The newly-established Cyber Program at the Middle East Institute is an unprecedented research initiative that seeks to produce unique research on the critical intersection of cyber issues and Middle East affairs. As a part of this program, a team of selected, unpaid graduate researchers will work with MEI’s resident experts to produce and circulate research on a variety of topics within the Program’s research themes and will have the opportunity to publish this research with an MEI affiliation. The goal of this program is to amplify the voices and perspectives of emerging researchers in this field and to contribute to MEI’s overall goal of working for a peaceful, prosperous, and well-governed Middle East.

About the Program

The MEI Cyber Program was established in early 2019, and is headed by Director Mike Sexton. It is governed by a Steering Committee of experts from the public and private sector, headed by Richard A. Clarke, a distinguished author and national security expert and commentator. The Program also includes quarterly meetings of a Cyber Study Group, which comprises a wide range of experts on cybersecurity, technology, and foreign affairs from the Middle East and U.S. governments, civil society, academia, and private industry. 

The Program focuses its areas of study on five major themes that present the most unique and pressing challenges and interesting questions for analysis for the future of the Middle East:

  • Emerging Technology: developments in technologies with the potential to impact the long-term political and economic conditions of the region, including cryptocurrencies, biometrics, artificial intelligence, automation, 5G infrastructure, and more.

  • Cyber Conflict: offensive and defensive cyber capabilities of states and non-state actors in the region, including the increasing threat posed by Iran to its neighbors in cyberspace.

  • Privacy and Civil Society: implications of the proliferation of information and communications technologies on the region for individual data protection and civil society.

  • Information and Influence Campaigns: the growing threat of propaganda and information and influence campaigns conducted in cyberspace by state and non-state actors.

  • Countering Extremism Online: the growing role of information and communication technologies in disseminating and recruiting for extremist and violent groups and ideologies.

The Program will work with regional and local experts on these issues to develop a range of short and long form publications, podcast episodes, videos, and other media to draw attention to a range of critical and emerging issue areas in this field. Ultimately, the goal of the Program is to use this accumulated knowledge to conduct a series of Track II dialogues with regional experts and stakeholders to encourage de-escalation and tension reduction with regard to emerging cyber threats in the Middle East. 

About Graduate Researchers

Graduate researchers will be affiliated with the MEI Cyber Program for a six-month period (with the possibility of extension) during the MEI research cycle, the dates of which are to be determined on an individual basis. Researchers will write a proposal detailing their research interest areas, and work with Program staff to determine a specific publication schedule. This could include a series of short-form articles on a series of several topics, a substantive policy paper on a larger issue question, or multimedia materials including podcast episodes, video content, etc.

Researchers will be able to be published under their own names on the MEI website and affiliated newsletters and to distribute and promote their work through MEI’s network. They will be expected to participate in weekly meetings with MEI Program staff on the progress and direction of their research. Although the program is unpaid, it constitutes a valuable opportunity for emerging scholars to amplify their research and collaborate with respected experts on original research.

The goal of this initiative is to allow emerging students and recent graduates to contribute to this critical and new body of research in a substantive way, and to help researchers build their network and careers in cybersecurity and foreign policy.

Eligibility 

Potential graduate researchers should be a current graduate student in a master’s or professional program relating to either foreign affairs or science and technology, or a recent graduate from a four-year undergraduate or graduate program with equivalent experience. Researchers can be based in-house at MEI’s facility in Washington, D.C., or can work remotely from a location of their choice and convenience. They should have substantial research or study experience relating to Middle East affairs, as well as demonstrated interest in one or more of the five thematic areas represented in the MEI Cyber Program. Graduate researchers will be expected to have excellent research and writing skills, to be able to work independently. Technical cyber security experience, while a plus, is not required.

Application 

Applications are considered on a rolling basis. Interested candidates should submit the following application materials:

  • A one-page cover letter detailing your interest in the graduate research program and your qualifications for the role

  • An up-to-date resume

  • A substantive writing sample, preferably no fewer than three and no more than fifteen pages, that demonstrates your research capabilities and working knowledge of some combination of Middle East affairs and one or more of the MEI Cyber Program’s five research areas

  • A research proposal document, outlined on the following page

Research Proposal

As part of their application, interested candidates should write and submit a one-to-two page document outlining their proposed research focus and goals as a graduate fellow with the MEI Cyber Program. This proposal will serve as a baseline concept of what researchers will plan to produce, although this can continue to evolve and be subject to change during the course of the fellowship.

  • The research proposal should address the following: 

  • Which of the five research areas the candidate will focus on (cross-cutting research is encouraged)

  • Proposed start and end dates

  • The type and length of research produced during the course of the fellowship, to include some combination of the following options:

    • Three to six short-form analysis pieces (800 - 1000 words)

    • Three medium-length analysis pieces (1000 - 1500 words)

    • One to two medium length policy papers (2000 - 3000 words)

    • One long-form policy paper (5000 - 10,000 words)

    • Podcast/video content (1-2 original videos or podcast episodes)

Once selections are made for the Program, the Director will work with fellows to finalize their individual publication strategies and expected research outcomes.

Please submit these materials to Eliza Campbell at ecampbell@mei.edu