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Administration Plans to Eliminate DOD Social Science Research Program

While the majority of the details of the President’s fiscal year (FY) 2021 budget request were made public the week of February 10 (read COSSA’s analysis), full details for some agencies and departments—including the Department of Defense (DoD)—were delayed until the following week.

The DoD budget request reflects over $5 billion in cuts made as a result of the FY 2021 Defense-Wide Review. The FY 2021 Defense-Wide Review is a major DoD initiative led by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper “to improve alignment of time, money, and people to [National Defense Strategy] priorities,” including finding budget cuts at DoD. The Department of Defense (DoD), the largest contributor to federal research and development expenditures, supports research and development, along with many other programs, through what are known as Defense-Wide accounts. The three branches of the military, the Army, the Air Force, and the Navy, also individually contribute to funding research and development and were not affected by the review.

The cuts identified by the review affected programs across the Department—from warfighting support, to logistics, to personnel and benefits—and did not spare Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation, through which the bulk of research and development funds are administered.

The FY 2021 DoD budget request directs the Basic Research Office to discontinue funding the Minerva Research Initiative (MRI), a university-based social science research program that seeks to “improve DOD’s basic understanding of the social, cultural, behavioral, and political forces that shape regions of the world of strategic importance to the U.S.”

The Minerva Research Initiative is not provided with a dedicated appropriation from Congress, but rather receives funds from the Navy, the Air Force, and the Basic Research Office (a Defense-Wide account), totaling about $13 million each year. In FY 2019 and FY 2020, MRI also received an additional $2 million in the final DoD appropriations bill to support research on “peer/near-peer competition” and “foreign malign influence,” respectively.

MRI includes three primary components: (1) a university-based social science basic research grant program, funded in partnership with Air Force and Navy University Research Initiatives; (2) the Defense Education and Civilian University Research (DECUR) Partnership program for professional military education (PME) institutions; and (3) a collaboration with the United States Institute of Peace to award research support to advanced graduate students and early career scholars working on security and peace. As a result of the Defense-Wide Review, the Department recommends ending the Minerva Research Initiative in FY 2021.

The budget request clarifies that researchers participating in the 2019 award cycle of the first two components will be notified that new awards will not be made and existing awards will be terminated early (note: MRI awards operate on calendar years, not fiscal years). Additionally, the request says that awards will made in response to the university funding opportunity announcement on the topics of peer/near-peer competition and foreign malign influence, which Congress provided funding for in FY 2019 and FY 2020. However, new awards on these topics will only be made with directly appropriated congressional funds and Service (military branch) contributions – which, together, make up about a third of the MRI budget. No additional awards will be made on any other topics formerly supported by the MRI.

No additional details, including when awards will be terminated, are provided. Because the Minerva Initiative does not receive a direct Congressional appropriation, the Department has the authority to terminate it unless Congress affirmatively acts to prevent it (unlike the majority of the changes proposed in the President’s budget request). Should Congressional appropriators wish to maintain the MRI, they would need to include specific language in their FY 2021 appropriations bill stipulating that funding for the program continue.

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Posted in Issue 4 (February 18), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

Defense Health Program Releases Anticipated Funding Opportunities for Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program

On  January 10, the Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program (PRMRP) of the Defense Health Program at the Department of Defense released a pre-announcement of its fiscal year (FY) 2020 anticipated funding opportunities and topic areas. Topic areas include eating disorders, resilience training, and sleep disorders, among others. PRMRP supports research projects to improve the health, care, and well-being of all military service members, veterans, and beneficiaries and grant proposals must address at least one of the pre-determined topic areas. More information can be found on the Defense Health Program website.

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Posted in Issue 3 (February 4), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

National Academies Releases Review of Minerva Initiative

The National Academies of Sciences’ Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences released Assessing the Minerva Research Initiative and the Contribution of Social Science to Addressing Security Concerns, a consensus study report assessing the impact, procedures, and direction of the Minerva Research Initiative. The Minerva Research Initiative is a grant program of the Department of Defense (DOD) that funds unclassified, university-based, basic research in the social sciences relevant to national security. The report discusses the program’s challenges and successes and offers recommendations to strengthen the program’s structure and help broaden its reach and usefulness.

The report includes recommendations for both the Minerva Research Initiative and the Department of Defense. It encourages DOD to ensure the Initiative has a leader with stature in a full-time, civil service position, to evaluate whether additional staff are needed, and to reduce the administrative burden on Minerva-funded grantees by streamlining the IRB process. The recommendations for the Initiative include refining its approach to topic selection, creating a strategic outreach plan, creating a centralized and public-facing database of projects, and broadening its engagement with the research community, including reaching out to early career researchers. Additionally, the study recommends the Initiative work to develop relationships with potential supporters of the program, including leadership at DOD, and to create a more robust monitoring and evaluation for grants. The complete report can be downloaded from the National Academies’ website.

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Posted in Issue 21 (October 29), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

Minerva Initiative Releases 2019 Funding Opportunity Announcement, Topics of Interest

The Minerva Research Initiative, the social science research program administered jointly by the Office of Basic Research and the Office of Policy at the U.S. Department of Defense, has released its 2019 funding opportunity announcement (FOA) and its 2019 topics of interest. The Minerva Research Initiative supports university-based, unclassified research in areas of strategic importance to U.S. national security policy. Research topics of interest for 2019 include: peer/near-peer statecraft, influence, and regional balance of power; power, deterrence, and escalation management; alliances and burden sharing; economic interdependence and security; economic viability, resilience, and sustainability of logistics infrastructure; multi-domain behavioral complexity and computational social modeling; autonomy, artificial intelligence, machine ethics, and social interactions; models and methods for understanding covert online influence; and automated cyber vulnerability analysis.

White papers in response to the FOA are due by June 20 and full proposals must be submitted by September 26. More information can be found on the Minerva Research Initiative website.

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Posted in Issue 10 (May 14), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

Minerva Initiative Releases 2018 Funding Opportunity Announcement, Topics of Interest

The Minerva Research Initiative, the social science research program administered jointly by the Office of Basic Research and the Office of Policy at the U.S. Department of Defense, has released its 2018 funding opportunity announcement (FOA) and 2018 topics of interest. The Minerva Research Initiative supports university-based, unclassified, research in areas of strategic importance to U.S. national security policy. Research topics of interest for 2018 include: sociopolitical (in)stability, resilience, and recovery; economic interdependence and security; alliances and burden sharing; fundamental dynamics of scientific discovery; adversarial information campaigns; automated cyber vulnerability analysis; and security risks in ungoverned and semi-governed spaces.

White papers in response to the FOA are due on June 19 and full proposals must be submitted by August 14. More information can be found on the Minerva Research Initiative Website.

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Posted in Issue 12 (June 12), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

National Academies Calls for Nominations for Committee to Assess the Minerva Research Initiative

The Board of Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences (BBCSS) at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine announced a new project funded by the Department of Defense to assess its Minerva Research Initiative. The Minerva Initiative is a Department of Defense-sponsored university-based social science research program that supports basic research to better understand the social, cultural, behavioral, and political forces that shape the world, including international conflicts. BBCSS is seeking applications for committee members who will lead this assessment. More information can be found here, and applications for committee membership can be submitted here.

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Posted in Issue 19 (October 3), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

Federal Agencies Clarify Programmatic Goals and Specific Interests for Multiscale Modeling Initiative

In December 2016, seven federal agencies–National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Army Research Office (ARO), Department of Energy (DOE), U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Office of Naval Research (ONR)–released a notice (NOT-EB-16-011) clarifying the programmatic goals and specific interests of the interagency funding opportunity announcement Predictive Multiscale Models for Biomedical, Biological, Behavioral, Environmental and Clinical Research (PAR-15-085).  See the notice for full details.

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Posted in Issue 1 (January 10), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

DOD Seeks Candidates for Associate Director for Social Science Research

The Department of Defense (DOD) Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research is seeking candidates to fill the position of Associate Director of Social Science Research. This position includes direction of the Minerva Research Initiative. The Minerva Initiative was launched in 2008 as a university-based social science research program. The position will be filled through the Intergovernmental Personnel Act process, so applicants must be the employee of state, local, federal, or tribal government; an institution of higher education; or another eligible nonprofit, and agree to serve a set term in the position. Demonstrated experience with large program management, as well as a higher degree in the social and behavioral sciences are among the requirements.

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Posted in Issue 18 (September 20), Update, Volume 35 (2016)

Funding Opportunity Announcements

NIH Opportunities:

  • NCI:  Feasibility Studies to Build Collaborative Partnerships in Cancer Research (P20) (PAR-16-084)
  • NIA: NIA Clinical Research Project Planning Grant Program (R34), (PAR-16-085)
  • NIH: Education and Health: New Frontiers (R21) (PAR-16-078), (R03) (PAR-16-079), (R01) (PAR-16-080),  [OBSSR, NCI, NIA, NICHD, NIDA]
  • NIH: International Research Ethics Education and Curriculum Development Award (R25) (PAR-16-081), [FIC, NHGRI, NIAID]
  • NIH: International Bioethics Research Training Program (D43) (PAR-16-082), [FIC, NHGRI]
  • NIH:  Save the Date for the 2016 NIH Regional Seminar in Baltimore, Maryland – May 11-13, (NOT-OD-16-026)

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Posted in Issue 2 (January 26), Update, Volume 35 (2016)

DOD: 2015 Minerva Deadline Extended

As previously reported, the Office of the Secretary of Defense within the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has issued the Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) for the 2015 Minerva Research Initiative, DOD’s signature social science research program. DOD recently extended the deadline for the 2015 competition. White papers are now due November 10 and full proposals are due February 10. See the BAA for full details.

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Posted in Issue 19 (October 20), Update, Volume 33 (2014)

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