Australian unis score research funding from US spooks

Monash University and the University of Melbourne win funds from IARPA CREATE program

Monash University and the University of Melbourne have both scored funding from the US government’s Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) CREATE program.

CREATE — Crowdsourcing Evidence, Argumentation, Thinking and Evaluation — launched last year.

The program “seeks proposals to develop, and experimentally test, systems that use crowdsourcing and structured analytic techniques (STs) to improve analytic reasoning,” IARPA said in its announcement.

“These systems will help people better understand the evidence and assumptions that support—or conflict with—conclusions. Secondarily, they will also help users better communicate their reasoning and conclusions.”

IARPA sits within the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence that invests in what it describes as “high-risk, high-payoff research”.

Under the four-and-a-half year agreements, the University of Melbourne team may receive up to US$19 million. Monash University’s team will receive up to US$14 million.

The University of Melbourne’s research program is dubbed SWARM: Smartly-assembled Wiki-style Argument Marshalling.

SWARM is co-led by Associate Professor Fiona Fidler, a joint appointment from the School of Historical and Philosophical Sciences and BioSciences, and Dr Richard de Rozario from the university’s School of BioSciences.

“We have ‘big data’, but we don’t have ‘big sense’,” De Rozario said. “That is what we are trying to find, a way to move towards ‘big sense’, and one way of doing that it to find the ingredients for helping us reason as a crowd.”

The cloud-based SWARM platform could have applications beyond intelligence analysis, the university said.

Monash’s research will focus on using Bayesian networks to help intelligence analysts better build and test arguments about probable outcomes, the university said.

“What we’re developing is a sophisticated tool that will improve the quality of the analysts’ reasoning by enabling them to better assess the value of their evidence,” said Monash chief investigator on the project, Dr Kevin Korb.

“Using our interface should also increase the reliability and acceptance of their arguments, and therefore improve the decision making of the people that they report to.”

Along with Korb, the Monash team includes Professor Ann Nicholson, Erik Nyberg and Professor Ingrid Zukerman.

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