Minerva Initiative Minerva Initiative

Priority Research Topics for FY 2015

The topics listed are intended to provide a frame of reference for current Minerva interests though not to be restrictive. Topics are not mutually exclusive and proposals may consider issues relating to questions, scope, or regions beyond those listed.

More detailed descriptions can be found in the FY15 Broad Agency Announcement.

I. Identity, Influence, and Mobilization

Recent developments in the Middle East, West Africa, and Central Eurasia highlight the need for improved understanding of influence and mobilization, especially when leading to violence. Mitigating terrorism and political violence requires an understanding of the underlying social and cultural forces that shape motivations and mobilize action. The United States and its partners must consider these cultural dynamics to effectively craft communications and operations that fulfill their intended purposes while mitigating potential unintended consequences.

Regions of interest include South Asia, Middle East/ North Africa, West Africa, Central Eurasia

POC: Benjamin Knott, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, benjamin.knott.2@us.af.mil

(1-A) Culture, identity, and security

(1-B) Belief formation and influence

(1-C) Mobilization for change

II. Contributors to Societal Resilience and Change

The objective of this research track is to develop new insights into the social dynamics within regions and states (particularly those of strategic interest to DOD) and examine the factors that affect societal resilience to external "shock" events and corresponding tipping points. Specifically, the Department of Defense is interested in better anticipating and identifying potential areas of unrest, instability, and conflict. Insights, frameworks, and data should inform strategic thinking about resource allocation across defense missions (including in the cyber realm) as well as improve policy and engagement strategies before, during, and after societal shifts like those seen recently in North Africa and the Middle East.

Regions of interest include Central Eurasia, South Asia, Middle East, NE Asia, cyber domain

POC: Lisa Troyer, Army Research Office, lisa.l.troyer.ctr@mail.mil

(2-A) Governance and rule of law

(2-B) Resources, economics, and globalization

(2-C) Additional factors impacting societal resilience and change

III. Power and Deterrence

Political science and international relations have traditionally emphasized the roles of and relationships among formal institutions such as states, inter-governmental organizations, and non-governmental organizations. Today, however, many traditional assumptions regarding power relationships and escalation theory no longer hold.

The objective of this research track is to offer new theories, models, and approaches to power projection and conflict escalation that consider strategic behavior among various transnational actors across domains in a globalized, rapidly interconnecting, and cyber-enabled world. For rising military powers in particular, this research will yield a deeper understanding of the social, cultural, and historical factors that define strategic priorities, drive approaches to international engagement, and shape state-internal balances of power between political, military, and industrial forces.

Areas of interest include non-state institutions, rising military powers, potential alliance partners, and globally contested domains like cyber and maritime chokepoints.

POC: Martin Kruger, Office of Naval Research, martin.kruger1@navy.mil

(3-A) Power projection and diffusion

(3-B) Beyond conventional deterrence

IV. Innovations in National Security, Conflict, and Cooperation

POC: Harold Hawkins, Office of Naval Research, harold.hawkins@navy.mil

For more details on subtopics 4A and 4B, click below.

(4-A) Analytical methods and metrics for security research

The development of valid, reliable formal models of social structure and social processes remains an ongoing challenge within the social sciences. Measurement, data acquisition, the construction of quantitative models of social systems, and validation of the measures and models can be challenging because of issues unique to social science research, including lack of controlled studies, censored datasets, difficulty in establishing ground truth, and the complexities of social systems and their interdependencies with natural and physical systems. Yet, rigorous, validated quantitative measurement and models offer advantages, including reproducible methods, ability to compare information across sets of data and across time, opportunities for visualization of trends, and the potential to forecast future events and states. Advances in mathematics and statistical methods, alongside new strategies of modeling complex systems in the physical and natural sciences, may offer opportunities to advance quantitative methods in the social sciences.

In the interest of addressing the challenges related to modeling complex social systems and in leveraging emerging advances in quantitative measurement and modeling across disciplines, the DOD seeks innovative, fundamental, interdisciplinary research to inform the development of quantitative measurement and models in the context of defense-critical problems. Of particular interest are high-risk approaches to tackling the challenges noted above. Proposals must be based on well-motivated measurement and modeling theories (from social sciences or other disciplines); one- or two-year proof-of-concept projects are encouraged.

(4-B) Emerging topics in conflict and security

The Department of Defense Minerva program welcomes research proposals addressing areas of international affairs, international security, and national security beyond those already enumerated that are newly emerging or have not been properly understood yet may define the future security environment.

Learn how to submit proposals for new research related to these topics.

Q: How do you pick these topics?

The Minerva Research Initiative aims to target its funded research at the most important fundamental knowledge gaps impacting national security. Each spring the Minerva program staff invites government communities of interest to send ideas for topics the Minerva program might 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.

To submit ideas or learn more about this process, contact Minerva staff.