Computing Community Consortium Blog

The goal of the Computing Community Consortium (CCC) is to catalyze the computing research community to debate longer range, more audacious research challenges; to build consensus around research visions; to evolve the most promising visions toward clearly defined initiatives; and to work with the funding organizations to move challenges and visions toward funding initiatives. The purpose of this blog is to provide a more immediate, online mechanism for dissemination of visioning concepts and community discussion/debate about them.

Recent IARPA, DARPA, NIH RFPs Require Computational Expertise

September 22nd, 2011 / in big science, research horizons, resources / by Erwin Gianchandani

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), and National Institutes of Health (NIH) have issued solicitations in recent days with computational elements:

IARPA’s Open Source Indicators (OSI) Announcement:

IARPA announces Open Source Indicators (OSI) program [image courtesy IARPA].IARPA is seeking novel approaches for aggregating publicly available data for use in predicting future events. According to the broad agency announcement:

Many significant societal events are preceded and/or followed by population-level changes in communication, consumption, and movement. Some of these changes may be indirectly observable from publicly available data, such as web search queries, blogs, micro-blogs, internet traffic, financial markets, traffic webcams, Wikipedia edits, and many others. Published research has found that some of these data sources are individually useful in the early detection of events such as disease outbreaks. But few methods have been developed for anticipating or detecting unexpected events by fusing publicly available data of multiple types from multiple sources.


IARPA’s Open Source Indicators (OSI) Program aims to fill this gap by developing methods for continuous, automated analysis of publicly available data in order to anticipate and/or detect significant societal events, such as political crises, humanitarian crises, mass violence, riots, mass migrations, disease outbreaks, economic instability, resource shortages, and responses to natural disasters. Performers will be evaluated on the basis of warnings that they deliver about real-world events.


Required technical innovations include: development of methods that leverage population behavior change in anticipation of, and in response to, events of interest; processing of publicly available data that reflect those population behavior changes; development of data extraction techniques that focus on volume, rather than depth, by identifying shallow features of data that correlate with events; development of multivariate time series models robust to non-stationary, noisy data to reveal patterns that precede events; and innovative use of statistical methods to fuse combinations of time series for generating probabilistic warnings of events. If successful, OSI methods will “beat the news” by fusing early indicators of events from multiple publicly available data sources and types.

Proposals — for 12 months of effort, plus two possible 12-month option years — are due by October 14, 2011. For more details, including FAQ, see IARPA’s OSI webpage.

DARPA’s Microphysiological Systems Program:

DARPA soliciting Microphysiological Systems proposals [image courtesy DARPA].DARPA would like “to develop an in vitro platform of human tissue constructs that accurately predicts the safety, efficacy, and pharmacokinetics of drug/vaccine candidates prior to their first use in man.” Any approach will necessitate new “modeling and/or computational methods for extrapolating data obtained from the platform to intact humans.” From the official announcement:

Alternative testing methods that rely on isolated human cells hold the promise of authentic human responses to candidate drugs, vaccines, and biologics. Recent research has shown that three-dimensional constructs of one or more cell types are able to reproduce relatively authentic human tissue and organ physiology in an in vitro environment. As a result, DARPA seeks in vitro platforms comprised of human tissue constructs that will accurately assess efficacy, toxicity, and pharmacokinetics in a way that is relevant to humans and suitable for regulatory review.

DARPA anticipates up to five years of funding. Proposal abstracts are due by 4pm ET on October 27, 2011, with full proposals due by 4pm ET on December 12, 2011.

NIH Director’s Transformative Research Awards

Through the NIH Common Fund, the NIH has announced its Director's Transformative Research Award initiative [image courtesy NIH].Through the Common Fund, the NIH is seeking proposals for the Director’s Transformative Research Award, which supports “exceptionally innovative and/or unconventional research projects that have the potential to create or overturn fundamental paradigms”:

These projects tend to be inherently risky and may not fare well in conventional NIH review. As compared to the other NIH Director’s Awards — the Pioneer, New Innovator Award, and Early Independence Awards — the primary emphasis of the Transformative Research Awards initiative is to support research on bold, paradigm-shifting, but untested ideas, rather than to support exceptionally creative individuals who wish to pursue new, potentially high impact research directions.


To facilitate submission and identification of bold, high impact ideas that are compelling despite the risks involved, the Transformative Research Awards initiative is also piloting novel approaches to application instructions and review. Applicants are instructed to focus their research strategies on significance and innovation without expectations of providing preliminary data. The review uses a multi-phase, Editorial Board style process with explicit emphasis maintained on significance and innovation.


The NIH encourages Transformative Research Award applications from investigators in all disciplines relevant to the NIH mission, including the biological, behavioral, clinical, social, physical, chemical, computational, engineering, and mathematical sciences. Applications from individual investigators or teams of investigators are welcome. Budgets may be up to $25 million total costs per year for up to five years.

Letters of intent must be submitted by December 12, 2011, and full applications are due by January 12, 2012. See instructions here and FAQs here.

For more details about any of these solicitations, see the corresponding links above.

(Contributed by Erwin Gianchandani, CCC Director)

Recent IARPA, DARPA, NIH RFPs Require Computational Expertise

Comments are closed.