Interview Protocol for Individual Interviews with Current and Former Minerva Research Initiative Staff
DATA COLLECTION METHODS
Interviews with Department of Defense staff and former staff associated with the Minerva Research Initiative were conducted using the semistructured interview guide below. Fourteen interviews were conducted by National Academies staff between September 4 and October 8, 2018. Interviews lasted between 40 minutes and 2 hours. For further discussion of the interviews, see Chapter 2.
- In a few words, how would you describe your involvement with the Minerva program?
- Minerva has been around for about 10 years and supported a lot of research. First, we want to get your quick reactions to a couple of questions. In just a few words . . .
- What does Minerva do especially well?
- What would be your highest priorities for improving the performance of Minerva? Why?
In which of the following areas would you describe the Minerva program as successful and which areas would benefit from improvement.
- contributing to the development of policy-relevant insights and tools for the national security community
- expanding networks of researchers interested in national security research
- expanding interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary research
- connecting academic researchers to policymakers (for example, within the service branches, other parts of DoD, outside of DoD, as well as the executive and legislative branches)
- [ASK CURRENT PROGRAM DIRECTORS ONLY] creating organizational structures and processes to advance social science research around national security
- How would you describe the quality of the research funded by the Minerva program? What are the strengths and weaknesses?
- How has Minerva research been used by the service branches or DoD more broadly? Please provide some examples.
- How have the service branches or DoD used the expertise of grantees (as opposed to the specific products of their research)? Examples?
- Should and how could the service branches and DoD make better use of Minerva research products and the expertise of Minerva grantees?
- Now let’s discuss whether the right projects are being prioritized for national security needs broadly and for each service branch or whether improvements are needed.
- How and why do priorities differ across the Office of the Secretary, other parts of DoD, and the services branches in selecting research topics and projects for funding? How are these priorities balanced?
- When selecting projects, do you take a portfolio perspective, considering the other projects that will be awarded in the current year and the projects that were awarded in prior years? Or, is each project considered entirely on its own strengths and weaknesses?
What is the balance between scientific merit on the one hand, and on the other hand, potential for use and alignment with the research topics in selecting individual projects to fund and the full portfolio of projects?
- What if you get a scientifically outstanding proposal that doesn’t align well with any topic?
- Should the balance between scientific merit and potential for use be changed in selecting individual projects or building the portfolio of projects?
- How could priority setting and project selection be improved?
- What is the balance between scientific merit on the one hand, and on the other hand, potential for use and alignment with the research topics in selecting individual projects to fund and the full portfolio of projects?
- Is the Minerva program facing any challenges in generating interest among social science researchers, particularly young scholars? [IF YES]
- What is the nature of these challenges? For example, is there a need for more quantity—more research or researchers—focused on topics of national security, or a need for better quality research or researchers, or something else?
- What has been done so far to address these challenges and what else could be done?
- Considering the challenges and opportunities that we have been discussing, what would you say are the one, two, or three highest priorities in terms of changes that are needed to: 1) the vision of Minerva; 2) the process for setting priorities and selecting research topics; and 3) the selection of projects that are funded considering the specific purposes of more effectively meeting contemporary, changing national security challenges as well as the needs of each service branch?
[PROGRAM MANAGERS ONLY]
- Please describe the processes that [ARO/ONR/AFOSR] is involved with in the current Minerva grant cycle. For each process, please describe the activities involved, the key participants and their roles,
- Besides those changes in vision, priorities, and project selection, are there one or two high priorities for changes in the structure and management of the program? If so, what are they?
and the timeline. If relevant, we would also like to learn about how and why the process operates differently across service branches, how and why it operates differently from what is intended, and how and why the process has changed over time.
- How do you choose research topics?
- How do you solicit submissions?
- What is the process for reviewing the submissions (of white papers and full proposals)?
- What is the process for selecting awardees?
- What is the process for awarding the grants?
- How do you manage the grants and monitor grant progress and performance?
- How do you support dissemination activities?
- How do you support translation activities?