Frequently Asked Questions

Minority Leaders - Research Collaboration Program

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the history of the AFRL Minority Leaders - Research Collaboration Program (ML-RCP)?
The ML-RCP was created by AFRL in 2005 and has since served 750 students, 200 faculty participants, and 37 partner universities. Beyond conducting research aligned with AFRL interests, the ML-RCP aims to increase the research capacity of the institutions it serves, enabling institutions and faculty to seek out independently obtained funds from AFRL and Department of Defense (DoD). This successful program continues to support institutions and faculty participants. Any MSI can join the ML-RCP and receive access to an array of benefits, including project funding. AFRL entered into a cooperative research agreement with The Ohio State University (Ohio State) in 2020 to facilitate the AFRL ML-RCP.

How is this program financially supported by AFRL?
AFRL dedicates funding to support the ML-RCP over multiple years through a cooperative agreement with The Ohio State University. Average project cost ranges between $50,000-$125,000 per year.

How is The Ohio State University (Ohio State) involved?
Ohio State was selected through a competitive proposal process to administer the ML-RCP because of their dedication to creating a coordinated effort. Ohio State brings together participating institutions, faculty, and students through a virtual community to create sustained engagement—not just one-off projects. Ohio State plans to include more member MSIs than ever before. With input from an academic institution and a team dedicated to the administration of the program, student experience, and research, the program is fully supported to achieve its objective.

Can all Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) participate?
All MSIs are invited to join the ML-RCP and receive full access to benefits. It is our goal to have every MSI as a member.

What institutions are eligible to receive funding from the ML-RCP?
The primary focus of the ML-RCP is to enable, enhance, and expand the capacity of HBCUs and MSIs. However, any institution of higher education (IHE) seeking to increase the participation of underrepresented faculty and/or students may apply.

How is ML-RCP different than applying directly to AFRL or Department of Defense (DoD) to obtain funding?
The ML-RCP is different from applying directly to AFRL for funding because this program provides a community of support and best practices for institutions, faculty, and students, with regular engagement opportunities and a robust partnership base. Through their involvement with ML-RCP, faculty receive support from proposal development all the way to annual reports. The ML-RCP intentionally develops a network of faculty and AFRL researchers to support the development of proposals outside of the ML-RCP, working to increase faculty funding. Student researchers (undergraduate and graduate) may gain the opportunity to conduct paid summer research with AFRL and benefit from the professional network created by the program. The ML-RCP creates a virtual community of practice for students to engage in professional and leadership development and networking among peers. Members receive administrative guidance relating to export control, compliance, and secure research.

Who can participate?
Generally, faculty participants must be U.S. persons, and student participants must be U.S. citizens. This may vary depending on the nature of the research or the Project Opportunity Announcement (POA).

How can faculty apply for projects & funding?
Faculty respond to Project Opportunity Announcements (POAs) issued by AFRL with a white paper submission. If the white paper is selected, an AFRL Government representative invites the faculty member to submit a full Request for Project Proposal (RFPP). AFRL independently reviews and selects all projects.

Will all institutions have equal consideration when applying for research?
This program engages a diverse pool of talent in addressing foundational research challenges in support of the nation’s air, space, and cyberspace technology needs. Provided that a member possesses the ability to meet the requirements of the AFRL Project Opportunity Announcement (e.g. Classified research), all members receive equal consideration regardless of size, location, etc. In alignment with the objective of engaging a diverse pool of talent, ML-RCP conducts a wide range of research. AFRL considers proposals based on their strategic interest in an institution, research area, faculty, or need for capacity building.

What is the relationship between AFRL researchers & participating faculty?
Every ML-RCP project has an AFRL research mentor who actively engages in the research program with the faculty and students. All AFRL mentors volunteer to participate in this program. Mentors supervise summer interns and provide guidance to faculty on research topics of interest and funding opportunities.

How will the ML-RCP help faculty obtain additional Department of Defense (DoD) funding, external to ML-RCP?
The resources and experience shared with faculty through participation in the ML-RCP, as listed above, better position faculty when applying for additional AFRL or DoD funds. The ML-RCP does not provide specific support for non-ML-RCP proposals.

Will there be technical assistance training for faculty members to prepare proposals or white papers for ML-RCP projects?
Yes! Faculty receive technical assistance training and resources for ML-RCP projects and proposals. Examples of resources include proposal and white paper best practices, templates, and examples. Faculty also receive access to Q&A sessions with ML-RCP staff who answer questions about non-technical proposal content, including budget. Ohio State coordinates with AFRL researchers to participate in Q&A sessions related to Project Opportunity Announcements (POAs) and engages with faculty to answer questions and concerns. The ML-RCP team at Ohio State remain available to facilitate introductions between faculty and aligned AFRL researchers to increase collaborative opportunities.

What should faculty expect to receive from this program?
The ML-RCP better positions faculty to apply for and receive Department of Defense (DoD) and AFRL funding. The faculty requirements of the ML-RCP mimic the requirements of the DoD and AFRL proposal processes. The ML-RCP creates a community that introduces faculty to new collaborators and members that together create stronger collaborative proposals. Additionally, the relationships faculty build through ML-RCP increase the network of potential funding partners. Guest seminars from DoD organizations communicate funding opportunities to ML-RCP members.

Will classified research be part of the program?
All research projects conducted under the ML-RCP are individually evaluated for classification level by AFRL. AFRL issued Project Opportunity Announcements (POAs) denote if the research is to be classified. The ML-RCP expects some, but not all, projects to be classified. Ohio State provides guidance to institutions and faculty related to research classification level and other restrictions to support capacity building. Institutions are ultimately responsible for implementing and maintaining their own compliance solutions.

What administrative support will be provided to institutions?
The ML-RCP provides support to member research/grants offices to address any obstacles related to obtaining or administering AFRL or Department of Defense funds. The ML-RCP maintains staff dedicated to providing best practices, guidance, training, and support for grant administration.

How can an HBCU or a MSI initiate collaboration with AFRL?

Faculty at HBCUs and MSIs may reach out to the ML-RCP at and share your technical areas and which Technical Directorates align with your work. The ML-RCP team will review your request and put you in communication with the Technical Directorate Leads and bench level scientists at AFRL that might want to collaborate with you. If your institution is not currently a member of the ML-RCP, you may also request membership information.

What is the timeline for AFRL to review a White Paper?

AFRL will target to review White Papers submitted against a Project Opportunity Announcement (POA) 30 days from the submission deadline date.

Is there a limit to the number of White Papers that faculty can submit?

There is no limit to the number of White Papers that faculty can submit. The AFRL is interested in receiving a broad range of technical approaches that faculty may propose against a Project Opportunity Announcement (POA).

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