Adam Russell: Fomenting (Rigorous) Technological Revolutions: Replication and DARPA’s Mission

The mission of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is to invest in „breakthrough technologies and capabilities for national security.“ Founded in the wake of the Soviet Union’s largely unexpected launch of Sputnik in 1957, DARPA‘s mission has since often been summarized as creating technological surprise, in part to help avoid being surprised by others. Hence, DARPA explicitly reaches for transformational change instead of incremental advances. Given this background, the role of replication in DARPA’s mission might appear obvious, but replication’s impact on, and value for, high-risk, high-payoff research can vary significantly and is not always self-evident nor straightforward. In this talk, I will offer some observations on replication’s role in, and importance for, DARPA’s mission, based on my experience serving as a DARPA Program Manager in the Defense Sciences Office and as the “DARPAnthropologist.”

Adam Russell

Program Manager, DARPA Defense Sciences Office (DSO)

Adam Russell joined DARPA as a program manager in July 2015. He is interested in new experimental platforms and tools to facilitate discovery, quantification, and “big validation” of fundamental measures in social science, behavioral science, and human performance. Russell has broad technical and management experience across a number of disciplines, ranging from cognitive neuroscience and physiology to cultural psychology and social anthropology. Before joining DARPA, he was a program manager at the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, where he developed and managed a number of high-risk, high-payoff research projects for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.Prior to IARPA, Russell was in industry, where he was a senior scientist and principal investigator on a wide range of human performance and social science research projects and strategic assessments for a number of different government organizations. Russell holds a Bachelor of Arts in Cultural Anthropology from Duke University, and an M.Phil. and a D.Phil. in Social Anthropology from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar.