Mission agencies (defined below) are different than peer-reviewed agencies such as NSF. Researchers must personally engage with mission agencies in order to succeed. Such engagement will culminate in meetings with Program Officers and Technical Points of Contact (TPOCs) to pitch research ideas and gauge agency interest in receiving first white papers, and subsequently full technical and cost proposals. We define “mission agencies” as federal agencies that support research as a means to furthering the agencies’ goals of securing the national defense, addressing national energy challenges, ensuring an efficacious transportation system, etc. This is in contrast to pure sciences agencies such as NSF or the NIH, whose mission is health, but relies strongly on review panel recommendations. Mission agencies include, but are not limited to, Department of Defense (DOD) offices (AFOSR, ARO, ONR, DTRA, and DARPA), Department of Energy (DOE) offices (ASCR, BES, BER, EERE, and ARPA-E), Department of Transportation (DOT) Office of Research, Development and Technology (RDT), and the US Intelligence Community (INTEL, including I-ARPA).
It is critically important for researchers to identify the programs, Program Officers, and TPOCs within mission agencies that would be potential sponsors for their research agendas. Resources for doing so can be found below. You must log in with your RIT username and password to access these documents. Please do not share these beyond the RIT community.
Other resources include the agencies’ websites, Broad Agency Announcements (BAAs), conference proceedings, Program Officers’ presentations, press releases, news articles, etc. Advanced web searching techniques such as Boolean search operators and domain limitations can be useful. Often, sending an identified Program Officer a very short description of the research interests and asking them to forward to a colleague who is working in this area can result in positive movement. Networking opportunities at technical conferences and workshops are crucial.
Opportunities to meet Program Officers and TPOCs include DOD Open Campus programs such as the following:
- Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) Annual Fall Review
- Army Research Lab (ARL) Open Campus Open House
- National Defense Industrial Association events (http://www.ndia.org/events)
- Office of Naval Research (ONR) Biennial Science & Technology Expo
- Various Agencies’ Proposer Days (sometimes called Industry Days)
A researcher may be invited to visit a Program Officer to give a short oral presentation of their proposed research. Typically, this presentation will be less than one-half an hour and include the opportunity to present no more than 10 slides that outline the proposed project. There may be a robust question and answer exchange that challenges the researcher to pitch their research to the agency and explain why their approach would be beneficial to the agency’s mission. The researcher who has prepared cogent answers to Heilmeyer’s Questions has better odds for success.
Mission Agency Program Charts