Forecasting Counterfactuals in Uncontrolled Settings (FOCUS)

Proposers Day Conference

The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) will host a Proposers’ Day Conference for the FOCUS program on October 19, 2017 in anticipation of the release of a new solicitation. The Conference will be held from 9 AM to 3 PM EDT in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. The purpose of the conference will be to provide information on FOCUS and the research problems the program aims to address, to address questions from potential proposers, and to provide a forum for potential proposers to present their capabilities for teaming opportunities.

This announcement serves as a pre-solicitation notice and is issued solely for information and planning purposes. The Proposers’ Day Conference does not constitute a formal solicitation for proposals or proposal abstracts. Conference attendance is voluntary and is not required to propose to future solicitations (if any) associated with this program. IARPA will not provide reimbursement for any costs incurred to participate in this Proposers' Day.

Program Description and Goals

The FOCUS program seeks to develop and empirically evaluate systematic approaches to counterfactual forecasting. Counterfactual forecasts are statements about what would have happened if different circumstances had occurred. For example, a post mortem of an analysis failure may lead to a conclusion that analysts would have avoided the failure if they employed better tradecraft; perhaps by having double checked assumptions, perhaps by having considered a broader range of hypotheses, etc. Counterfactual forecasts about what would have worked in past circumstances are very often the basis for lessons learned for what to do in the future. And such lessons often evolve, over time, into best practices and tradecraft.

To date there has been little in the way of research that measures the extent to which different approaches to counterfactual forecasting yield accurate vs. inaccurate counterfactual forecasts. And there is a similar paucity of research on the accuracy of lessons drawn from different lessons-learned approaches. As a result, evidence-based guidance for approaching post mortem lessons learned activities, and for developing the counterfactual forecasts that are the core of such activities, do not exist. Also there is correspondingly little empirical evidence that would support a claim that current lessons learned practices usually yield good or accurate lessons.

FOCUS will address this research gap by developing and empirically testing alternative approaches to structuring the counterfactual forecasting process in ways that can be readily incorporated into lessons-learned activities related to improving analyses and analytic tradecraft in complex domains such as geopolitical analysis. FOCUS will concentrate on cognitive methods that systematically step individuals and teams through a series of considerations during counterfactual reasoning. Although FOCUS will concentrate on analytic methods and tradecraft, the evidence-based lessons-learned approaches that will emerge from FOCUS should be applicable to any discipline or organization that routinely engages in formal lessons learned activities ranging from business case analyses, military hot washes, medical case studies, historical analyses, corporate knowledge management, transportation accident investigations, and a great many others. IARPA therefore encourages broad participation in this program reflecting a diversity of disciplines and perspectives.

Registration Information

Attendees must register no later than 5 PM EDT on October 13 2017, at Directions to the conference facility and other materials will be available on that website. No walk-in registrations will be allowed.

Due to space limitations, attendance will be limited to the first 150 registrants and to no more than 2 representatives per organization. All attendees will be required to present a government-issued photo identification to enter the conference.

Additional Information

The unclassified morning session will include an overview of the program goals, technical challenges, and expected participation requirements. A description of how the solutions will be evaluated will be provided.

The afternoon will include a poster session to provide an opportunity for attendees to present their organizations' capabilities and to explore teaming arrangements. Attendees who wish to present organization capabilities for teaming opportunities may submit a request through the registration web site. Details on the poster format, and the procedure for submitting a request to present, will be provided after approval to register for the conference has been granted. These presentations are not intended to solicit feedback from the Government, and Government personnel will not be present during the presentations.

This Proposers' Day is intended for participants who are eligible to compete on the anticipated Broad Agency Announcement (BAA). Other Government Agencies, Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs), University Affiliated Research Centers (UARCs), or any other similar organizations that have a special relationship with the Government, that gives them access to privileged or proprietary information, or access to Government equipment or real property, will not be eligible to submit proposals to the anticipated BAA nor participate as team members under proposals submitted by eligible entities. While such entities are not prohibited from attending the Proposers' Day, due to space limitations, preference will be given first to those organizations that are eligible to compete. IARPA will not provide reimbursement for costs incurred to participate in this conference. By registering on the Federal Business Opportunities (FBO) website, conference participants may choose to add their contact information to the Interested Vendors List on FBO for the purpose of teaming, or exchange information during the conference. A separate attendees list will not be provided.

Questions concerning Conference and registration can be sent to Questions regarding the program can be sent to

Contracting Office Address

Office of the Director of National Intelligence
Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity
Washington, DC 20511
United States

Primary Point of Contact

Paul Lehner
Program Manager

Solicitation Status: N/A

Draft Broad Agency Announcment

Proposers' Day Announcement on FedBizOpps
Proposers' Day Date: October 19, 2017

Additional Information

Proposers' Day Briefings