Dr Rhiannon Neilsen

BIntSt, MPhil, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow
College of Asia & the Pacific

Research interests

  • Atrocity prevention
  • The Responsibility to Protect (R2P)
  • Cyberspace, big data, and online algorithms
  • Military ethics
  • Moral Injury


Rhiannon Neilsen joined the Bell School in October 2021 as a Postdoctoral Fellow. Her doctoral research (supervised by Professor Toni Erskine) examined how cyberspace operations might be used to prevent mass atrocity crimes (what she terms 'cyber humanitarian interventions'), and analysed the ethical implications that arise from their use. 

In 2019, Rhiannon was a Visiting Doctoral Fellow at the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford (2019-2020), sponsored by the Barbara Hale Fellowship (Australian Federation of Graduate Women). That same year, she was a Visiting Fellow at the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence in Tallinn, Estonia. In 2020 and 2021, Rhiannon was a Research Consultant for the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict (ELAC). She was the 2021 recipient of the Frances V. Harbour Award for Best Graduate Student/ECR Paper in International Ethics (International Studies Association), for her paper 'The Responsibility to Deceive? Online Disinformation for Atrocity Prevention'. Also in 2021, Rhiannon was awarded the Leo Mahony Bursary Prize from the Royal United Services Institute (Australia) and the Ria de Groot Prize for best performance by a female post-graduate student at UNSW Canberra. 

Her published work has appeared in international journals, such as Ethics and International Affairs (2020), Terrorism and Political Violence (2019), and Genocide Studies and Prevention (2015). She has also contributed to edited volumes, including Political and Legal Approaches to Human Rights (2018), Key Issues in Military Ethics (2015), and Moral Injury (2015).

Researcher's projects

  • Cyber Humanitarian Interventions: The Prospects and Ethics of Atrocity Prevention in the Digital Age
  • The role of the military in defending civilian critical infrastructure from cyber attacks (as part of NATO CCDCOE Visiting Fellowship with Karine Pontbriand)

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Updated:  19 May 2022 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers