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Research areas

Investigating international security issues from all angles
Research and teaching at the Centre for International Security Studies covers six main areas: biosecurity, ecosecurity, gender security, geosecurity, infosecurity and regional security.


Disease-related events, biological weapons, unregulated population movements and changing demographic patterns pose constantly evolving challenges to security. Key amongst these is how national, regional and multilateral organisations and frameworks rapidly respond and adapt to biosecurity events.

We examine the following questions:

  • How should governments respond to existing and emerging disease threats such as COVID-19, avian influenza (H5N1), severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB)? Are existing mechanisms for responding to health-related emergencies fit for purpose?
  • How can Australia guard against invasive diseases and pests while also helping improve regional and global health security?
  • How can we ensure greater openness, accountability and transparency for reporting disease outbreaks?
  • What are the security implications of an ageing population in Australia and the Asia-Pacific, and how can we address these?
  • How can governments prepare for disasters and develop the capacity to respond to adverse events rapidly and comprehensively?

Our biosecurity research examines these challenges and produces policy-relevant outputs for Australia, the Asia-Pacific region and the global community.

Research Area Lead: Emeritus Professor Roy MacLeod (Interim)

Key academics: Honorary Professor Peter Curson


Ecosecurity focuses on the interrelationship between biosphere integrity and international security. Our research program is unique in that it cuts across and combines human, national and global levels of analysis to address the most pressing issues at the interface of ecology and security.  

We examine the following questions:

  • What impact do increasingly finite resources and their use have for international security?
  • What is the relationship between environmental disasters and international security?
  • How do climatic and other biospheric systems affect international security, peace and state building?
  • How do conflicts around environmental injustice impact international security?
  • Can we – should we – securitise the environment?
  • What are the most effective ecosecurity institutions?

Research Area Lead: Professor Susan Park

Key Academics: Associate Professor Jonathan Bogais, Associate Professor Charlotte Epstein, Honorary Associate Dr Peter Hayes, Dr Robert MacNeil, Professor David Schlosberg

Gender security

It is impossible to understand war and peace without paying attention to gender, as both a site and a category of analysis, and how gender intersects with other relations of power. Drawing on the knowledge of our unique group of experts, the Centre initiates research into critical issues of gender, peace and security.

Research questions under investigation include:

  • What role does gender play in war-fighting and peace-building, in militarisation and securitisation, in human rights?
  • What gendered assumptions and dynamics inform the global governance of security?
  • Are dispositions to violence gendered?
  • How do feminist and queer interpretations of security differ from traditional approaches and open up the field to new critical issue areas?

Gender and security research asks critical questions, challenges easy assumptions, and seeks alternative solutions to global violence.

Research Area Lead: Professor Laura Shepherd

Key academics: Dr Caitlin Biddolph, Dr Christopher Neff


While war is not the only threat to international security, armed conflict is a critical and enduring challenge. Our geosecurity research examines the driving factors of political violence, such as natural resource competition, environmental disasters, political and civil conflict, developmental inequalities and technology races. We question the impact of these factors as triggers for armed conflict and challenges to peace-building. 

Questions we seek to address include:

  • How does the complex interplay between trade and national security impact defence policy?
  • How does the shifting global balance of power affect regional alliances and international institutions? 
  • Are attempts by states to combat non-state threats such as terrorism, crime and piracy effective or do they incite new insecurities and more violence? 
  • Does humanitarian intervention and international aid help states at risk? Or does external influence impede the development of strong domestic institutions?

Our geosecurity research explores local, regional and global responses to issues emerging from the competition for natural resources, wealth and power.

Research Area Lead: Professor Sarah Phillips

Key academics: Dr Minglu Chen, Professor James Der Derian, Professor Justin Hastings, Honorary Associate Dr Peter Hayes, Emeritus Professor Roy MacLeod, Dr Robert Macneil, Professor Brendan O'Connor, Professor Susan Park, Dr Stuart Rollo, Professor Glenda Sluga, Dr Jayson Waters, Dr Thomas Wilkins


Digitised information, proliferating digital platforms, networked convergence and the timeless need to connect have changed our world. Technology-savvy global actors have harnessed this revolution to their advantage, while social media and a relentless news cycle transform local incidents into global events. Our hyperconnected world is precarious, made vulnerable by cyber attacks, negative synergies and quantum effects. 

Our infosecurity research tackles the big questions presented by an information revolution:

  • What are the implications of a global media that is no longer a mere conveyor or even catalyst of events, but a powerful agent in the struggle to understand and manage global security?
  • How do we develop an engaged media that produces expert knowledge, assesses ethical implications and increases public awareness of global dangers and opportunities? 
  • How do we protect technologies against disruption and attack, when malicious technologies and actors grow more advanced every day?
  • How can we help interdisciplinary cybersecurity researchers and professionals bridge gaps in knowledge and practice to develop cooperation and protective mechanisms? 
  • What are the consequences of quantum innovation for peace and security?

The Centre works in collaboration with the School of Computer Science, the Sydney Cybersecurity Network and the Sydney Nano Institute to analyse and interpret technical and social issues presented by the latest stages of the information revolution.

Research Area Lead: Associate Professor Aim Sinpeng

Key academics: Associate Professor Jonathan Bogais, Dr Olga Boichak, Professor Charlotte Epstein, Professor John Keane, Honorary Associate Professor Simon Reay-Atkinson, Dr Jayson Waters

Regional security

Regional security addresses a multitude of security issues at the local level. Trends and threats such as weapons of mass destruction, digital surveillance, the transborder flow of money, people and diseases, and complex media, criminal and terrorist networks, pose new challenges at the regional level. While these challenges exceed the capacities of individual states and international institutions, new regional institutions are emerging to provide security.

We examine the following questions:

  • What is the role of regional security as global alliances lose their legitimation and value?
  • How do shifts in global balances of power affect regional security?
  • Will the rise and fall of regional hegemons produce new sources of conflict or opportunities for security?
  • Are regional and/or international institutions better able to address contemporary security threats than states?

Research Area Lead: Professor Justin Hastings

Key academics: Associate Professor Jonathan Bogais, Dr James Loxton, Dr Robert Macneil, Professor Adam Morton, Dr Christopher Neff, Professor Brendan O'Connor, Professor Sarah Phillips, Associate Professor James Reilly, Dr Stuart Rollo, Associate Professor Aim Sinpeng, Associate Professor David Smith, Emeritus Professor Colin Wight, Dr Thomas Wilkins