DARPA’s Mission for Social and Behavioral Sciences


The U.S. Department of Defense’s DARPA(Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) is planning on developing innovative ways to improve scientific research in the field of social and behavioral sciences. Lead by Adam Russell, an anthropologist and program manager, DARPA’s mission consists of asking people for possible methods of determining the credibility of research. This approach is officially titled “Confidence Levels for the Social and Behavioral Sciences”.
The increasing amount of possibly invalid research in social and behavioral sciences and the importance of psychology in national defense have created a need for a system that determines credibility. The U.S. military would greatly benefit from understanding human behavior, as it would aid relations with other countries. However, much of this research has not been tested by more than one scientist, a crucial step toward validating the results of any experiment. This lack of communication with other scientists is commonly referred to as the “reproducibility crisis”. Many researchers also tend to exaggerate their results to gain more benefits from the study, such as grants. Because of this, several scientists give many incomparable answers to the same question, causing confusion among scientists.
In requesting input from the people, DARPA hopes to develop standards for social sciences. The most efficient way to do so is to begin comparing the pitches to each other, as they are different points of view with the same goal. Brian Nosek, a psychologist from the University of California, was one of the first people to respond; his pitch is titled PICKLE, which stands for “Path to Iterative Confidence Level Evaluation”. In his proposed system, DARPA will essentially create a competition in which each method of assessing credibility will be tested against specific studies. Social media may also play a role, considering that the entire science community can comment their input on new research. Also, creating incentives for proper research procedures may motivate scientists to show research plans, full data, etc. In fact, Nosek’s Center for Open Science provides awards for such thoroughness.
The overall lack of standards in the field of social and behavioral sciences may soon be reduced because of DARPA’s collaboration with the people of the science community. For more information, click here.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here