UK PONI and the Pandemic: The Show Must Go On

Written by UK PONI Team
It’s been a busy few weeks for us here in the UK PONI team, as it has no doubt been for all of you. As well as the upheaval and challenges we’ve all been dealing with, it’s become clear that we will have to think differently about our programme of activities for the next several months, if not longer. ‘Different’ does not mean ‘cancelled’ though: we’re not planning any face-to-face events until the autumn, but we’ve already run a couple of virtual events, we are working on a couple more, and, most importantly we’re going go virtual with our 10th Anniversary Annual Conference in June. We’re going to miss seeing so many of you come and connect with each other at RUSI’s premises, but we didn’t want to let COVID-19 beat us so we’re determined to make this year’s conference a show to remember.
The details are still being laid out in a top-secret corner of the UK PONI bunker, but our present plan is to run a series of activities, next-generation panels and talks over the course of the Conference week, the week of 8th June. Much as we all love staring at our computers, we weren’t sure that we could in good faith ask you to do so for the 8-10 hour programme that we usually construct at this event – and treating this more as a festival of next-generation thinking on nuclear issues will allow us to be much more flexible with our programming, while giving you all the opportunity to join us for as many sessions as you are able. And for those of you who, like us, miss the sense of community and togetherness that UK PONI Annual Conferences represent, never fear! We will also run a 10th Anniversary celebration event later in this calendar year, when government restrictions relax and it is responsible to do so.
So, how can you get engaged with this year’s Annual Conference? Well, watch this blog and the UK PONI website for updates, as we’ll be posting details of sessions and schedules as we go. We’d love to be able to give you all the details now, but we are working hard to finalise all of that so please do bear with us. We’ll be publicising a draft programme as soon as we possibly can. But the most important way you can get engaged with the conference is as one of our speakers.
Our Annual Conference is set up to give emerging scholars and practitioners the best possible environment to put their ideas forward, and the UK PONI team offers extensive support to all those who are chosen to speak. As such, it is an ideal opportunity for individuals who have not previously presented at conferences, or had their ideas published – we really want to hear from people who are new to this community and have an idea they want to test out, and we help even the most inexperienced of our community at every step of the process. We also help our chosen speakers turn their talks into papers which RUSI publishes in an edited volume, a great opportunity for you to get your writing out there (and you can check out last year’s UK PONI Papers here).
We’ll be accepting proposals until Monday 6 April, and this year the conference will focus on the following topics:
  • Emerging technology and nuclear proliferation: How will new technologies, the pace of their development, and their spread to various state and non-state actors impact non-proliferation and counter-proliferation?
  • Challenges and solutions for sustaining nuclear expertise in the next generation: How can the next-generation nuclear communities be curated, supported and developed in the coming twenty years?
  • UK nuclear weapons and Euro-Atlantic security: What challenges and opportunities to UK nuclear deterrence policy, posture and procurement might emerge in the coming decades, and how do these issues interact with wider European and Atlantic security issues?
You can find more details about these topics and about how speakers are chosen here. But in a nutshell, if you have something you want to say about any of these topics, if you have an idea you think is interesting, if you have a bee in your bonnet about what might be coming down the track for us in the coming decades on each of these issues – we want to hear from you.
In the meantime, if you have any questions about the virtual programme for UK PONI, or ideas you want to share with us, then please feel free to reach out to one of the team at, and one of us will get back to you. Please do make full use of the resources UK PONI has already put online – the video of last year’s Annual Conference, for example, or our introductory nuclear weapons policy and technology workshops – as well as the writing on this blog, to which you can also submit your ideas by contacting the UK PONI team. And make sure you’re signed up to our mailing list, which you can do by following this link. For our part we’ll be working hard to give you all a great programme to participate in, and looking forward to seeing as many of you as possible (electronically) in June. Until then, stay safe and look after each other.
Our best wishes to all of you,
The UK PONI Team
Tom Plant, Sam Dudin, Lydia Wachs and Marike Woollard
Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
HMS Vigilant alongside Faslane Naval Base MoD.