As most people will tell you, relationships are key to getting Department of Defense (DoD) funding. So, how do you build these relationships when you are new to research, funding, and your entire career?

It turns out, the DoD has something to help in the form of their early career research program known as a YIP (Young Investigator Program). The Air Force, Army, and Navy programs by that name are all similar enough that we are going to talk about them together. (The DARPA program has both a different name and a different set-up, so we will talk about that in the future).

Although similar, a look at the deadlines shows they are three separate programs:

Program (click on the name for a link to the solicitation)Deadline
Young Investigator Program, Office of Naval Research (ONR)November
Young Investigator Program, Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR)*October
Broad Agency Announcement – Young Investigator Program, Army Research Office (ARO)Open

The other main difference is fairly substantial:

  • The funding: The Office of Naval Research (ONR) offers the most funding—up to $170,000 per year for three years. The Air Force Office of Scientific Research’s maximum (AFOSR) is $120,000 a year for three years, and the Army Research Office (ARO) is up to $50,000 annually for three years.

The eligibility for the programs is essentially the same. They all want US citizens or permanent residents who received their PhD in the last five years. The advantage of this requirement is that it reduces the number of potential applicants, although they all remain extremely competitive programs.

AFOSR, ARO, and ONR do have different areas of research interests, so make sure that you refer to their research interest documents to ensure your idea is a good fit. Once you think you have something, begin the process of communications with a program director. This is still a critical piece to a YIP submission. Like with all program directors, they can be difficult to get a hold of, so you must not read anything into unanswered voicemails or emails, especially as the YIP deadline gets closer. If emails and phone calls are not working, I recommend seeking them out at conferences or asking for an introduction from an established colleague.

The DoD created these YIP programs so the AFOSR, ARO, and ONR can discover and nurture groups of researchers whose expertise and interests align with their own. If you think your research is a good fit, it definitely is worth the energy to be discovered.

*The AFOSR website to be updated. Please check back for upcoming deadlines.