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INTEL Research Project

Learning to Learn in an Era of Surprise: Intelligence Production and Use in Foreign Policy-Making in Britain, Germany and the European Union: ESRC-funded project called INTEL 


  • Why have foreign policy-makers often been caught by surprise in recent years?

  • Have contemporary security threats genuinely become more difficult to anticipate, track and analyse or are decision-makers and analysts just slow to learn from experience?

The INTEL project looked at these questions as it investigated the intelligence production and use in the foreign policies of the UK, Germany and the European Union during the cases of Arab uprisings, the rise of ISIL/Daesh, and the Russia/Ukraine crisis.

The project team asked what intelligence producers should have known, what decision-makers should have learnt, and under what conditions successful learning takes place in distinct European settings of intelligence production and decision-making. The project aimed to reinvigorate the study of learning in foreign policy-making and suggested ways in which these three actors could better anticipate and understand contemporary security threats.

The project team consists of Professor Christoph Meyer (Principal Investigator), Professor Mike Goodman (Co-Investigator), Dr Aviva Guttmann, and Dr Nikki Ikani (both Research Associates). The 33-month project was funded by the UK Research Council for the Social Sciences (ESRC) and concluded at the end of March 2021.

The project was supported by a high-level advisory board consisting of senior practitioners and academics with experience in these three different foreign policy systems. In addition to interviews, it hosted workshops with practitioners to arrive at a shared understanding of what “good learning” looks like and how to realistically improve the foreign policy-making process.