Nuclear Weapons | Report

Feeling the Burden: Ethical Challenges and Practices in Open Source Analysis and Journalism

Benjamin Loehrke, Luisa Kenausis, Aida al-Kaisy, Devon Terrill, Kelly Smits | January 2022


It is common today to see open source analysis being used to break news, enhance reporting, pierce attempts at secrecy, and inform public policy. As the credibility and capability of open source analysis has grown dramatically, the analysts and journalists using this information increasingly acknowledge ethical dilemmas it presents in their day-to-day work. They also point to needs for training, guidance, support, and coordination on ethical practices with respect to open source information.

This paper, published by the Stanley Center for Peace and Security and the Ethical Journalism Network, aims to help elevate stories and perspectives from a series of 28 structured interviews with analysts and journalists who use open source analysis to inform their work on international security and nonproliferation policy.

The paper explores current practices for ethical decision making among journalists and analysts. It shares stories of ethical dilemmas that individuals have faced and describes systemic breakdowns in coordinating ethical practices. The paper recommends ways for practitioners, organizations, and policymakers to spark candid conversation about open source ethics and identify bottom-up solutions to common challenges.

Read the full report and summary of its findings.