Research Programs

ISS supports outstanding programs, in which scholars, practitioners, and students collaborate on pioneering research of the highest quality. 

Africa Security Program

The Africa Security Program (ASP) is a forum for scholarly engagement and multidisciplinary research on the strategic role of Africa in global affairs and the sources, dynamics, and consequences of security challenges in Africa.

Through workshops, seminars, and conferences, the ASP brings together faculty, students, and practitioners to build a critical body of knowledge about African security issues and to offer novel mechanisms to address them. The ASP is directed by Benedito Machava, Assistant Professor of History, with the active participation of ISS-affiliated faculty and practitioners, including Ambassador Harry Thomas and Ambassador Bisa Williams.

The ASP’s areas of research emphasis include:

  • The role of Africa in global affairs: How do African states influence international politics, develop and deploy their own agency, and navigate competition among the most powerful nations and blocs? What are the strategic considerations facing African leaders, and how do they determine short- and long-term interests in global affairs?
  • Violent Islamist extremism in Africa: What is the source and appeal of violent Islamist extremism among certain populations in Africa? What are key lessons learned from the US-led “war on terror” in the Middle East, and what strategies are most effective for combating terrorism across Africa?
  • Climate change: Which African countries and regions are most vulnerable to climate change disruptions? How might climate change further exacerbate political instability, conflict, and humanitarian crisis?

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America, China, and Eurasia

China’s ascendance to great power status is the defining feature of the twenty-first century, while Putin’s Russia remains deeply disruptive to the U.S.-led liberal world order. As the United States turns inward to contain and mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, China and Russia are seeking to fill that leadership void in Asia, Europe, and on the world stage.

The 2018 U.S. National Defense Strategy for the first time identified the “re-emergence of long-term, strategic competition,” and “not terrorism,” as the primary American national security concern—a position that the Biden Administration has maintained. Deciphering Russian goals vis-à-vis Eurasia, as well as Chinese intentions with regards to the Indo-Pacific region, can help prevent intense geopolitical competition from inadvertently escalating into conflict. This new ISS project combines the study of history with current policy analysis.

ISS affiliated distinguished practitioners include Amb. Susan Thornton, Senior Fellow at the Paul Tsai China Center, Yale Law School. A retired senior diplomat with nearly three decades of experience, Amb. Thornton is the former acting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, where she was responsible for stabilizing relations with Taiwan and the U.S.-China Cyber Agreement, among other critical assignments.

Stephen Roach, former Chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia and a Senior Fellow at the YLS Paul Tsai China Center, and Amb. David Rank, a Jackson Senior Fellow and former acting U.S. Ambassador to China, also participate in this project. 

Maritime and Naval Studies

Maritime trade underpins the world economy, rising sea levels threaten coastal communities, and American naval hegemony is no longer assured. The ISS Maritime and Naval Studies Project convenes leading academics and practitioners to analyze lessons from naval history and the precarious state of maritime affairs today.

Under the leadership of Professor Paul Kennedy, ISS has hosted a series of speakers and events aimed at promoting the study of the sea at Yale, including a major international conference in 2018 on “Navies in Multipolar Worlds.” As part of this Project, ISS hosted its second Naval History Conference at Yale in spring 2022.

In addition, ISS will continue its close partnership with Admiral James Stavridis, former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO and Dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University.

Schmidt Program on Artificial Intelligence, Emerging Technologies, and National Power

The Schmidt Program fosters research and teaching that span the disciplines of computer science, data science, economics, engineering, history, international relations, law, philosophy, physics, and political science. It serves as a hub for scholars and practitioners working across disciplines on the technological and strategic transformations that are reshaping our world.

Cyberspace is now the backbone of global commerce, communication, and defense systems, and a key aspect of the critical infrastructure that powers modern civilization. Technologies and information spread nearly instantaneously, while the world economy and supply chains are integrated to a degree unprecedented in history.

Yet despite the immense benefits that have resulted from global connectivity, significant vulnerabilities persist, and threats are on the rise. Competition over strategic technologies and contests for advantage in the “information space” are growing, so far without standard international rules of the road. Moreover, the future likely will prove even more transformative due to advances in artificial intelligence (AI). Machines capable of sophisticated information processing, towards the frontier of autonomy, pose tremendous opportunities for economic growth and societal well-being. But the potential threats also are extraordinary: autonomous weaponry, AI-augmented cyberwarfare, sophisticated disinformation campaigns, and geopolitical instability as nations race to deploy these unpredictable technologies. The Schmidt Program examines how AI has the potential to alter the fundamental building blocks of world order. 

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