Translating Scientific Understanding into Effective Policy is Program's Goal

PIPS Research Fellow and OSD Minerva Research Initiative director Erin Fitzgerald is working with the DoD Strategic Multilayer Assessment team to organize a teleconference-based lecture series on the African continent, including at least nine talks featuring Minerva scholars.

As the director of the Minerva program, Ms. Fitzgerald works with SMA to help identify appropriate subject matter experts who can help inform the final assessment. 

The Potomac Institute, like Minerva, aims to bring the best scientific understanding of DoD-relevant phenomena to light and then help translate it into effective national policy to secure the Nation, according to Fitzgerald. The four PIPS academic centers – looking at neuroscience, terrorism, cyber security, and future revolutionary breakthroughs – all share goals with the Minerva program.

Named “Minerva” by then-SECDEF Robert Gates in 2008, Minerva was created with the belief that deeper understanding of global populations and their variance will yield more effective strategic and operational policy decisions.

The Office of the Secretary of Defense's Strategic Multilayer Assessment program brings together subject matter experts from a range of disciplines to synthesize analyses and recommendations at the request of a given Combatant Command or other DoD component. An SMA team is currently working on an effort entitled U.S. Engagement Options in Sub-Saharan Africa, as requested by the military's U.S. Africa Command.

While the assessment team works to develop a process to better analyze, engage, monitor, and assess various opportunities for command engagement within Sub-Saharan Africa (including an evaluative tool to aid in prioritization and metric development for command engagement activities), there is great interest in hearing from researchers who are subject matter experts in the region and for problems particular to the region.

Some of the planned talks include Climate Change and African Political Stability; Driver and Impacts of Chinese engagement in Africa; Piracy and Maritime Security; and Islam and Politics in the African Sahel.

The series runs from February through June.   More information on Minerva is available at