Although there is no registration fee, participants and observers must check in with Chris Marsh ( to make sure they are registered immediately (unless you've already done so). This is especially true of non-CAC or US military ID holders, because otherwise you won't be able to get on base.

No meals are provided, but the dining facility is close by and very inexpensive. 

Foreign disclosure: If you plan on presenting slides, please have them approved two weeks out from the symposium. If you do not fall under a foreign disclosure officer, contact Chris Marsh and we will run it through SOCOM's FDO. 

Finally, if there is no room at the MacDill Inn, you might want to try the Tahitian Inn at 601 S Dale Mabry, ph. 813-877-6721.

Call For Papers

Aligning Missions to Methods: Appropriate Uses of Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches to Support SOF Activities

The allure of Big Data, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and natural language processing is that they promise to effortlessly answer difficult questions and sift through terabytes of data to reveal the golden nuggets of information SOF need.  At the very same time and somewhat contradictorily, SOF recognize the social complexities of the Human Aspects of Military Operations, the Gray Zone, hybrid warfare, and information operations that have more to do with the social construction of identity and that require deep research knowledge and experience.  This symposium explores the capabilities and limitations of the quantitative and qualitative approaches to social science and the methods typically associated with them.  Relevant submissions will address questions such as:

   1) Situational Awareness – How might SOF utilize computer-powered analytics for tactical, operational, and strategic intelligence?  What are the best practices for acquiring Publicly Available Information and processing it into meaningful analysis? How do the quantitative and qualitative approaches complement one another in developing a picture of the operating environment?

   2) Human Aspect of Military Operations – How do anthropology, sociology, history, and discourse analysis contribute to operations and intelligence?  How can SOF integrate ethnographic methods into tactical and operational level activities?  What do quantitative and qualitative fusion products look like?

   3) Philosophy – What are the foundations of social science and American myths about technology’s ability to produce “predictive” analysis?  What are the differences between open and closed systems and why does it matter to SOF?  What are the biases inherent to the quantitative and qualitative approaches?

   4) Management – Aside from capabilities, what kinds of organizational culture and structural changes must SOF adopt to make the most of Big Data and other computer-empowered analytical systems?  What financial resources do commercial search engine companies require to conduct Big Data analytics and what would a SOF solution require?  What might a holistic SOF analytical enterprise look like?

We also invite papers across the full range of issues related to special operations, both historically and contemporary and unilaterally or multilaterally. We encourage submissions from a diverse population of those with expertise and interests in special operations, including scholars and researchers from different academic disciplines, military practitioners and strategists, and policy makers and analysts.

We encourage submissions from a diverse population of those with expertise and interests in special operations, including academic researchers, military practitioners, and policy analysts. Paper proposals should consist of a title, abstract (150-300 words), contact information (name, affiliation, address, phone, email), and 1-page CV. Along with your proposal, please indicate if you would be willing to serve as a panel chair or discussant at the conference.

Panel proposals are intended to provide a thematically consistent discussion of research on a specific topic. Panels consist of a panel chair/discussant, and 3-4 paper presenters. Panel submissions must provide all of the following information: title/theme of panel; contact information (name, affiliation, address, phone, email), and 1-page CV for chair, discussant, and all presenters; and paper proposals for all presenters on the panel (title and 150-300 word abstract). Please note: paper proposals for the panel should be included with the panel submission, and not submitted separately as an individual paper proposal.

Roundtable proposals are intended to encourage a less structured, more open discussion format wherein topics of interest to the special operations community are debated by 3-5 researchers and/or practitioners with knowledge of the topic. Roundtable proposals should consist of a title/theme; brief summary of why topic is important and what questions will be addressed by the roundtable (150-300 words); and 1-page CV and contact information for all proposed roundtable members (name, affiliation, address, phone, email).

Submissions  This year we are using a rolling acceptance policy, meaning we will try to get your paper accepted within 1-2 weeks of submission, if not sooner. This will allow people to make the necessary plans to participate at the conference. While there is no hard deadline, any submission received after early January might be a bit difficult to accommodate, so it would be wise to check with us before submitting if it's less than a month out. Proposals should be submitted via email to Submitters will be notified of receipt as quickly as possible and again regarding acceptance within 1-2 weeks. 

The Special Operations Research Association and the Joint Special Operations University (JSOU) are pleased to announce that this year's annual symposium will be held February 21-23 at JSOU on MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. 


Tampa, FL  21-23 February 2018

Useful Information


Air Force Inn, MacDill AFB