Everyone recognizes the salience of cyberspace in the world today – the threats, challenges, and opportunities – but there is limited understanding of how cyberspace influences international relations and how power and politics in international relations influence the conduct and management of cyberspace. Cyber threats to national security are apparent after the fact, and little anticipatory capability has been developed to help shape policy responses under different contingencies. For the most part everyone tends to be operating under the dominant assumptions of the 20th century politics and policy in an increasingly uncertain world of the 21st century whose parameters are still in the making. We are now deeply rooted in the cyber age, and its rapidly changing configurations.

The research problem is this: distinct features of cyberspace—such as time, scope, space, permeation, ubiquity, participation and attribution—challenge traditional modes of inquiry in international relations and limit their utility. The interdisciplinary MIT-Harvard ECIR research project explores various facets of cyber international relations, including its implications for power and politics, conflict and war.

Our primary mission and principal goal is to increase the capacity of the nation to address the policy challenges of the cyber domain. Our research is intended to influence today’s policy makers with the best thinking about issues and opportunities, and to train tomorrow’s policy makers to be effective in understanding choice and consequence in cyber matters.

Accordingly, the ECIR vision is to create an integrated knowledge domain of international relations in the cyber age. This knowledge domain  is to be (a) multidisciplinary, theory-driven, and empirically based; (b) help clarifythreats and opportunities in cyberspace for national security, welfare, and influence;(c) provide analytical tools for understanding and managing transformation and change; and (d) attract and educate generations of researchers, scholars, and analysts for international relations in the new cyber age. The research agenda converges around five topics:

  1. Framework: Foundations for Theory and Policy
  2. Cyber PowerCyber Security, and Cyber Conflicts 

  3. Cyber Governance: How Behavior is Disciplined 

  4. Alternative Futures: Drivers of Change 

  5. Cross-cutting Issues: Theory and Method
    • Foundations for 21st International Relations theory: Systems of Interaction.
    • Key features of 21st International Relations theory: Elements New Model.
    • Connecting Cyberspace and International Relations: Levels and Layers.