EPSRC Invitation for Consortia for Exploratory Research in Security

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) has today issued a joint invitation with the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) for outline proposals for research consortia for exploratory research in security under the RCUK Global Uncertainties Programme.

Activity based on the internet and other networked digital systems represents an increasingly important front for national and international security and crime-fighting. It also presents a range of wider societal and policy implications, hazards and potential consequences.

There is a national security threat to the UK from cyber space. The UK National Security Strategy categorises cyber attacks as one of its four Tier One Priority Risks. It is estimated that at least twenty foreign intelligence services are currently operating to some degree against UK interests in cyberspace. It is widely expected that cyber attacks will be a key aspect of future warfare and it is strongly suspected that this has already begun to happen.

Cyber attacks, broadly defined, have extraordinary potential to impact on the economic and social well-being of individuals and businesses.  More services and functions move online every year, creating newer and more complicated threats. These threats exist in the context of other challenges to wellbeing and human security in the wider sense, including those which may arise from the creation and application of security measures themselves.

The ethics and norms of cyber behaviour, and the rights of individuals, organisations and nations in the face of what is, to them at least, unwanted cyber activity are not yet established. Important collateral issues raised in this regard include questions of privacy, legitimacy, accountability, civil rights and democracy.

While threat mitigation, perhaps understandably, has the higher profile, there are considerable opportunities for the UK economy in developing a robust yet flexible and sustainable approach to cyber security. These include the likely advantages that would come from a worldwide perception of the UK as a safe base for cyber-based business and significant export opportunities for cyber security products. Decisions of this kind are only likely to favour the UK if they can be made with confidence that doing so would produce no unforeseen social, cultural or economic consequences, for instance arising from perceived or actual curtailing of freedoms ordinarily associated with the internet.

CEReS consortia are encouraged to work across or between established disciplines and to draw on expertise from multiple research organisations wherever necessary to explore current and future cyber security challenges. Proposals with significant novel mathematics and/or social science content are particularly welcome.

Initially, outline proposals will be assessed for their novelty and fit to the aims of the call. Successful outline applicants will be invited to submit full proposals later in 2012.