RUSI Annual Report 2020-2021

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Highlights from the 2020-21 Annual Report of the Royal United Services Institute.

RUSI has never been more active. The Institute has successfully navigated its way through the COVID-19 pandemic by transitioning to new ways of working and by expanding its reach to audiences around the world. We have offered a virtual events and conference programme to our growing membership and network.

As social distancing measures have eased, we have also expanded this to include ‘hybrid’ conferences, with in-person attendees joining virtual participants. Overall, we experienced an enormous increase in participation for our events, from 4,500 in 2019/20 to 31,000 in 2020/21.

We also increased our research capacity and output, while maintaining our high standards. Our researchers adapted to the new realities of the pandemic by shifting from airline travel to online platforms to interact with international partners.

Research impact

We completed an active programme of research in the year ended 31 March 2021, making important contributions to the national and international policy agenda. Recently, RUSI played a crucial part in framing and analysing the UK’s Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Foreign Policy and Development. Our researchers informed the policymaking process, and analysed its implications for defence, security and international affairs.

In addition, several reports had significant impact on public debate. For instance, in widely cited reports on fraud, our researchers argued that fraud should be considered a national security issue and warned that the crime was reaching ‘epidemic levels’.

We led important research on cyber security, with projects that examined the use of artificial intelligence in policing and security, as well as the ‘globalisation of technology’. We also helped to shape the national debate on the UK’s decision on how far to restrict Huawei involvement in its 5G network.

As a result of these activities, Prospect magazine named RUSI as Think Tank of the Year in December 2020. It said that ‘in a year which has shown how interconnected all our fortunes are, RUSI have shown that rare ability to join the dots’, and commended us for ‘pushing at the frontiers of both technology policy and international relations and finding ways to connect the two’.

Overall the Institute undertook 150 projects with partners around the world.

Research Group Highlights

Leadership Centre

The RUSI Leadership Centre develops the skills, knowledge and awareness needed for foreign governments and security practitioners operating in today’s international security environment.

Although some courses that were due to take place during the year were postponed because of COVID, in 2020/21, the Leadership Centre:

  • Organised and successfully realised the first ever virtual versions of the ‘Strategic Analysis’ course, which imparts analytical tools, such as source identification and risk assessments.
  • Ran a virtual ‘Strategic Analysis’ taster course for the Mathias Corvinus Collegium in Budapest, Hungary.

Lectures, Conferences and Events

In 2020/21, the Institute hosted over 250 events and conferences, compared with 133 in 2019/20. Over 31,000 people registered to attend our events (2019/20: 4,500). Many of our events were open to members of the public.

As social distancing measures were eased in 2021, we offered ‘hybrid’ events with both in-person audiences and online attendees. We improved the audience experience with major conferences held on dedicated online platforms.

Our events and conferences also cover issues that transcend defence and security. Our ‘Mapping the Pandemic’ series examined COVID-19’s impact on security around the world. For Black History Month, we hosted a panel discussion on the contribution of African soldiers during the First World War.

Publications and Outreach

The Institute disseminated its research through its flagship publication, the RUSI Journal, RUSI Newsbrief and the RUSI website, with nearly 300 ‘Commentary’ articles, making an important site for daily analysis on the latest developments in defence and security. In 2020/21, RUSI published nearly 60 research papers, reports and briefs, covering a broad range of issues. 

These papers highlight the research at the Institute and its relevance to the security and defence debate in the UK and internationally. 

In addition, our research and analysis acts as a bridge between policy, academia and the public, bringing together policymakers, civil society organisations, the private sector, researchers and the wider public to understand better the latest developments and the long-term trends related to defence and security. 

RUSI remains a ‘go-to’ think tank for the media on defence, security and international affairs, and its research is widely cited. Last year, the Institute had nearly 23,000 media mentions compared with nearly 20,000 in 2019/20.

In 2020/21 the website had 1,100,000 users, an increase of 73% from 620,000 users in 2019/20.

Throughout the year we have been redeveloping our website, which was launched in June 2021, with a fresh look, and better navigation and search tools.

The growth in web visitors in 2020/21 is largely due to the growth and high quality of content produced by RUSI, complemented by sustained social media and email campaigns. On Twitter, we have 88,000 followers, gaining 13,000 followers since last year. On LinkedIn, we have 14,000 followers, up 4,000 from the previous year. 

On YouTube, we attracted over 2,000 additional subscribers with our videos, while live-streamed events attracted over 276,000 views. The Institute is also producing six podcast series, which in total have generated over 130,000 downloads worldwide. 


RUSI maintains a relationship with a large community of individuals and organisations through annual membership subscriptions. RUSI members have access to our wide-ranging analysis and publications, attend member events and, depending on membership level, may also benefit from direct engagement with our research activities and staff. Our membership packages are tailored to suit large and small organisations, companies and governments, as well as individuals at various stages of professional development.

The individual membership packages range from online membership through to Standard, Platinum and RUSI Premium levels, with special rates for students, ‘next generation’ members, over-65s, and serving military professionals. For organisations, the Institute offers Standard, Major, Platinum, Chairman’s Circle and bespoke corporate membership packages, with concessionary rates for diplomatic and military organisations. At the end of 2020/21, RUSl's individual membership totalled 2,014 (2019/20: 1,712), a growth of 17.6%. The Institute had 158 corporate members (2019/20: 141), growth of 12%.

Despite the extraordinary shifts, challenges and pressures resulting from the global COVID pandemic, we made significant improvements to our processes and service levels, introduced a wide range of online events, improved our member communications and extended our outreach activities.

RUSI Library of Military History

The RUSI Library of Military History, along with the paintings and sculpture collections, historic furniture and decorative art objects, underscores the Institute's heritage and contributes to RUSI’s overall mission.

tion and organisation of the collections for storage while 61 Whitehall is being refurbished. RUSI now has a comprehensive inventory of all its collections as part of its mission to curate its heritage and legacy. This is an important step in improving the knowledge of our collection.

RUSI's Financial Statements 2020/2021

Audited financial statements for the year ended 31 March 2021.


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