Home Development Monash University wins A$18m for US spy research

Monash University has won an A$18 million research contract to enhance the performance of the US intelligence community.

This is the largest research contract ever received by Monash’s Faculty of Information Technology.

Systems using artificial intelligence (AI) will refine reasoning and outcomes, with the potential to inform leadership and policy making.

Monash University has received the funding under the US Government’s Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) CREATE programme.  

Monash and the University of Melbourne are the only Australian universities selected for the project, with the remaining two teams being from New York’s Syracuse University and Virginia’s George Mason University.   

Working collaboratively, the teams will develop systems aimed at giving authorities a clearer understanding of the evidence and assumptions that support, or conflict with, conclusions.

The Monash team is world-renowned for its Bayesian networks research, which examines graphical models of the probabilistic relations between variables, widely used in data mining and data analysis, and recently applied to argument analysis.

IARPA CREATE programme manager Dr Steven Rieber said the selected proposals stood out for their creative and thorough approaches, careful work plans, and highly qualified teams.

“These varied approaches all have strong potential to produce crowd-sourced techniques for dramatically improving analytic reasoning.

“We look forward to working with you in the months and years to come,” Dr Rieber said.

The Monash-led team will engineer a system aimed at enabling intelligence analysts to improve the way they build and test arguments about probable outcomes.

Monash University Interim Provost and senior vice-president, Professor Pauline Nestor, said it was a brilliant example of Monash research excellence translating into real-world outcomes.

“This project highlights Monash’s global approach to tackling real-world challenges through pioneering research.

“This international research contract is a testament to the research expertise within Monash’s Faculty of Information Technology, the only stand-alone IT faculty in the Group of Eight.”

Monash Chief Investigator on the project, Dr Kevin Korb, said that this application of Bayesian networks to argument analysis would be unique, and a step forward in the application of an exciting AI technique in the wider community.

“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,” he said.

“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.

“Monash’s experience in developing causal Bayesian networks makes us a natural fit to take the lead in this type of work. We’re excited about the potential for our work to make a difference in the quality of political debate and decision-making,” Dr Korb said.

The Monash research team heading the project includes Dr Korb, Professor Ann Nicholson, Erik Nyberg and Professor Ingrid Zukerman.

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