Medact and the Nuclear Information Service have undertaken a two-year study to investigate research links between British universities and the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE), which is responsible for designing and manufacturing the UK’s nuclear weapons.
We found that approaching half of British universities have research links with AWE. Much of the work funded by AWE qualifies as ‘blue skies’ research which is not aimed at any particular application. However, some of the research funded by AWE may have ‘dual use’ potential – the capability to be used for both benign, peaceful purposes and military purposes contributing to the development of weapons of mass destruction.
Our study highlights the need for increased transparency over the nature of university research funded by AWE, and the need to strengthen the framework for considering the ethical implications of such work and its impact upon the research environment.
To help universities and researchers navigate ethical issues arising from participating in research work funded by AWE, Nuclear Information Service and Medact have prepared a set of model ethical guidelines which are presented in the main report for the study.