Academic Forum: CTBT Education in the 21st Century

Over 40 academics from a wide range of disciplines congregated in Vienna, Austria, for the CTBT Academic Forum, from 18 to 20 March. Thirty universities located in 20 countries were represented at the event, which was organized by the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) as part of its Capacity Development Initiative (CDI). The focus was on promoting CTBT education and developing e-learning modules and educational resources related to the Treaty.

“The world today is closer and more connected than it has been ever before in history… (and) common aspirations and challenges will be met not only in the establishment of the institutions but through the development of networks of knowledge,” said Ahmet Üzümcü, Director-General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, in an opening address. The Forum was supported by voluntary financial contributions from the European Union and Norway.

CTBTO Executive Secretary Tibor Tóth opens the 2013 CTBT Academic Forum.

Ahmet Üzümcü, OPCW Director-General, at the opening session of the 2013 CTBT Academic Forum.

The future of learning

Over the course of three days, educators from disciplines including policy, law, science, engineering, physics, and e-learning technologies, brainstormed how best to develop and promote university education on the CTBT. Academics broke into small discussion groups to devise ways to improve CDI courses, including the upcoming CTBT Diplomacy and Public Policy Course, to be held from 15 to 19 July 2013. Suggestions included: new lecture ideas and innovative resources to promote CTBT education in the classroom.
Academics openly debated the benefits and challenges of e-learning as an educational technology, with consensus gathering around the idea that the future lies in ‘e-assisted’ learning.

Looking to the future, Matt Yedlin, an electrical engineering professor, and Allen Sens, a political science professor, presented plans for an interdisciplinary class on nuclear weapons and the CTBT which will be offered to undergraduate sciences and arts students at the University of British Columbia in Canada later this year.

Matt Yedlin (Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of British Columbia, Canada) during a lively working group discussion.

Academics run CTBT courses across the globe

The Forum enabled educators from around the world to get together to share their experiences in teaching CTBT-related topics to their students, using a combination of CTBTO e-learning resources, classroom lectures and special research projects.

Ekaterina Mikhaylenko described how she runs a course for political science students at Urals Federal University in Russia, using a combination of e-learning and classroom discussions. Celso Vargas informed participants about a course on the CTBT and its verification regime that he has organized at the Costa Rica Institute of Technology, including a simulation and student research assignments on the CTBT’s verification technologies. Liz Dallas also shared the experiences of the Georgia Institute of Technology in the United States in holding an interdisciplinary seminar series on the CTBT, for which students completed directed research projects. Tahir Nazir, a research fellow at the South Asian Strategic Stability Institute, shared the draft curriculum of an extensive course on the CTBT offered in Pakistan.
The Academic Forum is the second such meeting of the Test-Ban Academic Network (T-BAN) to promote CTBT education through curricula development and innovative teaching methods. It follows up on the Intensive Seminar on CTBT Education that was held in June 2012.

Participants in a working group discuss the use of online platforms for engaging broader academic communities in CTBT education.

Academics draw on their expertise to suggest ways the CTBTO can collaborate with researchers in its education and outreach activities.

Web portal for academic exchange launched

During the Academic Forum, an online community was launched to enable dialogue and encourage exchange between academics and researchers engaged in CTBT-relevant fields and disciplines. The T-BAN web portal helps members to connect and exchange thoughts and ideas across time zones and geographical borders. Interested academics can enquire about membership by sending an email to [email protected].

Some 40 academics and researchers gathered to discuss CTBT education in the 21st Century.