Announced in late February, 2022, the U.S. The Department of Defense (DoD) awarded $28.7 million in grants to university-based faculty teams through the FY2021 Minerva Research Initiative to support research in social and behavioral science. Eric Jones, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology, Human Genetics & Environmental Sciences at UTHealth School of Public Health El Paso Campus was one of the recipients of the grant funding.
His project, “Response to Shocks and Hazards Associated with Climate” was selected as one of 17 recipients, developing comprehensive modeling of cultural transformations in dozens of societies over the last 200 years in response to shocks and hazards associated with climate in concert with Co-Principal Investigators from the Human Relations Area Files at Yale (Carol Ember), University of Tennessee Knoxville (Sergey Gavrilets) and Stanford University (Michele Gelfand).
Receiving just over $1.5 million, the grant will analyze how societies respond to predictability, onset, intensity and frequency of climatic hazards through changes in religion, inequality, land tenure, cooperation, political participation, governance, and warfare.
Analyzing global and historical information from books and published articles from the last two centuries, Jones will focus on examining political participation and governance. “We’ll look at how various characteristics of hazards relate to choices societies make about how to configure society from the bottom up and from the top down,” said Jones. “New members of our team will also be trained in cross-cultural research.”
Funded by the DoD, outcomes from these research efforts will give insight “present and future conflict with an eye toward better understanding the political trajectories of key regions of the world,” says Dr. Bindu Nair, director, Basic Research Office in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering.
As stated in the official United States DoD press release, “This initiative supports basic research that focuses on topics of particular relevance to U.S. national security. Through its network of faculty investigators, the Minerva Research Initiative also strengthens the Department’s connections with the social science community and helps DoD better understand and prepare for future challenges, including National Defense Strategy priorities.”
“It’s important to understand variations in the possible societal configurations when faced with hazards and shocks in order to reduce death and harm,” said Jones. “Together, through our daily lives, we create vulnerability in our society and in others.”
Spanning the course of three years, at the conclusion and throughout the duration of the project, Jones and his team will report and address historical and present variables to predict future impacts since both society and climate hazards continue to change.