On December 2, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) held its inaugural NIH Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Festival. The new annual event is designed to highlight the contributions of recently funded behavioral and social science projects to health research via presentations by extramural and NIH scientists from across the spectrum of disciplines. Panel discussions highlighted new directions for health-related behavioral and social science “addressing the synergy of basic and applied research, innovations in methodology and measurement, and the adoption of research findings into practice.” Welcoming festival participants, OBSSR Director William Riley explained that the event was designed to be a “day for behavioral and social sciences at NIH to get together to highlight some of the research” that the Office has funded over the past year. Riley also discussed the “state of the science,” highlighting some of the NIH-funded research.
Jim Anderson, Deputy Director of NIH Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiative, cited the rapidly advancing progress in digital capturing of behavior and social data and our ability to use big data patterns, interpret them, and return them to individuals to influence their behavior to improve health. He also praised OBSSR’s recently released strategic plan (see related story), noting that the plan “takes advantage of a lot of the research and technological digital data use, and also moving behavioral and social science closer to human applications.” Finally, Anderson pointed to NIH’s Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) initiative, emphasizing the “exploding capability of dealing with data, finding patterns in data. It is just a golden age for behavioral and social sciences,” he concluded. A videocast of the Festival is available on the NIH website.