Welcome Frank Gavin11 min read

The H-Diplo/ISSF Editors are delighted to welcome Francis J. Gavin, Frank Stanton Chair in Nuclear Security Policy Studies at MIT, as managing editor of International Security Studies Forum (ISSF). Members of the larger H-Diplo community will, of course, be familiar with Frank and his distinguished work, as well as his ability to bridge the disciplines of diplomatic history and international relations. As is evident in his introductory note below, Frank has many ideas for both entrenching and expanding ISSF in the years ahead. We offer him a warm welcome.We also would like to thank James McAllister of Williams College for his two years as managing editor, during which time he worked tirelessly for ISSF. He commissioned and contributed to a large number of roundtables and reviews, including several forums that were constructed around original and thought-provoking essays by top scholars in the field. It has been a great pleasure to work with James and, while we regret his departure, we all look forward to his future participation in ISSF publications and governance.

H-Diplo/ISSF emerged in 2010 after a series of discussions between scholars of diplomacy and international relations as to how best to bring the two disciplines into a mutual dialogue that would enhance scholarship on a range of topics. Robert Jervis conceived and organized ISSF, and remains its guiding architect, along with Sean Lynn-Jones, T.V. Paul, and William C. Wohlforth.

We hope to enhance the range and reach of H-Diplo, while also maintaining our traditional aims and focus that have guided H-Diplo since its founding in 1993. Our in-house H-Diplo publications continue to expand as well, thanks, of course, to Tom Maddux and George Fujii.

With best regards,

Diane Labrosse, H-Diplo managing editor


From: Frank Gavin, MIT

I am writing to introduce myself as the new managing editor of the International Security Studies Forum (ISSF). It will be difficult if not impossible to fill the impressive shoes of James McAllister, who steps down to chair the Williams College Department of Political Science.  It is an honor to be working with Robert Jervis, the founder and intellectual force behind ISSF. Anyone who has ever worked with Tom Maddux and Diane Labrosse recognizes they are two of the best editors out there.  George Fujii is the tech whiz that makes ISSF thrive, and Seth Offenbach is another key member of the team. It is remarkable what this lean and dedicated group has accomplished since ISSF was established in 2010.

It is my view that ISSF is a unique and extraordinary resource and platform for ideas and debate on crucial issues of international security.  As a historian based in a political science department who spent thirteen years in a policy school, ISSF is as close to an intellectual “home” as I know.  Many academic entities talk a good game about supporting interdisciplinary, policy relevant work, but ISSF is one of the few that truly delivers.  I am sure many of us have a story about a book, article, debate, or scholar from another discipline, tradition, or generation that ISSF has introduced us to, to our benefit.  I never ceased to be amazed by the willingness of leading junior and senior scholars to contribute their ideas, insight, and experience to this forum.

In the next few years, ISSF faces both challenges and opportunities.  The primary challenge involves funding.  The MacArthur Foundation has been very supportive, but as many of you know, has recently decided to shift its focus away from international security.  We have what might be thought of as bridge financing, but will need to identify alternative sources of funding.

In the next few years, ISSF has the opportunity is to build upon its impressive success.  The foreign policy/national/international security landscape is crowded with innovative and exciting outlets.  Few, however, possess either the volume or quality of ISSF’s first-rate content, or tap into such a large, vibrant community of interdisciplinary scholars working on questions of fundamental importance.  Many in the ISSF community have demonstrated impressive fundraising and program-building skills and we will be calling upon you for advice, support, and ideas on how to continue and build upon ISSF’s excellence.  As we start this process, I see four areas of that are especially promising areas to build:


ISSF is perhaps best known for its extraordinary roundtables on recently published work.  Bob, James, Tom, and Diane have demonstrated an almost preternatural sense for creating the best combinations of thoughtful, lively reviews, mixing senior and junior scholars from across disciplines and methods.  The roundtables are especially valuable in generating discussion and debate for new scholars.  More than one assistant professor has told me that having an ISSF book roundtable was crucial to their recognition, even more important that being reviewed in high impact outlets like the American Political Science Review or Foreign Affairs.  ISSF takes this responsibility very seriously, and welcomes any and all suggestions for how to improve the process, as well as recommendations for new work and reviewers.

ISSF has also been a forum for original work, commentary, and broader debates, and this is an area where I’d love to see us grow.  Marc Trachtenberg’s original work on audience costs is a great example.  I had the good fortune to participate in a terrific roundtable focused on methods in nuclear studies that had broad impact.  It strikes me that there is an opportunity for far more of this kind of work. This, of course, is not to take anything from our leading international security journals, many of which are ISSF partners.  I am sure they would agree that the volume of worthwhile scholarship in international security is overwhelming.  Furthermore, publishing with ISSF offers unique advantages: unlimited length, timely publication, free access, wide distribution, and a light (though highly effective) editorial hand.  For senior scholars, i.e. those who don’t have to worry about tenure files, ISSF is an ideal choice.  In time, perhaps ISSF can even build the capacity to publish refereed work that can offers similar benefits to junior scholars.

There is also a place for the shorter, less dense essay, commentary, debate, interview, or reflection.  We live in a world of constant flux, and who better to comment on the critical questions of world politics and global affairs than our own international security scholars? Given the range and depth of talent in the ISSF community, one can easily imagine regularly scheduled columns and discussions of great interest to the wider world.


I am the last person to tout the virtues of social media – my friends and loved ones do not allow me access to twitter, recognizing I can only cause problems with 140 characters or less. The fact is, however, we live at a time where new digital platforms can generate attention and influence for innovative scholarly work.  Impressive sites like The Monkey Cage, War on the Rocks, and The Duck of Minerva have joined more established venues like Foreign Policy to create a vibrant intellectual atmosphere.  ISSF will be looking for ways to leverage both different digital platforms and perhaps new partnerships to make sure the contributions of ISSF reach even wider (and influential) audiences.  We especially welcome the input and suggestions of our more tech/digital media savvy members.

We may also explore more traditional outlets. It is easy to imagine many of our debates and discussions being published as both physical and virtual readers/edited volumes.  This would be especially useful for classroom purposes, as the roundtables in particular have proven very useful as teaching tools.  A model that published short monographs, policy essays, and working papers – similar to the old Princeton Studies in International Finance papers, the Adelphi Papers series, or the Social Science Research Network papers – may make sense. We also want to explore ways to make it easier for people to use ISSF content for teaching and research, and better track when and how it is used and cited.  In short, we want to do more to make your valuable contributions “count.”


More than anything, ISSF reflects a community of scholars who share similar interests, perspectives, and values, a grouping that often transcends traditional disciplinary, methodological, and generational divides.  It is no secret that this self-identified community of international security scholars does not reflect the way academic disciplines are structured in the world of higher education.  Diplomatic and military historians often face great challenges, if not hostility, in in the field of academic history and within traditional history departments, and academic positions are increasingly scarce.  Many of our best historians of international security are fortunate to work in schools of public policy, political science departments, or wonderful organizations like the Office of the Historian at the U.S. Department of State.  My sense is that the situation for international security scholars within political science is better but not without concerns for the future.  One does not have to go as far as my friend Steve Van Evera and create a new discipline that combines international relations, military and diplomatic history, and other interested parties (though I would, and believe it would look a lot like ISSF) to recognize we are a community that faces challenges and should look out for each other.  ISSF will explore ways to nurture this community, and to strengthen the relationships that make it so vibrant.  Sometimes it might be features on and interviews with different members of ISSF.  Other times, it will be events in person – perhaps the ISSF happy hour at the annual Society of Historians of American Foreign Relations, American Political Science Association, and International Studies Association meetings.

It may also make sense to expand this community.

The international security is, by definition, international, and we want to do more to include perspectives from outside the United States. Other disciplines might be engaged.  National and international security law, for example, is an impressive, growing field; the blog, Lawfare, engages issues of great interest to this list and has increasing influence in policy debates.  Given the deep cultural, economic, scientific and technical aspects of many international security issues, one can imagine drawing in fellow travelers from any number of disciplines.


The academic world of international security has recently witnessed two interesting, if divergent trends.  If the influence of international security scholars within our home discipline may have waned, the role and prominence of interdisciplinary, policy focused programs or center of national/international security/affairs within universities has improved.  This is not surprising: while academic disciplines are often free to ignore market pressures or even common sense, these centers and programs have taken advantage of the increasing interest of other stakeholders – students, alumni, university administers, philanthropists, policymakers, and the public at large – to build exciting programs, mentor young scholars, and support innovative research in national and international security.

There are of course the long-standing stalwarts – places like the Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Stanford’s Center for International Security and Cooperation, Columbia’s Salzman Institute, Yale’s International Security Studies program, Ohio State’s Mershon Center, MIT’s Security Studies Program, and many others.  Some of the older programs, like Penn’s Browne Center, Dartmouth’s Dickey Center and The George Washington University’s Institute for Security and Conflict Studies, have initiated exciting programs under vibrant new leadership, with Penn about to launch another effort, Perry House for World Affairs.  An exciting new development has been the creation and rapid rise of centers and programs outside the “Amtrak corridor” or West Coast.  The Triangle Institute for Security Studies, the Sié Chéou-Kang Center for International Security and Diplomacy at the University of Denver, the Notre Dame Center for International Security, the John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies at Southern Methodist University, and both the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law and the William C. Clements Center in National Security at the University of Texas, among others, have become go-to places in national and international security.  Add to these programs like American University’s “Bridging the Gap, ” Syracuse University’s Carnegie International Policy Scholars Consortium and Network, and The Tobin project in national security, and collectively you have tens of millions of dollars and scores of top scholars producing cutting edge work and expertly mentoring the next generation of international security scholars.

We should be grateful to these innovative programs, institutions and their leaders; they have provided energy, support, and frankly, a lifeline to international security studies during difficult times.  Might these impressive efforts – critical to the success of our field – do more to coordinate with each other, to advocate for international security within universities?  While it is well beyond the mandate of ISSF to act as an agent for the field of international security, we can perhaps help coordinate our actions to achieve our shared goals.

I hope you are as excited about both ISSF’s accomplishments and future as I am. Bob and I will be reaching out, both collectively and individually, for your counsel and support.  We will be refreshing some of our advisory boards and making efforts to pull in new voices.  We will also be putting together a meeting to bring together key ISSF stakeholders.  In the meantime, thank you for your continued support and contributions to ISSF.  Most importantly, we ask that you continue to say “yes” when Bob, Tom, Diane, Seth, or I write with a request to write!


Francis J. Gavin
Frank Stanton Chair in Nuclear Security Policy Studies