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DoD now says it is not funding Yale special-ops center (updated 2/23)

A reported $1.8 million grant to set up a military neuroscience center at the Yale School of Medicine is not forthcoming after all, a Defense Department spokesman says.

The proposed center would train American soldiers in interviewing techniques, with a focus on determining when interviewees are lying, according to reports in the Yale Herald and elsewhere. The published reports prompted an outcry both on and off campus, with critics raising questions about whether the School of Medicine should play a role in furthering military operations, and about the reported intent to recruit interview subjects from among New Haven's immigrant communities.

Last night, medical school dean Robert Alpern issued a statement that "we are not moving forward on any such center until we have fully investigated all these issues."

This morning, the New Haven Register reported that the US Special Operations Command "is providing Yale a $1.8 million grant to 'monitor developments in neuroscience,' give periodic updates on those developments and create a course 'that will improve U.S. Special Operations Forces abilities to communicate with members of other cultures by taking into account cultural sensitivities.'” Now, the Register reports that military spokesman Ken McGraw has retracted that statement:

After a review of the facts, we have determined the information initially provided to and released by this office concerning a center of excellence for operational neuroscience was incorrect.  US Special Operations Command has not and will not provide Yale funds to establish a USSOCOM Center for Excellence for Operational Neuroscience.  We sincerely apologize for any problems, concerns or confusion releasing the erroneous information has caused Yale, it student body and the citizens of New Haven.

McGraw could not immediately be reached to answer further questions, such as whether Yale has withdrawn the grant application, whether it's possible funding would come from a different area of the Defense Department, and why his office initially believed the grant was going forward.

Charles A. Morgan III ’97MA, the associate professor of psychiatry who would run the center, has done previous research aimed at detecting deception, including a 2010 paper in which the test subjects were "male, native Arabic-speaking participants." 

UPDATE (February 23): Yale now flatly states that "A Center for Excellence in Operational Neuroscience will not be established at Yale University."

"No center of this type would be established at Yale without a careful review of the scope of its planned activities and any related ethical issues," says the statement, released late on February 22, "but in this case, the review should have occurred at an earlier stage of discussion."

The statement also addresses the research that Morgan conducted on Arabic speakers:

The research leading to this publication was conducted under the auspices of the Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts — not Yale — and the ethical aspects of the research were monitored by both an independent Institutional Review Board (IRB) and a government IRB. Yale’s IRB had no role in this research. Members of the Yale faculty analyzed the data collected by the Draper study and published their findings.  

Filed under School of Medicine, special ops, military, Charles Morgan
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