CENTER OF EXCELLENCE: Neuroscience of Decision Making

Funding Agency:
Department of Defense

This Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) describes the research objectives of the Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) university Center of Excellence (COE) in Neuroscience of Decision Making, which addresses research objectives of the United States Space Force (USSF) and the United States Air Force (USAF). A university COE is defined as a joint effort among Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR), Air Force Research Laboratory Technology Directorates (AFRL TDs), and an outstanding university or team of universities to perform high-priority collaborative research. This center is a joint project between AFOSR and the AFRL Airman Systems Directorate (AFRL/RH).

AFOSR intends to provide in the form of a grant the awarded COE up to $1,000,000 per year for a maximum of five years. The base period is for three years, which the AFOSR intends to incrementally fund, followed by an option to extend an additional two years provided the COE passes a midterm “go/no-go” review at the 2.5-year point. By agreement, AFOSR and the participants AFRL/RH can ramp-up funding in beginning years or ramp-down funding in the final years to the COE. All funding decisions are at the Government’s discretion and are subject to the availability of funds.

Proposers are highly encouraged to confer with the designated AFOSR program officer as soon as possible. AFOSR will evaluate proposals using a peer review panel and the criteria specified in section E: “Application Review Information.” While AFOSR reserves the right to select and fund all, some, or none of the proposals, AFOSR anticipates making one grant award under this announcement. AFOSR will not provide funding for reimbursement of proposal or application costs associated with responding to this FOA.

This Center of Excellence is anticipated to extend the research interests of AFRL in the topical area of Neuroscience of Decision Making and provide opportunities for a new generation of US scientists and engineers to address United States Air Force (USAF) and United States Space Force (USSF) and research needs. This is a special FOA because it explicitly calls for (a) research in the high-priority Air Force interest areas of neuroscience, decision making, and (b) education of students within the US in vital technology areas with opportunities for potential recruitment of US nationals for employment at AFRL.

White Papers briefly summarizing the proposing institution’s ideas are highly encouraged but not required. 

White papers must be submitted electronically via by 02 July 2021 at 11:59 PM Eastern Daylight Time to be considered. White paper evaluation is meant to initially assess the capability of a proposed effort and is NOT a selection process.

Proposals must be received electronically through by 16 September 2021 to be considered.

Agency Website

Areas of Interest

The goal of this Center of Excellence is to advance scientific understanding of the neuroscience foundations of Decision Making (DM) in the context of goal-directed activity and especially under stressful conditions. This Center of Excellence (COE) is intended as a collaborative research effort among university laboratories, aligned with the participation and mutual interests of scientists and engineers within Directorates of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL). The Principal Investigator and Co-Investigators will be responsible to plan the collaboration, coordinate the research activity, and periodically report its accomplishments. Awards granted under this COE will have a base three-year period of performance with a possible 2-year extension to five years. Understanding the neuroscience of DM will provide insights into how human performance can be supported and maintained at high levels under conditions involving risk, uncertainty, duress, heavy workload, and other stressors. This research should focus on decision-making capabilities that have implications for warfighter performance and may include theoretical or experimental approaches involving humans, animals, and/or in vitro preparations.

This COE announcement is intended to spur ideas for fundamental scientific efforts. It does not solicit technical or management solutions for specific or unique problems (if any) that may be of concern in the Air Force’s current operational arena. Instead, the intent of this COE is to deepen the general scientific understanding of the neuroscience of decision making which, in the short-term, will benefit military-relevant applications but in the long-term will benefit applications in any field of significant human endeavor. Nothing in this announcement should be construed as a request for the development of new technical devices, although such innovations could become necessary to reach scientific objectives. This COE invites research that will delve deeply into scientific explanations and transform current scientific beliefs and explanations.

  • Decisions and Actions
  • Slow and Fast DM
  • Belief-based DM
  • Role of Stress

Eligibility Requirements

You are eligible to submit an application if you are a qualified and responsible educational institution in the United States as defined at 10 U.S.C. 2194, or an entity comprised of such educational institutions. Educational institution means a local educational agency, college, university, or any other nonprofit institution dedicated to improving science, mathematics, and engineering education. No other entities are eligible to submit applications under this competition.



Amount Description

AFOSR anticipates not more than $1,000,000 per year in funding may be made available to fund one (1) award from the proposals received. This plan means proposers should plan on not more than $5,000,000 in funding for the entire five-year duration if all options are exercised; however, the total amount of funding and resources made available to fund a successful proposal may vary based on the quality of proposals received, and funds availability.

Funding Type





Engineering and Physical Sciences
Environmental & Life Sciences
Medical - Clinical Science
Social Sciences

External Deadline

September 16, 2021