Newton Award for Transformative Ideas during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Apr 10, 2020, 11:35 AM by Melodi Moore

The Department of Defense is sponsoring the Newton Award for Transformative Ideas during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

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 data collection and production are therefore allowed, all supporting data should be generated without the use of laboratory-based experimentation or instrumentation.

The deadline for this application is May 15, 2020.  The award is capped at $100,000.