Wiki: Minerva Initiative

The Minerva Initiative is a research program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) that provides grants to sustain university-based, social science studies on areas of strategic importance to U.S. national security policy. The program looks to tap into the community of area specialists and other university researchers, particularly those who work on Islam, Iraq, China, and related areas.[1] Since its establishment in 2008, the Department of Defense has awarded over 70 grants to private researchers.[2] Grants are awarded on an annual basis for research projects that typically last three years.

In 2011 the DoD hosted the first annual Minerva Conference. The event has since become an annual gathering in September for Minerva researchers, DoD keynote speakers, and scholars to highlight the most relevant research conducted through the program’s support...


The program's funding of social science research for national security purposes has proven controversial.[8] Although many scholars support Minerva, at the program’s start a number of academic researchers sounded public alarm about the prospect of Defense Department funding for research. In 2008 the American Anthropological Association sent a public letter suggesting that the funding be transferred to a different body, such as the National Science Foundation (NSF). Hugh Gusterson, a prominent anthropologist at George Mason University, wrote a series of articles in a variety of venues that have attracted significant attention,[9]

"any attempt to centralize thinking about culture and terrorism under the Pentagon’s roof will inevitably produce an intellectually shrunken outcome....The Pentagon will have the false comfort of believing that it has harnessed the best and the brightest minds, when in fact it will have only received a very limited slice of what the ivory tower has to offer—academics who have no problem taking Pentagon funds. Social scientists call this “selection bias,” and it can lead to dangerous analytical errors."[10]
More recently, some observers have expressed concern that Minerva research, in its effort to understand mass mobilization, may be targeting peaceful activists, NGOs and protest movements, and has labeled non-violent radical activists "supporters of political violence."[11] Others believe social science should continue to emphasize security issues but worry that DoD funding will bias findings. One article notes:

"In an incentive structure that rewards an emphasis on countering global threats and securing the homeland, the devil lies in the definitions. In this framework, the Boston Marathon bombing becomes a national security problem, whereas the Sandy Hook massacre remains a matter for the police and psychologists—a distinction that is both absurd as social science and troubling as public policy."[12]

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