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Immediate Release

Department of Defense Awards $28.7M in Grants for the FY2021 Minerva Research Initiative

DoD announced today awards of $28.7 million in grants to 17 university-based faculty teams through the FY2021 Minerva Research Initiative to support research in social and behavioral science.

“We live in a dynamic world, and many of the challenges we face are social or have social elements to them,” said Dr. Bindu Nair, Director, Basic Research Office in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering. “The knowledge and methodologies generated from Minerva awardees have improved DoD’s ability to define sources of present and future conflict with an eye toward better understanding the political trajectories of key regions of the world.”

This initiative supports basic research that focuses on topics of particular relevance to U.S. national security. Through its network of faculty investigators, the Minerva Research Initiative also strengthens the Department’s connections with the social science community and helps DoD better understand and prepare for future challenges, including National Defense Strategy priorities.

The 17 faculty awardees were selected from approximately 220 applicants in nine categories using a merit competition. In order to make foundational contributions to basic social science and align with the National Defense strategy, research proposals were peer-reviewed and selected for scientific merit, relevance, and potential impact in conference between the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering and the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy.

The Minerva Research Initiative is jointly administered by the Basic Research Office in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering and the Strategy and Force Development Office in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, in partnership with the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the Office of Naval Research.

The full list of awardees includes:

  1. Climate Change and Alternative Governance 
    Principal Investigator: Kathleen Cunningham, University of Maryland
  2. Comparing Underlying Drivers of South-North Migration in Central America and West Africa 
    Principal Investigator: Alex De Sherbinin, Columbia University 
  3. Understanding Individual and Team Cognition in Support of Future Space Missions 
    Principal Investigator: Stephen Fiore, University of Central Florida
  4. What’s Missing? Innovating Interdisciplinary Methods for Hard-to-Reach Environments 
    Principal Investigator: Erika Frydenlund, Old Dominion University
  5. Computational Kremlinology: Analyzing the Dynamics of Authoritarian Regime Elites Using Networks Constructed from Images and Texts 
    Principal Investigator: Michael Gabbay, University of Washington
  6. Identifying Risks and Opportunities in the Department of Defense Research Portfolio 
    Principal Investigator: Ian Hutchins, University of Wisconsin
  7. Global Security Program: Contested Space, Illicit Flows, and Order in the Contemporary World 
    Principal Investigator: Annette Idler, University of Oxford
  8. The Future of Human Governance: Assessing China’s Ambitions to Proliferate AI-Enabled Authoritarianism 
    Principal Investigator: Jeannie Johnson, Utah State University
  9. Comprehensive Modeling of Cultural Transformations in Response to Shocks and Hazards Associated with Climate 
    Principal Investigator: Eric Jones, University of Texas, El Paso
  10. Social Impacts of Climate Change 
    Principal Investigator: Arie Kruglanski, University of Maryland
  11. Habitus and the Information Environment: An Ethnographic Case Study of Digital Anthropology 
    Principal Investigator: Itamara Lochard, George Mason University
  12. Post-Conflict Security Structures and Citizen Buy-In 
    Principal Investigator: Aila Matanock, University of California, Berkeley
  13. Understanding the Impact of Domestic Violent Extremist Organization’s Narratives of Revolutionary Patriotism on U.S. Military Audiences 
    Principal Investigator: Robert Pape, University of Chicago
  14. Climate Change and Great Power Competition 
    Principal Investigator: Kristopher Ramsay, Princeton University
  15. Polarization, Propaganda, Strategy: Combatting Chinese Influence in Contested and Non-Contested Territories 
    Principal Investigator: Marc Ratkovic, Princeton University
  16. The Cultural, Economic, and Institutional Determinants of AI Infrastructures and Their Consequences in Global Contexts 
    Principal Investigator: JP Singh, George Mason University
  17. Social and Institutional Determinants of Vulnerability and Resilience to Climate Hazards in the African Sahel 
    Principal Investigator: Leonardo Villalon, University of Florida

For more information on the Minerva Research Initiative, click here.

About USD(R&E)

The Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (USD(R&E) is the Chief Technology Officer of the Department of Defense. The USD(R&E) champions research, science, technology, engineering, and innovation to maintain the United States military’s technological advantage. Learn more at, follow us on Twitter @DoDCTO, or visit us on LinkedIn at