Dr Nik Gowing

Distinguished Fellow


Nik was appointed as a RUSI Distinguished Fellow in July 2021, having been a Trustee since early 2016. He was previously on the RUSI council for ten years.

Since 2014, Nik has been Founder and Director of the Thinking the Unthinkable (TTU) project. Using interviews with the highest levels of business, public service and governments, the ongoing and dynamic project reveals candidly why so many leaders at every level face new difficulties adapting to the scale of unthinkables and unpalatables.

Against the analytical consensus, the TTU project predicted inter alia in 2016 a vote for Brexit and the nomination then election of Donald Trump as US President. The fast-growing challenges to leaders in the dramatic disruption to ‘normal’ was further confirmed by the pressures facing leaders when COVID-19 hit so brutally and speedily in early 2020. The climate emergency is fast adding further intense pressures from new realities that most think are unthinkable. 

Until 2014, Nik was a main news presenter for the BBC’s international 24-hour news channel BBC World News (1996-2014). He presented The Hub with Nik Gowing, BBC World Debates, Dateline London, plus location coverage of many major global stories. He is best remembered for his many hours of live coverage of Princess Diana’s car crash in Paris in August 1997, making the announcement of her death, then the unfolding horrors of the 9/11 terror attacks in the US.

For 18 years he had worked at ITN where he was Bureau Chief in Rome and Warsaw, and Diplomatic Editor for Channel Four News (1988-1996). He won a BAFTA award for breaching media controls to cover martial law and the crushing of Solidarity in Poland in 1981. He reported for TV much of the drama in Eastern Europe and the rapid crumbling of Soviet power, up to the sudden fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. 

Nik has been a member of the councils of Chatham House (1998–2004), the Royal United Services Institute (2005–2021), and the Overseas Development Institute (2007-2014). The Foreign Office appointed him to the board of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, where he became Vice Chair (1996-2005), and the Advisory Council at Wilton Park (1998-2012). 

In 1994, he was a Fellow at the Joan Shorenstein Barone Center in the J. F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.  He was a board member for the Hay Literary Festival (2004-2018) and currently serves on the festival’s foundation board.

Nik had extensive reporting experience over three decades in diplomacy, defence, and international security. He has a much sought-after analytical expertise on the failures to manage information in the new digitally transparent environments of conflicts, crises, emergencies, and times of tension. His peer-reviewed study at Oxford University is ‘Skyful of Lies and Black Swans’ (2009). It predicted and identified the new vulnerability, fragility, and brittleness of institutional power in what would soon become the new all-pervasive public information space. The work built on his earlier research undertaken at the Kennedy School, Harvard.

Since 2014, Nik has been a Visiting Professor at King’s College London, in the School of Social Science and Public Policy. From 2016 to 2018, he was a Visiting Professor at Nanyang University (NTU) in Singapore where he worked on deepening and widening the Thinking the Unthinkable research project. 

He was a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Geo-Economics (2014-16). In September 2017, he was appointed an adviser on leadership challenges to the President of the UN General Assembly.

He was awarded Honorary Doctorates by Exeter University in 2012 and Bristol University in 2015 for both his ongoing cutting-edge analyses and distinguished career in international journalism.

Nik has written two acclaimed novels, The Wire and The Loop, which reflected his many years reporting behind the Iron Curtain and in Russia.

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