Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Closer Look at the Pentagon's Minerva Initiative by Nathan Hodge

Earlier this week, the Pentagon announced the first Minerva Research Initiative awards, which will fund social science research on key strategic issues.

Seven projects were selected out of a total of 211 proposals. The Pentagon will commit a total of up to $50 million to those research efforts.

That's chump change, of course, compared to your typical Pentagon procurement. Hell, it won't even buy you half an Osprey. But it's a lot of money for the world of academic research. So it's worth taking a closer look at the researchers who will lead the individual projects:

* Susan Shirk of the University of California at San Diego. Shirk will lead a project titled "The Evolving Relationship between Technology and National Security in China: Innovation, Defense Transformation and China's Place in the Global Technology Order."

* Arizona State Religious Studies prof Mark Woodward. His team will investigate "counter radical-Muslim discourse."

* Arms control expert Patricia Lewis, who is deputy director and scientist-in-residence at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. Her project will look at Iraqi perspectives on the U.S. wars in the Middle East.

* Jacob Shapiro of Princeton University. Shapiro studies the organizational aspects of terrorism; his proposal was titled "Terrorism Governance and Development."

* San Francisco State University psychology prof David Matsumoto, who leads a project called "Emotion and Intergroup Relations."

* Foreign policy expert James Lindsay of the University of Texas. He is leading an investigation into the effects of climate change on state stability in Africa.

* MIT's Nazli Choucri. Her project will focus on "cyber international relations."

Minerva has prompted a lot of debate within academia about the wisdom of accepting Pentagon funds. In a way, that's the point: As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (himself a former president of Texas A&M University) has said, Minerva is supposed to repair a rift between the military and the academy. And as the initiative proceeds, it is bound to see more controversy.

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