ARL’s Human Science Campaign Announces Call for Proposals for 2018 Internal Basic Research

7 Nov 2016

ARL’s Human Sciences competitive basic research program refresh (BRPR) identifies, funds, and implements innovative, original, high-quality basic (6.1) internal ARL research that falls within the framework of large cohesive research programs. It aims to enable transformative discovery through high-risk and highly cohesive broad research programs to achieve far-reaching objectives and unique insights that will extend the state of the art. Proposals are encouraged that demonstrate a collaborative spirit pushing research outside the bounds of traditional disciplines (see anti-disciplinary).

The 2018 Human Sciences BRPR seeks long-term research projects beginning in October 2017 focused on the broad research programs in Cybernetics (CybN) and The Human Variability Project (THVP). Internal ARL research is research conducted at ARL or ARL's open campus facilities by ARL "on-site" personnel. For this call, on-site personnel includes any students, post-doctoral researchers, or technicians located at any facility ARL employees work at (>25% of that ARL employees time) under a formal Open Campus agreement. For more information, there will be an open forum on these topics 5 Dec 2016 at Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD.

Application Deadline: 20 Jan 2017

ARL's BRPR narrows the focus of the technical areas within the call for proposals for a given year. Below are those areas for 2018:


Overall Program Objective: Apply and advance the concepts, insights, and methods of cybernetics, and its allied disciplines (e.g., dynamical systems, control theory, computational modeling, computational neuroscience, human-system integration, artificial intelligence), for the study and understanding of adaptive behavior, with a specific focus on interactions among humans, technology, and the environment. Cybernetics, defined here as the science of control and communication in man and machine, seeks general principles that operate across levels of analysis, and provides a conceptual and modeling framework to capture the multidimensional and dynamic nature of closed-loop, adaptive behavior.

The ARL basic research effort in Cybernetics has two enduring aims: 1) to formalize theoretical models of adaptation at different levels of analysis with an emphasis on human adaptation and 2) to develop principles for the control of the dynamic interactions among humans, technology, and the environment. An emphasis is made on the relationships among theoretical models, experimental approaches, and real-world human interactions. Currently, five efforts funded under the Human Sciences 2016 BRPR in Cybernetics are focused on examining experimental and theoretical models of human adaptation at different timescales of behavior, with modeling efforts also aimed at the impact of system complexity on our understanding of human behavioral dynamics.

For F208, proposals are sought that examine central concepts in human adaptation within theoretical and experimental investigations focused on adaptive processes, and their impact on performance, as related to overreliance on technology. This is a well-appreciated, if not well-studied, aspect of technology insertion, the unintended consequences of which have been associated with maladaptive behaviors that led to strategic and tactical defeats in previous military conflicts (see Bolia, 2004, Parameters, 34(2), pp. 46-56). Proposals are sought that develop conceptual or quantitative models, and novel, integrated experimental approaches, with specific consideration given to proposals that examine issues related to the processes or mechanisms underlying the maladaptive effects on performance when technological capabilities are degraded or otherwise become unavailable. Research should focus on the identification of fundamental principles and the characterization of critical mechanisms underlying adaptation to technology in closed-loop, neural, physiological, and/or cognitive systems.

As the Cybernetics program seeks to leverage the unique structural advantages of government laboratories for collaborative research, special consideration will be given to proposals that integrate theoretical, conceptual, and methodological approaches with ongoing projects within the Cybernetics current program, as well as within the broader ARL Human Sciences Campaign portfolio.

The Human Variability Project

Overall Program Objective: The Human Variability Project is focused on developing new theories, models, methods, and analyses to support characterization, quantification, and prediction of human variability across long time frames (>6 months) and in real world settings. The theories, models, and algorithms developed in this basic science program will enable the development of future technologies that intelligently adapt to human states and behaviors. In this context, any real world processes or scientific domain that will have a strong impact on human technology interactions can be considered, including: cognitive, physical, emotional, biological, social, cultural, behavioral, or any combination thereof. Particular importance and emphasis will be placed on observing, interpreting, and predicting real world human variability within and across individuals in circumstances where evidence points to potential differences between real world and laboratory behavior. This program is not aimed at the mere confirmation of laboratory findings in real world environments. Successful experimental proposals are expected to highlight theory-based or data-driven evidence supporting the critical nature of the proposal’s specific real world, longitudinal experimentation.

The intent of the 2018 call for proposals for the Human Variability Project is to bring together the core of the team to propose, pilot, and refine the future Large Scale Experiment. The Large Scale Experiment(s) is the centerpiece of the broad long-term research area termed the Human Variability Project. This experiment will be developed and refined over 2018-2019 to enable the broad research areas program’s scientific goals of developing and refining new theories, models, methods, and analyses. Specifically, this Large Scale Experiment aims to advance theory in areas of human behavior in real world environments and over multiple time scales. The experimental design is expected to be strongly influenced by theoretical, modeling, and analytical elements and the desired team will include members with strong backgrounds in each of these areas. While many theoretical, modeling and experimental parameters will be defined and refined over the next 24 months, the core experiment must include: 1) observations longer and at a higher frequency than those found in the majority of human experimentation (e.g., multiple times a day for >= 6 months) and 2) state-of-the-art multi-dimensional observations into human behavior through a mix of technologies that enable physiological, behavioral, task, and environmental observations to a degree that has previously been unattainable for extended periods of time. The Large Scale Experiment is expected to begin data collection in October 2019 and is intended to provide a cornerstone for collaboration within ARL and with its partners.

The 2018 Human Variability Project proposals are expected to 1) perform research that will enable the development of the Large Scale Experiment to include: theory development, pilot experimentation, methods or tool development, and/or critical analysis, and 2) support the development of proposals for the Large Scale Experiment and the refinement of the selected proposal based on internal and external feedback.