I am currently setting up a working group within an international scientific association. The working group gathers American, Japanese, Chinese, New Zealander, and a few European research fellows.

I would like to name this working group a task force because a working group already refers to something more structured and official within our scientific association's organization. Moreover, we want to work on a specific topic for a fixed time span, like an actual task force.

But I'm wondering if this term remains appropriate within such an academic and international context since the "task force" term comes originally from the military vocabulary, especially from the US Armed Forces, and thus might be connoted as too martial and not neutral since it might undermean some US hegemony.

I would like to have your point of view on the question. Thanks!

  • As the answer explains, the military origins of that phrase have by now been diluted, but it may still be perceived as something that belongs to the language of government bureaucrats and, perhaps, business managers, rather than academics. It may be relevant whether the people involved are dedicated career academics or primarily administrators; the former may be annoyed by such terminology (albeit only mildly), while the latter may welcome it. What's wrong with the old-fashioned term committee?
    – jsw29
    Dec 21, 2022 at 16:41

1 Answer 1


Task force now has a general meaning that seems apt for your use, derived from the original military meaning.

Merriam-Webster task force
: a temporary grouping under one leader for the purpose of accomplishing a definite objective

That reference shows three examples of use, none of them military.

I don't think most people would associate the term with US hegemony, unless they are especially alert for that.

BTW, undermean might be a very nice word, if it existed, but I've never seen it before.

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