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UA Little Rock Partnering in $660,000 Department of Defense Grant

Dr. Nitin Agarwal of UA Little Rock and Dr. Samer Al-Khateeb of Creighton University have received a $660,407 grant from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)/Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) to research violent mob behavior to strengthen domestic and national security apparatus.

Agarwal, Maulden-Entergy Chair and Distinguished Professor of Information Science at UA Little Rock, and Al-khateeb, assistant professor of computer science and informatics at Creighton University, will work on the three-year grant titled, “Building a Computational Model of Mobs Leveraging Social Science Theories.”Al-khateeb and Agarwal have a long history of collaboration as Al-Khateeb completed his Ph.D. under Agarwal’s supervision at COSMOS, where Agarwal is the director.

UA Little Rock’s part of the grant will be $249,955. It is part of $14.6 million in the Defense Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (DEPSCoR) the DoD awarded to 23 collaborative teams. DEPSCoR is a capacity-building program that is designed to strengthen the basic research infrastructure at institutions of higher education in under-utilized states/territories. Each team will pursue science and engineering research in areas relevant to DoD initiatives supporting the National Defense Strategy.

“The Department’s research mission relies on an ecosystem of creative and insightful researchers in every state of the nation,” said Dr. Bindu Nair, director of the DoD’s Basic Research Office. “DEPSCoR enhances our science and engineering research capacity both now and in the long term, and increases the number of researchers pursuing research in DoD-relevant areas. It is crucial that we build a research infrastructure that strategically uses the research capabilities found across the country.”

Agarwal and Al-Khateeb will use the findings from this research to build capabilities that could assist the DoD in gaining situational awareness and prepare for strategic intervention with mobs that could take a violent turn during military exercises, humanitarian crises, and disaster relief operations or around military bases.

The researchers will also create a socio-computational model that can simulate mobs to answer questions about a mob’s outcome and mobbers’ behavior as well as an online tool that implements the model. This effort will enhance COSMOS’ existing toolkit to monitor social media and extract actionable insights and intelligence.

“This research demonstrates the need for interdisciplinary studies by synergistically blending computational and information sciences with social sciences to solve real-world challenges we face today,” Agarwal said. “This is a very special award as it gives me an opportunity to continue to work with one of my former doctoral students.”