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Funding Opportunity: Department of Defense Releases FOA for the Minerva Research Initiative


by SIOP Administrative Office

Funding Opportunity: Department of Defense Releases FOA for the Minerva Research Initiative

On May 24, 2018, the Department of Defense (DOD) released the funding opportunity announcement (FOA) for the Minerva Research Initiative (Minerva), the Department’s signature, university-led social science research program. 

As the FOA highlights, the Minerva program seeks to support “research in specific areas of social science and to promote a candid and constructive relationship between DOD and the social science academic community.”  

This year’s Minerva solicitation emphasizes DOD’s interest in projects that align with and support the National Defense Strategy, released in January 2018.   There are eight primary topic areas of interest for the 2018 solicitation, with new emphasis on understanding ungoverned and semi-governed spaces such as transitioning states, cyberspace, and space; adversarial information and influence campaigns in Europe; and an effort to focus on the fundamental dynamics of scientific discovery and increase DOD’s intellectual capital in the social sciences. 

Primary Topic Areas
Complete details of each topic area are in the full FOA.  The eight primary topic areas are:

  • Sociopolitical (In)Stability, Resilience, and Recovery – This topic seeks projects that enhance the basic social scientific understanding of factors contributing to social stability or conflict; processes of community formation and dissolution; and the impact of differing cultural visions on security at micro, mezzo, and macro levels.  The topic also seeks proposals that address the impact of extreme environmental events on sociopolitical (in)stability.
  • Economic Interdependence and Security – This topic is focused on the economic interdependencies associated with how states pursue national security and defense objectives in great power competition.  The Minerva program seeks to develop data and models to capture complex economic interdependencies and assess the implications of those interdependencies for national security among the nation states in the networks.
  • Alliances and Burden Sharing – Noting that there is very little scientific research related to burden-sharing in alliances, this topic seeks to support research that will generate and validate new models to better capture the dynamics of burden-sharing in alliances with attention to factors that limit or eliminate free-riding by partners.    
  • Fundamental Dynamics of Scientific Discovery – The objective of this topic is to explore the fundamental social dynamics underpinning scientific discovery in the S&T research enterprise to help develop validated techniques to identify promising research, recognize potential scientific breakthroughs and measure their significance.  Specifically, the Minerva program wants innovative, multidisciplinary research “embracing quantitative, predictive big data approaches and involving collaborations among natural, computational and social scientists to explore patterns of scientific production with rich mathematical and computational models.”  
  • Adversarial Information Campaigns – This topic will examine adversarial information campaigns in Europe and explore the master narratives, information maneuvers and themes to help understand influence on target audiences.  This topic also takes into account the role of cross-platform communications, online communities, and other computer/online tactics. 
  • Automated Cyber Vulnerability Analysis – Autonomous vulnerability assessment tools are required that can work with human analysts to offer greater coverage of a network over sustained periods of time.  This topic seeks multidisciplinary research – including artificial intelligence, behavioral, social, and statistical sciences – to develop automated techniques for the assessment of network vulnerability to cyberattack.  Solutions should apply to broad range of network types, be modular and scalable, be able to uncover an extensive range of possible sources of vulnerability, and be informed by socio-psychological theory and analyses addressing the sources of error in judgment that increase the vulnerability of cyber systems.  Outcomes should include development and demonstration of an executable system for automated vulnerability analysis and its validity.
  • Power, Deterrence, Influence, and Escalation Management for Shaping Operations – This topic seeks predictive models of power, influence, and/or escalation management strategies in shaping the future of a specific hot-spot and analysis of whether generalized theories allow lessons learned in one region to be applied to another region.  Specific areas of influence include the use of power projection/influence/escalation management actions on or between non-state entities, rising military powers, and rogue states, and the use by those states on the U.S. and its allies.
  • Security Risks in Ungoverned & Semi-Governed Space – This topic will support research to understand areas vulnerable to sociopolitical instabilities in physically and virtually contested spaces that lack strong governance and to understand the dynamics of great power competition in these spaces.  Currently, there is little knowledge on this topic.  Three domains of interest are regions undergoing transitions in governance (Middle East, Africa, Eurasia); rapidly evolving spaces like cyberspace; and areas in which international laws are undergoing shifts such as outer space, polar regions, deep sea, and international waters.  The Minerva program seeks mixed-method approaches that integrate qualitative and quantitative analytic strategies as well as multi-disciplinary theoretical approaches that aid the development of causal models and robust validation methods.

Total Funding and Award Size 
A total of $15 million is available for this FOA and DOD plans to make between 10 to 12 awards averaging between $150,000 and $1 million per year for a period of three to five years.  Previous Minerva awards have averaged approximately $440,000 per year.

This Minerva competition is open to all sources from academia, including U.S. universities, DOD institutions of higher education, and foreign universities.  DOD encourages submissions from Minority Serving Institutions but will not specifically set aside funds for these entities.  

Due Dates 
White Paper Deadline: DOD strongly encourages researchers interested in Minerva to submit white papers to the Research Topic Chiefs prior to preparing a full proposal.  The Topic Chiefs for each area are listed in the full FOA.   White papers are due June 19, 2018 at 3:00 PM EST

Full Proposal Deadline: Following feedback on the white papers, researchers will be required to submit full proposals.  While a researcher may submit a full proposal without having first submitted a white paper, it is discouraged by DOD. The deadline to submit full proposals is August 14, 2018 at 3:00 PM EDT.

Sources and Additional Information: