‘Trust and Confidence’ Student Participation Exercises 2013 - 2015

Researching the human factors in verification processes

Building on the results of the 2008-2010 Managed Access Exercise series, the UKNI ran a series of controlled exercises designed to rigorously assess the impact of human factors on verification processes. During these exercises several teams of students played the role of NWS inspectors of the monitored dismantlement process in another NWS, while UKNI participants played the role of the host NWS and the exercise control team. The inspection team was given the task of resolving an anomalous event which had occurred in between routine inspection visits.

Although the student teams were given substantial latitude to accomplish their mission in the best way they saw fit, the exercises were designed such that identical information would be received by each team, regardless of their specific actions. While this presented an extremely difficult challenge for the host players and the exercise control team, it also opened up the possibility of analysing the impact of human factors on the resolution of the anomaly. By fixing the information provided to the inspectors and varying the behaviour of the host, independent researchers from King’s College London were able to use a variety of methods – interviews, focus groups, questionnaires and in-play exercise documents – to record the evolution of the inspection team’s trust in their host counterparts and their confidence in the overall integrity of the verification process.

One of the findings of the 2008-2010 Managed Access Exercises was that the relationships between hosts and inspectors could potentially have a substantial impact on the outcome of a verification mission. If it were possible to identify a set of behaviours or interpersonal situations that were not conducive to a successful outcome, then it might be possible to design future verification regimes or protocols such that the effects were mitigated or avoided. Equally, if we were able to identify a set of situations or behaviours that would be helpful in achieving a mutually-agreeable outcome then we could aim to promote them in future.

Beyond the goal of researching the technologies and processes of nuclear arms control verification, we – based on our own experiences with exercise activities – recognised the educational value of participating in an immersive arms control simulation and wanted to give others the same opportunity. With participating students coming from universities in the UK, the Russian Federation, the US, Egypt and South Africa, and with homes in many more countries, we wanted to stimulate interest and awareness of arms control issues in the next generation of specialists. This remains a key aim of the UKNI.


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