Air Force Office Of Scientific Research Supports Basic Science With A Broad Agenda | June 18, 2007 Issue - Vol. 85 Issue 25 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 85 Issue 25 | Web Exclusive | Awards
Issue Date: June 18, 2007

Air Force Office Of Scientific Research Supports Basic Science With A Broad Agenda

Department: Science & Technology

The Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) "supports cutting-edge research of interest to the Air Force," says Director Brendan B. Godfrey. As part of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), AFOSR's technical experts foster support and fund research within AFRL, universities, and industry laboratories, the entire basic research investment for the U.S. Air Force.

AFOSR has a budget of some $400 million per year, $350 million of which is a direct appropriation from Congress. The rest is research funds from other sources—for example, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The money is divided among four directorates: Chemistry & Life Sciences, Aerospace & Materials Sciences, Mathematics & Space Sciences, and Physics & Electronics.

From the directorates, AFOSR funding is distributed among approximately 1,200 grants and contracts provided to more than 300 academic institutions, 150 commercial firms, and more than 150 internal Air Force research efforts. Fifty-one Nobel Laureates in Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, and Economics have been funded in part by AFOSR.

Researchers don't have to wait for the Air Force to find them. Each year in October, there is a "broad agency announcement" that details AFOSR's areas of interest. Principal investigators can contact AFOSR program managers, Godfrey says, and discuss what they are pursuing. At this point, researchers might draft a two- to three-page white paper on the work, including why the Air Force might be interested. The announcement is available at

Next, program managers work with the principal investigator to focus a more formal proposal, which is then submitted for peer review, says Michael R. Berman, a Chemistry & Life Sciences program manager. Proposals can be submitted at any time, he says, but most recommendations for funding come in October, the start of the fiscal year for the federal government.

And although it relies on peer review, AFOSR on occasion will fund research despite what peer reviewers might recommend, Godfrey says. "We have a willingness to support the unconventional if it's defensible," he says.

There is no fixed amount for AFOSR research grants, but, on average, they are funded to the tune of $135,000 per year for three years. Berman emphasizes that the investigator proposes an amount, and it should be enough money to include support for a graduate student and postdoc. Each year, AFOSR grants contribute to the support of some 2,000 graduate students and postdocs in science and engineering.

"We fund a limited amount of work around the world," adds Berman. AFOSR has European and Asian offices, and it is about to open an office in South America. "We fund a number of Russian, Korean, Taiwanese scientists—it's an opportunity to tap into the best scientists around the world. We're always looking for new opportunities to bring new people in."

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