As outgoing Secretary of Defense Robert Gates indicated in his April 14, 2008 speech to the Association of American Universities, one of the key components of the Minerva Initiative is its commitment to complete openness and rigid adherence to academic freedom and integrity. As such, there are no restrictions on the nationality of faculty or students who are eligible to participate in any of the components of the Minerva Initiative.
The Minerva BAA is open to foreign scholars. Non-US universities are eligible to compete and receive funds in this competition, both with US partners and without.
The Minerva Research Initiative was initiated by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates as a university-based social science research program, and university research remains the program's emphasis. However, non-profit institutions and commercial entities are eligible to compete and receive Minerva basic research funding as collaborators in university-led team proposals.
Can a single higher education institution submit more than white paper if they are interested in more than one topic area? Can a commercial subcontractor be on more than one higher education team -- e.g., different teams dealing with different topic areas?
Investigators may submit multiple proposals to the Minerva BAA, though the concepts presented must be distinct and the differences clear.
Current Minerva researchers are eligible to submit new proposals both as lead PIs and as collaborators for both small team and large consortium proposals. These proposals are NOT intended to be renewal proposals to augment existing work and will be competed on equal footing with other research proposals. It is expected that the proposals will be clearly distinct from ongoing work.
Minerva grantees whose period of performance is set to expire prior to September 2014 should re-compete in the FY13 Minerva competition. In this case it is expected that budget estimates for Year 1 will take the existing funding into account unless clearly distinct new efforts are demonstrated.
Groups otherwise eligible to propose to Minerva remain eligible even if they or their peers already receive Minerva funding. Again, proposed concepts should be clearly distinct from other Minerva efforts.
Policies on who can be a principal investigator on a grant vary by the military service executing the Minerva grant, but in general the university PI must be a professor or research staff at minimum. We encourage students with Minerva research ideas to work with their advisors or other faculty to submit a proposal.
The Broad Agency Announcement for new Minerva research to begin in 2014 will be posted on this site and through the Office of Naval Research in September 2013.
Until Congress passes a final budget it is hard to say. Assuming that Congress appropriates the full $5M for new projects requested in the President's budget, the expectation is that we'll aim to fund roughly 2-3 large consortium projects and another 4-6 smaller projects.
As many know, the funding landscape is currently highly uncertain. We are working hard to anticipate the budget climate but likely will not know the final numbers until the review process of full proposals is already underway or complete. Whatever happens, we will work to optimize our resources over the proposals received and get some new high quality work in the pipeline.
Solicitations for new Minerva research are conducted through the Department of Defense Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) mechanism. Five criteria for Minerva, specified in the BAA, form the basis for source selection:
White paper submissions are reviewed by the topic chief designated in the Broad Agency Announcement, along with a second complementary evaluation by a second social science Ph.D. in the government.
Full proposals are reviewed by a panel of evaluators, led by the designated topic chief and composed of government subject matter experts and members of the academic community. Findings of the evaluation panels will then be forwarded to the Minerva Steering Committee who will make funding recommendations to the awarding officials according to the standard criteria plus program balance and the availability of funds.
There is no set rule, but in general the higher category should involve several distinct disciplines (2 or more) and at least 3 key investigators. The research questions addressed should extend across a fairly broad range of (linked) issues, where there is clear potential synergy among the contributions of the disciplines represented on the team. If the proposal does not meet most of these criteria, it should be assigned to the other category.
Minerva does fund single investigator awards, also funded by individual military service research organizations, but most of its awards go to support multidisciplinary efforts, either through small teams or via larger research consortia.
The Minerva Research Initiative aims to target its funded research at the most important fundamental knowledge gaps impacting national security. In March 2013 the Minerva program staff invited government communities of interest to send proposals for which topics the Minerva program should prioritize for future university research solicitations. These suggested topics (or the research questions that could be distilled) make up the bulk of the priority research topics currently listed.
In Winter 2014 the Minerva staff will again solicit new ideas from government communities of interest as well as those in the academic research community. Please submit your ideas, or your questions, to firstname.lastname@example.org by March 31, 2014 for possible inclusion in the FY15 research BAA.
In addition to providing early feedback, the white paper stage is also a good opportunity for Minerva program managers to suggest that a proposal would fit better into a different topic category, if applicable.
The defined topics are not mutually exclusive and proposals may consider issues relating to questions, scope, or regions beyond those listed. One dominant topic per proposal is preferable but not necessary. If you submit a single white paper or proposal to more than one topic/topic chief, please make clear in each submission that you have done so.
Given the often extended timeline required for basic research, along with rapidly evolving global security concerns, it is generally best not to scope work as to give insights only for one particular country. Even when research concentrates on a single region, it is expected that resulting conclusions will be at least partially generalizable to similar groups or regions to inform security decisions of the future. That said, when looking at a broad region (e.g. the "Middle East", "Islam") it is important to scope the research to clearly articulable questions and hypotheses. Proposals should motivate why specific populations were chosen to inform the answer to these questions.
Every proposal should clearly satisfy the "Heilmeier Catechism", a standard set of research proposal questions credited to former ARPA director George Heilmeier.
Minerva uses a two-stage proposal process. A white paper is roughly an abbreviated version of a full proposal. In four pages or less the white paper should provide sufficient information on the research being proposed (e.g., hypothesis, theories, concepts, methods, approaches, data collection, measurement and analyses) to allow for an assessment by a subject matter expert. Roughly three weeks later, topic chiefs will respond to white paper submissions. Responses are of two types: invitation for submission of a full proposal for those white papers deemed most competitive in terms of scientific merit and program fit, and notifications to those white papers not in this category. Due to the volume of white papers received, unfortunately it is unlikely that topic chiefs can provide detailed feedback to those white papers not selected for invitation.
White papers are not an absolute requirement for full proposal submission, but are very strongly recommended. Even prior to submitting a white paper we suggest you consider contacting the appropriate topic chief. There is no guarantee with all of the white papers to be reviewed that he or she will be able to give feedback, but if so it could potentially be a time saver for all involved to verify that the proposal is within the scope of Minerva and would be competitive for award.
Interactions with research topic chiefs generally take place only after receiving white paper evaluation. If investigators wish to clarify whether or not their ideas fit within the framework of the solicitation then contacting the topic chief is valid, but the topic chiefs will not be able to give further feedback (e.g. funding level appropriateness or how to shape the proposal to improve chances of success) until the formal evaluation.
Please note that questions on white papers should be submitted at least two weeks before the November 18, 2013 deadline.
White papers must be four pages or less, but certain items are auxiliary. A cover sheet, CVs, bibliographies, etc. can optionally be included but do not contribute to the four page count.
The "management plan" can be fairly high level but might generally look something like:
Dr. ** (PI) will be responsible for the overall technical and financial direction and management of the project. ** will identify, track and manage project progress, and disseminate project information to all personnel. ** will also generate detailed analyses of ___. Dr. *** (Co-PI) will __[research effort]. Finally, Dr. **** will examine ___.
Just who's involved, who's in charge, and what is everyone's high level contribution.
Two white papers submitted in a previous year's competition and have been made available with permission of the principal investigators -- here and here. These samples are not provided as templates or perfect examples but rather to demonstrate to prospective proposers the expected depth of detail, the balance of narrative for describing challenges vs. narrative for describing research ideas to address them, etc.
If you missed the deadline for the 2014 white paper competition or were not sent an invitation for proposal, it is possible but discouraged to submit a full proposal for consideration. Please reach out to the relevant topic chief to explain why the deadline was missed and to succinctly describe the research concept (a few sentences at most), and the topic chief will let you know if there is adequate program interest for you to submit.
A budget estimate different than that given in the white paper will not be an issue, as the full proposal review will really be a clean slate judgment by an expanded set of reviewers.The more effectively you justify your budget, of course, the better!
No, these are separate and should be uploaded at field 12 of the grants.gov submission form.
There is not a format or page limit required for biographical sketches attached to the "Research and Related - Senior/Key Person Profile Form".
As a subcontractor you still had to be evaluated and approved just like the prime, and should answer yes. If there is a place to annotate on the form you should say you performed work as a subcontractor, but still check yes.
"Letters of support" are certainly not required and generally make little difference. Circumstances in which they might be particularly useful might include:
Human subjects approvals for DoD-funded social science research can be cumbersome but we want to help you through the process. All Minerva research is executed by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the Army Research Office, or the Office of Naval Research. Each Military Service has slightly different processes/requirements (so not everything true at the Army Research Office will apply for AFOSR or ONR executed research) so the best first step is to reach out to the topic chief for your topic of interest to learn what process applies to you.
With that caveat in mind, here is a summary of a Fall 2012 discussion AFOSR staff held with potential proposers on its IRB process. These notes are meant as guidance only; only the official human subjects POCs for the Service relevant to your proposal can give definitive answers.
Due to privacy issues and concerns over posting specific details for funded work not yet competed, the Minerva program does not make any full proposal examples available to proposers. If you have specific questions, please contact Minerva program staff.
We're expecting to have around $6 M to allocate to new proposals (compared to ~$8 M in 2013 and ~$3 M in 2012). Project sizes vary widely so it is hard to predict the distribution of awards. It will depend on many factors but a reasonable guess might be around four larger projects (~$800k/yr), four medium-size, and four smaller projects.
At the topic-level, full proposals submitted to the Minerva program will be reviewed both by technical experts and by individuals more expert in OSD and Governmental policy priorities. The proposal should be pitched to both these groups. In particular, it is important to define ideas and measures in a way that can be appreciated by technical non-experts. Do not assume all reviewers will appreciate the significance or contribution of particular instruments, techniques, analytical tools and the like.
Once topic-level recommendations are made, the OSD Minerva Steering Committee considers a number of factors in determining the final slate of awards.
If your work entails survey or ethnographic data gathering in foreign countries, you should begin right away the processes of gaining IRB approval AND formal written host country permission for this data gathering. These processes can be extremely time-consuming, sometimes taking many months, so you should not delay in initiating them even though final funding decisions have not yet been completed. You should document your progress along these lines in the full proposal. Each of the three military service research organizations has a unique process and set of requirements for obtaining these approvals. You may want to reach out to the expert in IRB and host country permissions from the organization corresponding to your subtopic:
- Air Force Office of Scientific Research (Subtopics 2A, 2B, 4B): Ms. Stephanie Bruce at email@example.com
- Army Research Office (Subtopics 1D, 2C, 2D, 4A): see http://mrmc.amedd.army.mil/index.cfm?pageid=Research_Protections.hrpo (you will get a certificate error but click continue) or contact Mr. Bill Bratton at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Office of Naval Research (Subtopics 1A, 1B, 1C, 3A, 3B): Ms. Patti Yasenchak at email@example.com
Follow the links under the Funded Activities page or send your contact information and request for additional information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Minerva is a basic research effort. It is not expected that basic research will pay any immediate dividends to the Department of Defense (DoD). These specific topics were picked less for their immediate utility than for the likelihood that they would constitute significant areas of interest over the long term for the United States.
The Minerva program funds only unclassified basic research. Federal policy ensures that such research not be subjected to any restrictions on publication or participation by foreign nationals, and in the case of Minerva this point is especially emphasized as it's considered essential to the nature of the research.