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Defense Authorization Bill Goes to Conference with Minerva Funding Intact

The House and Senate are set to begin negotiations on the annual authorizing legislation for the Department of Defense (DOD), the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The House passed its bill on July 21, with the Senate following suit on July 23. As previously reported, the bills passed by both chambers included language to prevent the elimination of Defense-wide funding for DOD’s basic social science research program, the Minerva Research Initiative, as has been proposed in the Administration’s budget request for fiscal year (FY) 2021. The agreement on funding for Minerva in both bills is a positive sign that funding for the program will continue into FY 2021.

Not included in either bill is any version of the Endless Frontier Act (see previous coverage). Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) had introduced it as an amendment to the Senate NDAA, but it was not ultimately brought to the floor.

Conferees have not yet been named, but the NDAA is considered “must-pass” legislation by the end of the fiscal year on September 30. A potential complication to the eventual passage of a conferenced NDAA is the threat of a presidential veto over provisions included in both bills that mandate renaming military bases and facilities named for Confederates. However, both chambers passed their respective bills with more than two-thirds majorities, indicating that a veto of the conferenced bill could be overridden.

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Posted in Issue 16 (August 4), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

Funding for DOD Social Science Research Restored in House and Senate Defense Authorization Bills

Both the House and Senate’s drafts of the annual authorization bill for the Department of Defense (DOD), the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), include language preventing the elimination of funding for DOD’s basic social science research program, the Minerva Research Initiative, as proposed in the Administration’s budget request for fiscal year (FY) 2021. Both bills propose a total of $17 million in the Defense-Wide funding line for the Minerva initiative, which if enacted would be a sizeable increase over the $11.4 million the program received in FY 2020. While the Minerva Initiative receives some funding from the Navy and Air Force, Defense-Wide funding accounts for the majority of its budget.

Both bills include language in support of the Minerva Initiative and social science research at the Department of Defense more generally. They contain nearly-identical language asserting that maintaining America’s technological superiority “requires not only investing in physical sciences but also the integration of cross-disciplinary research that explores the social, cultural, behavioral, political, historical, and religious drivers of today’s increasingly complex global security environment.” In addition, both bills would require that DOD report back on how it plans to continue to cultivate the social sciences within the Department.

The Senate NDAA (report) was approved by the Armed Services Committee on June 23. Floor debate began on July 1 and continued until the Senate adjourned for a two-week recess on July 2. The Senate will resume consideration when it returns on July 20. Among the amendments proposed for consideration are a version of Senator Charles Schumer’s (D-NY) Endless Frontier Act, which as previously reported, proposes sweeping structural changes for the National Science Foundation (NSF). Should the amendment pass, it would fall to the conference committee to negotiate whether and in what form the legislation would be included in the final bill.

The House Armed Services Committee approved its version of the bill (Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities mark) on July 1. A timeline for consideration by the full House is unclear, but the NDAA is considered “must-pass” legislation by the end of the fiscal year on September 30.

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Posted in Issue 14 (July 7), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

Bipartisan Bill Would Mandate DOD Fund Social Science Research

On June 5, Reps. Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) and David McKinley (R-WV) introduced the Social Sciences Protect Our Nation Act (H.R. 7106), a bill that would require the Department of Defense (DOD) to maintain a basic social sciences research program. Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI), Chair of the House Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities, joined as an original co-sponsor of the legislation. The bill was introduced in response to DOD’s plans to cut Defense-wide funding for social and behavioral science research, including the Minerva Research Initiative, a university-based social science research program, in the coming fiscal year. According to the legislation, “Maintaining a basic social sciences research program provides the Department of Defense critical access to expertise to inform cultural understanding, support technological edge, counter adversarial social interventions, and understand drivers to strengthen alliances and attract new partners.”

COSSA released a statement on the legislation that was included in a press release from Rep. Lipinski’s office:

“The Consortium of Social Science Associations (COSSA) applauds Representatives Daniel Lipinski and David McKinley for introducing the Social Sciences Protect Our Nation Act, which recognizes the essential role basic social and behavioral science research plays in supporting national defense and the need for such research to have a home within the Defense Department, where it can be put to immediate use. Social science research has enhanced America’s national security by improving our understanding of complex dynamics such as terrorism and radicalization, gang behavior, political instability, and demographic shifts in nations around the world. The Social Sciences Protect Our Nation Act will ensure that this research continues to thrive within our national security enterprise.”

Upon its introduction, the legislation was referred to the House Armed Services Committee, although a timeline for consideration is unclear.

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Posted in Issue 12 (June 9), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

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)

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)

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)

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