Minerva Initiative Minerva Initiative

Priority Research Topics for FY14

The topics listed are intended to provide a frame of reference for current Minerva interests and are not meant 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 FY14 Broad Agency Announcement.

I. Belief Propagation and Movements for Change

Recent developments in South Asia, West Africa, and the Middle East highlight the need for improved understanding of influence and mobilization, especially when leading to violence. Decreasing terrorism and political violence requires an understanding of the underlying 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.

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(1-A) Belief formation and influence

Research on belief formation and emotional contagion may help analysts, policy makers, advisors, and trainers better understand the impact of operations on seemingly disparate populations. This research may also inform the development of countermeasures to help reduce the likelihood of militant behaviors.

(1-B) Group identities, cultural norms, and security

It is commonly understood that beliefs and behaviors are strongly shaped by cultural context, and these relationships can help inform policy-making. The Department of Defense seeks research to rigorously test the impact of cultural factors, to include identity and local norms, on beliefs and behaviors. Proposals providing contextualized analysis beyond modelization are encouraged.

(1-C) Mobilization for change

The Department of Defense is interested in better understanding what drives individuals and groups to mobilize to institute change. In particular, models that explain and explore factors that motivate or inhibit groups to adopt political violence as a tactic will help inform understanding of where organized violence is likely to erupt, what factors might explain its contagion, and how one might circumvent its spread.

(1-D) The structural dynamics of disruptive organizations

II. Models of Societal Resilience and Change

The objective of this research track is to develop new insights into the social dynamics within states in general and authoritarian states in particular, and examinethe factors that impacti societal resilience, societal collapse, and the corresponding tipping points. The Department of Defense is interested in innovative frameworks and new data that may assist policymakers in developing improved methods for anticipating and identifying potential areas of unrest, instability, and conflict. Insights may inform strategic thinking about resource allocation for defense efforts and humanitarian aid as well as insights for national policy and engagement with both state and non-state actors before, during, and after transformations like those seen in recent regime transitions in North Africa and the Middle East.

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(2-A) Economic contributors to stability

(2-B) Governance contributors to stability

(2-B) Energy, environment, and resource contributors to stability

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

III. Theories of Power and Escalation

The objective of this research track is to offer new theories, models, and approaches to power projection and conflict escalation that consider strategic behavior between various transnational actors across domains in a globalized, rapidly interconnecting, and cyber-enabled world. For rising military powers, 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.

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(3-A) The changing role of the state in a globalizing world

Phenomena such as the "flattening" of labor markets and the increasing flow of people across state borders (whether through immigration or as refugees) have influenced demographics and created global communities that transcend traditional state boundaries. At the same time, the global diffusion of power is yielding a multipolarity of global leadership with its own broad implications. Targeted study may yield new models for effective state behavior in this changed global landscape.

(3-B) Beyond conventional deterrence

The objective of this research track is to offer new theories, models, and approaches to escalation and deterrence theory that incorporate strategic behavior among international actors across new and traditional geographic domains.

IV. Emerging Topics in Conflict and Security

Just as the Cold War gave rise to new ideas and fields of study such as game theory and Kremlinology, the challenges facing the world today call for a broader conception and application of national power that goes beyond military capability. Accordingly, the Department of Defense is interested in new approaches and methods to identify issues that have been overlooked yet may define the future security environment.

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(4-A) Quantification and metrics

The Department of Defense seeks fundamental interdisciplinary research in the context of defense-critical problems to inform and create quantification (how one chooses numbers or vectors or points on manifolds to represent social phenomena) and metrics (how "close" two social phenomena are to each other) that are based on sociological and socio-cognitive principles.

(4-B) Additional topics

The Department of Defense Minerva program welcomes additional research proposals addressing other areas of international affairs, international security, and national security that are newly emerging or have not been properly understood.

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.