Newton Award for Transformative Ideas During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The Newton Award for Transformative Ideas During the COVID-19 Pandemic will be presented to a single investigator or team of up to two investigators that develops a transformative idea to resolve challenges, advance frontiers, and set new paradigms in areas of immense potential benefit to DoD and the nation at large.
Application Deadline: May 15, 2020
Area of Interest:
Civic Affairs, Health/Wellness, Health: Diseases
Geographic Scope: USA
Background: From 1665 to 1666, the Great Plague of London swept across England, likely taking the lives of over 100,000 people (United Kingdom Public Archives, 2020). Though the germ theory of disease would not be formulated until the 1860s, the English public engaged in “social distancing” behaviors to avoid illness (Washington Post, 2020), leading to the closure of universities. Among the displaced was a young Isaac Newton, still a student at Trinity College in Cambridge. During the ensuing year of isolated study and reflection, Newton developed the basis for calculus, as well as foundational theories in gravitation, motion, and optics.
Separated from the Great Plague by 350 years, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to similar health responses among the general public and scientific community, forcing the closure of laboratories and universities throughout the world and slowing scientific progress across theoretical and empirical domains. To help stimulate scientific thought and encourage efforts and advancements in the spirit of Sir Isaac, the Basic Research Office in the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) announces the Newton Award for Transformative Ideas during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Program Objective: This award will be presented to a single investigator or team of up to two investigators that develops a “transformative idea” to resolve challenges, advance frontiers, and set new paradigms in areas of immense potential benefit to DoD and the nation at large. Proposals should aim to produce novel conceptual frameworks or theory-based approaches that present disruptive ways of thinking about fundamental scientific problems that have evaded resolution, propose new, paradigm-shifting scientific directions, and/or address fundamental and important questions that are argued to be undervalued by the scientific community. Approaches can include analytical reasoning, calculations, simulations, and thought experiments. While the use and production of datasets is allowed, any new supporting data should be generated without the use of any experimentation or instrumentation, as the nation-wide closure of laboratories limits the ability of investigators to follow normal safety procedures set by their institutions, in accordance with federal and state regulations.
Given the novelty of and circumstances surrounding this one-time Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA), the objective of this program is to generate proposals that are equally novel and pioneering. Therefore, this FOA should be viewed as an opportunity to propose basic research that falls outside the bounds of traditional proposals.
Expectations of Award Recipients: Newton Award recipients will produce novel conceptual frameworks or theoretical approaches to addressing outstanding or emerging challenges facing the scientific community. The resulting frameworks and approaches should include clear predictions that can be tested by the scientific community in the years following the return to the laboratory environment. Findings must be submitted as pre-publication material in open archives and disseminated through open publication in a journal. Award winners will brief the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (OUSD(R&E)) leadership at the end of the award period of performance, and may be asked to design and chair a Future Directions Workshop on the topic of their findings. In addition, OUSD(R&E) will support funded projects in finding pathways to continue the funding, validation, and development of their transformative ideas.