONI team and we will expect the same of the analysis essays that we publish on the site. We want to ensure that those who go through the PONI program, in any form, are held to the highest standards.


We hope that you enjoy this new site and welcome your feedback on any ideas, suggestions, or comments you might have as we work together to build the Next Generation Nuclear Network.

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