A "Challenge Problem" Approach To Training A New Generation Of Experts In Arms Control

Nina D Rosenberg - Los Alamos National Laboratory
Morag K Smith - Los Alamos National Laboratory
File Attachment
a424.pdf235.52 KB
How do we recruit, train, and empower the next generation of arms control specialists? As LANL’s Program Director for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Security and one of a few subject matter experts at LANL with actual experience working with Russian counterparts on arms control (NDR and MKS, respectively), we have spent a lot of time and energy over the past few years trying to answer this important question.We have tried several approaches, including creating wiki pages, archiving key documents and developing new course material. All these efforts are important and worth doing, but they haven’t proved very successful as a vehicle to truly engage the next generation.In fall 2020, we tried a new approach. We carefully selected a group of five early-to-mid career staff from across our Laboratory who we had the skills and interest to work in nuclear arms control. We provided them with the same classified briefing we had given to senior U.S. government officials several months earlier about new START. We then challenged the group to make as much progress as they could in a 3-month period in addressing several carefully chosen, real-world arms control questions. This “challenge problem” approach is based the premise that addressing real-world problems is a more motivating and effective way to learn then reading papers and attending lectures, and initial results are promising.This paper will briefly describe our experience in the hope that it may be useful to our colleagues with similar workforce challenges.