Rory Medcalf

Prof Rory Medcalf, AM


Research activity per year

Personal profile


Professor Rory Medcalf has been Head of the National Security College (NSC) at the Australian National University since January 2015. He has led the expansion of the College into policy engagement and futures analysis, as well as education, executive development and research, repositioning the College as 'more than a think tank'.

His professional background involves three decades of experience across diplomacy, intelligence analysis, think tanks, academia and journalism, including as founding Director of the International Security Program at the Lowy Institute from 2007 to 2015.

In government, Professor Medcalf worked as a senior strategic analyst with the then Office of National Assessments (now the Office of National Intelligence), Canberra’s peak intelligence analysis agency. He was also an Australian diplomat, with wide experience including a posting to New Delhi, a secondment to the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, truce monitoring after the civil conflict in Bougainville and policy development on Asian security institutions. He has contributed to three landmark reports on nuclear arms control: the 1996 Canberra Commission, 1999 Tokyo Forum and 2009 International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament. His earlier work in journalism was commended in Australia’s leading media awards, the Walkleys, in 1991.

Professor Medcalf has been prominent in developing Australia’s relations with India.  He has been recognised as a thought leader internationally for his work on the Indo-Pacific concept of the Asian strategic environment, as articulated in his 2020 book Contest for the Indo-Pacific (released internationally as Indo-Pacific Empire).

Professor Medcalf was a member of the expert panel providing independent advice on the Australian Government’s 2016 Defence White Paper. He is chief investigator in a 2018-2021 research project funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, examining the risks to nuclear stability from new submarine-detection technologies. He is also chief investigator in a 2019-2021 research project funded by the Australian Department of Defence , titled 'Made for Multipolarity: Operationalising an Indo-Pacific strategy in the Indian Ocean'.

He is a member of the editorial boards of Asia Policy and the Australian Journal of International Affairs. He has been a Nonresident Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy with the Brookings Institution in Washington DC and retains affiliations as a Nonresident Fellow with the Lowy Institute and the Seapower Centre of the Royal Australian Navy. His is a member of the Board of the National Foundation for Australia-China Relations and the ASEAN Regional Forum Register of Experts and Eminent Persons.


Research interests

Australian security, defence and foreign policy; the development of an integrated Australian national security policy and narrative, including in the context of post-COVID-19 recovery; Asian strategic dynamics, including an Indo-Pacific concept of the Asian strategic environment; maritime security; nuclear issues; strategic implications of the rise of China and India; Australia's relations with China, the United States, India and other major powers; foreign interference, influence and the protection of democratic institutions.


Researcher's projects

Carnegie Corporation project on strategic stability, undersea nuclear forces and submarine detection technologies (2018-2021); Australian Defence Department project on Indo-Pacific strategy (2019-2021); Australian Defence Department project on geoeconomics (2020-2022).

Expertise Areas

  • Defence Studies
  • Government and Politics of Asia and the Pacific
  • International Relations


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