Join 3,512 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


The Minerva Controversy
March 7, 2013 5:03 AM   Subscribe

The Department of Defense recently announced the creation of the Minerva Research Initiative (PDF), also known as Project Minerva, providing as much as $75 million over five years to support social science research on areas of strategic importance to U.S. national security policy. The initiative indicates a renewal of interest in social science findings after a prolonged period of neglect, but it also prompts concerns about the appropriate relationship between university-based research programs and the state, especially when research might become a tool of not only governance but also military violence. The Social Science Research Council (SSRC) has invited prominent scholars to speak to the questions raised by Project Minerva and to address the controversy it has sparked in academic quarters.
posted by infini (17 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
To be honest, given that the modern GOP basically wants to revoke every last dollar of social science research that doesn't support the existence of God, firearms never killing anyone, women being weaker creatures requiring male stewardship, and racial disparities due to biology, it might end up that defense funding it is the only way that it gets done.
posted by zombieflanders at 5:12 AM on March 7, 2013


Social science research funding has been closely tied to state agendas, at least in the US, since the Cold War. What do you think a Fulbright fellowship is for? Or area studies grants?
posted by spitbull at 5:17 AM on March 7, 2013


This one is especially good,
"There are a myriad of reasons for the social sciences to be skeptical of developing closer working relationships with the military by cashing in on new opportunities like the Minerva Initiative, most obviously the possibility of a further militarization of academia. Anthropologists, in particular, have been vocal about their concerns — concerns that should be publicly aired and discussed. In the broadest sense, these include:
1) A deep-seated reluctance to participate, intentionally or unintentionally, in the promotion of perceived U.S. imperial designs;
2) the real potential for undermining academic freedoms and reducing formerly more autonomous scholarship and research agendas across the academy to questions of national interest and security;
3) the recruitment of social scientists into clandestine research projects, where deliberate misrepresentation could irreparably damage the reputation of non-military field workers through a taint by association,
4) and where an absence of open knowledge circulation would erode the academic public sphere;
5) as well as the potential unethical application of social scientific knowledge production in pursuit of military objectives, including for the targeting of research populations in the form of intellectual “smart bombs.”
If these and other concerns are differently expressed across the social sciences, they add up to resistance among social scientists in welcoming Minerva-like opportunities. But, whether justified or not in this case, they also actively contribute to a dramatic lack of public dialogue between the social sciences and the military. I want to explore here how that, too, can be problematic. In the absence of more lively and wide-ranging discussions between the military and university-based social sciences, the military is in effect left to make of social science research what it will. This includes the reproduction of potentially hard-to-dislodge and often parochial military-specific assumptions about how the social sciences are in fact relevant and should be used, which can lead to unhappy outcomes."
posted by Blasdelb at 5:17 AM on March 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


The first link doesn't seem to be working for me; instead of a PDF, I get the Army Research Laboratory's home page.
posted by amtho at 5:21 AM on March 7, 2013


For that matter, American anthropology received the bulk of its support from the late 19th century through the 1920s at least from federal initiatives to contain, assimilate, administer, eliminate, and kill Native Americans. No cavalry, no anthropology.

Two of the leading critics of Minerva are good friends of mine. They would argue we are finally on our way to untangling the social science/military knot and this is a wrong turn. But I wonder. The corruption goes back to the beginnings of our disciplines and built the universities where we work.
posted by spitbull at 5:24 AM on March 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also, Albro is a smart guy and the SSRC funds half my students' research, but "myriad of?" Get me edit on the double!
posted by spitbull at 5:30 AM on March 7, 2013


[I've replaced the url for the first link, which wasn't working for me either, with what I think is a working link from the site, with the same pdf file name. Let me know if it's not the right thing.]
posted by taz at 5:30 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


If your research initiative sounds like it could be an Ernst Blofeld plot to take over the world, you may want to re-think some things.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:33 AM on March 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


Thank you taz, for fixing my oversight. I picked up the link directly from the main site after framing the FPP. Sorry!
posted by infini at 5:38 AM on March 7, 2013


I like the piece Blasdelb posts, but I think the point could be made even simpler. How can social scientists look at the gory mess of post 9/11 foreign policy, and not conclude that better social science in the intelligence and defense establishment might not have lowered the cost in blood and treasure?
posted by MattD at 5:40 AM on March 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


If your research initiative sounds like it could be an Ernst Blofeld plot to take over the world, you may want to re-think some things.

I just can't believe they named it after my least favorite Inspector Spacetime character.
posted by Strange Interlude at 5:44 AM on March 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


How can social scientists look at the gory mess of post 9/11 foreign policy, and not conclude that better social science in the intelligence and defense establishment might not have lowered the cost in blood and treasure?

Would it not have depended on the research framing and/or the question posed to them? For eg: Find out what buttons to push to have them keel over or some such bla bla, in which case, how would this have lowered the cost?

As for costs in Iraq...
posted by infini at 5:47 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't understand the main post lead-in. The BAA linked to is from 2008/2009 - this is hardly 'recently'. Minerva has been around for some time.
posted by scolbath at 5:50 AM on March 7, 2013


How can social scientists look at the gory mess of post 9/11 foreign policy, and not conclude that better social science in the intelligence and defense establishment might not have lowered the cost in blood and treasure?

Yeargh matey! Yes, blood and treasure. It was talk like a pirate day at some military thinktank and no one got the joke.

If your research initiative sounds like it could be an Ernst Blofeld plot to take over the world, you may want to re-think some things.

Actually it's the opposite. The military has forgotten how to co-opt research communities. Hint: research is meaningless, control the means of production and you control the people who produce. Even a bunch of hippy communists working on military grants will always bend the knee when the time comes, even if they don't realize it at the time.
posted by ennui.bz at 6:18 AM on March 7, 2013


Scientists who don't want their research turned to what they see as unethical ends should hang up their metaphorical lab coats and buy a farm, except that soldiers eat food, too. The only thing that surpasses humanity's ability to pervert knowledge to serve violence is humanity's ability to pervert knowledge to serve perversion.
posted by Etrigan at 6:19 AM on March 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


...like Minverva and her gang of merry gods?
Second scolbath, this thing was thunk up under bob gates.

Minerva’s owl cannot fly with her wings so clipped.
Dude, it is called the NSA.
posted by clavdivs at 6:22 AM on March 7, 2013


Rock Steady: "If your research initiative sounds like it could be an Ernst Blofeld plot to take over the world, you may want to re-think some things."

My cat Minerva (on the left) issued a statement this morning through her speaker Nora (on the right) denying any knowledge of the Minerva Research Initiative and the existence of plans for world domination. She would take no further questions on the matter but demanded an explanation for why she had to wait an extra 30 minutes for food.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 12:25 PM on March 7, 2013


« Older Portrayal of the “Other” in Israeli and Palestinia...  |  Old Man Markley - "Do Me Like ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments