Social Science and the Pentagon

Social Science and the Pentagon - audio of a segment from today's The Kojo Nnamdi Show (American University Radio - WAMU).

The Pentagon is funding academic research to better understand the attraction of terrorism and violent groups in the Middle East -- among other things. But some scholars are concerned the military is only interested in funding research that reinforces its world view. We discuss the complex relationship between the Pentagon and academia.

Guests were William S. Rees, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Laboratories and Basic Sciences; David Vine, Professor, American University; and Patrick Cronin, Director, Institute for National Security Studies, National Defense University.

From a DoD 16 July press release - Department of Defense Partners With Universities For Social Science Research:

The DoD has launched a university-based social science initiative to support basic research in topic areas of importance to current and future US national security.

The initiative, called Minerva, will support multi- and interdisciplinary and cross-institutional efforts addressing a range of social science topic areas. It will bring together universities, research institutions and individual scholars into a partnership to tackle topics of interest to DoD. For example, DoD could pursue topics such as foriegn military and technology research, terrorism or cultural studies. The initial funding is $10-20 million annually.

The objectives include:

(1) To foster and improve the Defense Department's social science intellectual capital and ability to understand and address security challenges.

(2) To support and develop basic research and expertise within the social sciences community in subject areas which may provide insight to current and future challenges.

(3) To improve the Defense Department's relationship with the social science community.

To achieve the secretary of defense's vision, DoD will pilot a number of approaches for engaging the social science community. This multi-pronged strategy will enable the department to solicit a broad range of proposals from the social science community and to leverage the expertise and infrastructures of a wide range of existing mechanisms for funding basic research.

The Minerva initiative will have several components to solicit and manage proposals. The first of these has been released through a DoD broad agency announcement (BAA). Additionally, DoD signed a memorandum of understanding with the National Science Foundation on July 2, 2008, to work together on a range of projects related to DoD's Minerva initiative, which might include a solicitation of proposals. Submission to DoD's open BAA will not preclude any offerer from submitting proposals to future solicitations.

Links:

Remarks by Secretary of Defense Gates on the Minerva initiative.

The currently open DoD BAA.

NSF's Press Release regarding the signing of the memorandum of agreement with the DoD.

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