Via Danger Room, news that the Minerva Project (or Consortium) may not be quite the cash cow for social science research some might have imagined. There was a ‘blogger roundtable’ with Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Policy Planning, Thomas Mahnken, on Wednesday. (Bloggers were from Kings of War, Blackfive.net, Mountainrunner, COMOPS Journal, and others I gather. So much for the ‘olive branch‘: I wonder why weren’t we invited? Transcript of the roundtable here; it is well worth a look for those tracking this issue.) Mahnken fleshed out some numbers in relation to the money question:
And on funding, I mean, I think we’re — you know, we are talking millions of dollars. You know, we’re probably not talking tens of million dollars but, you know, one of the virtues of social science research as opposed to, you know, the physical science research is it’s relatively inexpensive… And certainly the — you know, the program I would anticipate growing over time, and I think it will be — you know, the funding will be driven by the — you know, the number of quality proposals we receive in — you know, in each area. This is — I mean, this is an area where, you know, 2 (million dollars) or $3 million actually goes a long way.
A few of the participants explicitly asked about ‘pushback’ from anthropologists. Mahnken responded by saying that AAA does not represent the entire community of anthropologists while also acknowledging the vexed history of anthropologist / military relations. I sensed in his response to these questions that DoD thinks that younger scholars (the “9/11 generation”) might not have the same qualms about the idea of Minerva (and related programs like HTS) as do those who hold offices within the various relevant professional societies. Some other information came out: Minerva will fund multi-year consortia and they seek to get this going by the end of 2008 (so, prior to the change in US administration). Also, Mahnken specifically refers to Hussein-era archival materials apparently in the hands of DoD as a possible resource for those working in Minerva connected consortia. I don’t know anything about this, but am wondering if the Pentagon is holding archival and historical materials related to Iraq, and who these are open to and under what conditions. This gets right into freedom of inquiry questions that Oneman was asking. There are also some comments about why the Defense Department is doing this when similar State Department or Department of Education programs may overlap.