Nuclear weapons

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The importance of understanding the role of nuclear weapons in international security cannot be understated – and to achieve this, data is key

Analysts and strategic planners can benefit from more insight on the role complexity plays in international nuclear policy, such as arms control and disarmament measures. 

With this in mind, a Data Spark team from Imperial College Business School, together with the International Security Programme at Chatham House, used data analysis, including advanced analytical techniques such as machine learning clustering, network analytics and interactive visualisations data analysis, to develop a model that aims to assist decision-makers and experts  in the nuclear policy field.

The project fed into Chatham House’s ongoing work, "Nuclear Weapons: Innovative Approaches for the Complex International Security Environment", funded by the MacArthur Foundation. 

During the six-week project, the team used complexity theory to develop an information flow model, representing the global stage and the role that nuclear weapons play within it. Incorporating advanced data science techniques, the model looks at the positions of countries in regards to non-proliferation, deterrence, disarmament and arms control. 

Data Spark is committed to taking on new collaborative initiatives to provide fresh insights for industry leaders

The model incorporates four-dimensional data including the world power index, alliances and agreements, conflicts and war data, as well as the geographic information, to construct a multilayer node-link network and establish distance metrics to represent relationships between countries.

Using interactive visualisation tools, clusters of countries appear together and structural changes can be observed through counter-factual scenarios, such as what happens if there is a change in alliance structures or treaty membership. The model is designed to help decision makers better understand the impact of both historical changes and hypothetical future situations. 

With guidance from Chatham House and an academic mentor, the project tackles a big picture issue in a short time period. 

“It was a great presentation and congratulations to all [the Data Spark team]. They did a superb job in getting the information across and it represents fantastic amount of work and thought. We appreciate the creativity, thoroughness and willingness to adapt and listen,” said Research Director for International Security at Chatham House, Patricia Lewis.

Data Spark is committed to taking on new collaborative initiatives to provide fresh insights for industry leaders, leveraging the best academics and field experts. Through this project, students deepened their understanding of analytics by applying academic knowledge in an industry setting while the partner institution also benefited from the students’ innovative ideas.

The team will continue to work on the problem with Chatham House over the next academic year, with the institute set to sponsor an MSc scholarship from the MSc Business Analytics cohort, as well as another Data Spark project, which aims to continue this work. 

Written by: Ashley Cai (MSc Business Analytics 2020/21) & Evie Burrows-Taylor (Web Content Editor)

Data Spark team members: Ashley Cai, Sherry Aggarwal, Jubal Kuessner, Yassine Marrakchi, Benjamin Schneider (MSc Business Analytics 2020/21)

Academic Mentors: Aras Selvi

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About Evie Burrows-Taylor

Evie is Web Content Editor for the Institutional Marketing & Communications team. She is responsible for developing the School's faculty and research communications, working to amplify the School's intellectual leadership to a wide variety of international audiences. She also works on IB Knowledge and the School's news and events coverage.