NIH: Four Opportunities in the Science of Behavior Change

Human behavior accounts for approximately 40 percent of the risk associated with preventable premature deaths in the U.S. Researchers are beginning to make progress in understanding some of the basic mechanisms that account for less-than-optimal initiation and maintenance of behavior change. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) via its Common Fund supports a Science of Behavior Change (SOBC) program initiative that “seeks to promote basic research on the initiation, personalization and maintenance of behavior change” (see Update, February 10, 2014). By integrating work across disciplines, the agency believes that this effort will lead to an improved understanding of the underlying principles of behavior change. Phase I of the SOBC program identified three domains with promising behavior change targets, given strong evidence for their central role in health behaviors relevant to multiple clinical endpoints. The domains include: (1) self-regulation, (2) stress reactivity and stress resilience, and (3) interpersonal and social processes.

The NIH recently released four new SOBC Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOA) with the goal to “implement a mechanisms-focused, experimental medicine approach to behavior change research and to develop the tools required to implement such an approach.”

The FOAs include:

  1. Science of Behavior Change: Assay Development and Validation for Interpersonal and Social Processes Targets (UH2/UH3) (RFA-RM-14-018)
  2. Science of Behavior Change: Assay Development and Validation for Stress Reactivity and Stress Resilience Targets (UH2/UH3) (RFA-RM-14-019)
  3. Science of Behavior Change: Assay Development and Validation for Self-Regulation Targets (UH2/UH3) (RFA-RM-14-020)
  4. NIH Science of Behavior Change Resource and Coordinating Center (U24)(RFA-RM-14-017)

Three of the FOAs (UH2/UH3) call for teams of scientists to conduct target validation activities intended to develop the tools required to implement a mechanisms-focused, experimental medicine approach to behavior change research. The fourth announcement will support a Resource and Coordinating Center (RCC) (U24) designed to provide national leadership for the coordinated efforts of projects and initiatives of SOBC to validate assays for behavior change. Applications for all funding opportunities are due March 20, 2015.

Technical Assistance Webinar

To assist potential applicants, the SOBC program staff is hosting the second of two pre-application technical assistance webinars on February 5, 2015 at 1:30 p.m. EST. Webinar speakers will provide an overview of the envisioned SOBC Research Network, the role of the Resource and Coordinating Center in relation to Target Validation Projects funded under companion announcements (RFA-RM-14-018, RFA-RM-14-019, and RFA-RM-14-020), the U24 cooperative agreement mechanism, and answer participant questions. Pre-registration is required.

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Posted in Issue 2 (January 27), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

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