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OBSSR to Host Annual Research Festival on December 8

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) is hosting the “NIH Behavioral and Social Science Research Festival: Connecting People to Advance Health” on Friday, December 8. The festival will bring together behavioral and social scientists from inside and outside NIH to network, collaborate, and share ideas. The agenda will include a keynote address from Dr. Eliseo Perez-Stable of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities as well as plenary sessions on international research, behavioral neuroscience, and social factors and health. This event will not be webcast. More details and registration information can be found here.

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Posted in Issue 22 (November 14), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

Collins to Stay on at NIH; Two Other Leadership Positions Announced

On June 6, the President announced that National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins will stay on as NIH director. As previously reported, Collins was asked to remain in the position in January by the new administration. Collins continues to enjoy support of the Republican leadership of committees with jurisdiction over the NIH. He was officially appointed to the post despite a May 22 letter from 41 conservative House members urging the President to appoint someone whose views are more aligned the Administration’s “pro-life direction,” citing embryonic stem cell research and human cloning as examples. In addition, NIH recently announced the appointments of Norman E. Sharpless as the next director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and Christine Hunter as Deputy Director of the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR).

On June 12, Collins announced the appointment of Dr. Norman E.  Sharpless as the next NCI director. Dr. Sharpless is currently serving as the director of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) Lineberger (NCI-designated) Comprehensive Cancer Center and as the Wellcome Distinguished Professor in Cancer Research. Sharpless earned his undergraduate and medical degrees from UNC-CH and completed his medical residency at Massachusetts General Hospital and a fellowship in hematology/oncology at Dana-Farber/Partners Cancer Care.

OBSSR Director William Riley also recently announced the appointment of Christine Hunter as Deputy Director. She will begin her tenure August 7. Hunter is currently the Director of Behavioral Research at the National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and is a Captain in the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS). At NIDDK, Dr. Hunter led the revision of the NIH Obesity Research Strategic Plan “and developed and led the NIDDK Centers for Diabetes Translation Research,” according to an announcement circulated to OBSSR staff.

Dr. Hunter serves on the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR), the Opportunity Network for Basic Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OppNet), the Science of Behavior Change (SOBC), and the Behavior and Environment Subcommittee of the NIH Obesity Research Task Force. As a member of the NIH Behavioral and Social Sciences Coordinating Committee, Dr. Hunter served on the NIH OBSSR Strategic Plan Working Group.

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Posted in Issue 12 (June 13), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

OBSSR Holds 10th Matilda White Riley Behavioral and Social Sciences Honors; Mark Hayward Delivers 2017 Lecture

On April 25, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) hosted its 10th annual celebration honoring Matilda White Riley’s influence in social and behavioral sciences conducted and supported by the NIH. In 2016, OBSSR renamed the celebration Real Life, Labs, Research: Matilda White Riley Behavioral and Social Sciences Honors. The ceremony honors a “who’s who of behavioral and social science research,” noted current OBSSR director Bill Riley (no relation).

Mark Hayward, Professor of Sociology, Centennial Commission Professor in the Liberal Arts, and director of the Population Health Initiative at the University of Texas at Austin, gave this year’s Matilda White Riley Excellence Lecture, entitled: Reimagining the Dynamic Association between Education and U.S. Adult Mortality in a Fast Changing Policy Environment.” A common thread in Hayward’s work includes “understanding how socioeconomic status— especially education—as well as gender, marital status, and race/ethnicity shape health inequalities in later life. He has also explored the role of behavioral factors in health and health disparities including nutrition, body weight, and tobacco use.” The celebration was also expanded to include an early stage investigator paper competition. This year’s Early Stage Investigator awardees included Erika Fuchs, University of Texas Medical Branch; Emily Hohman, Pennsylvania State University; Frank Infurna, Arizona State University; and Jacqueline Torres, University of California, San Francisco. The winners of the paper competition also presented their research. A videocast of the 2017 celebration is available here.

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Posted in Issue 9 (May 2), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

OBSSR Director Comments on 2017-2021 Strategic Plan

National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Director William (Bill) Riley recently released commentaries on the office’s 2017-2021 Strategic Plan three scientific priorities.

  • Priority One: Improve the synergy of basic and applied behavioral and social sciences research
  • Priority Two: Enhance and promote the research infrastructure, methods, and measures needed to support a more cumulative and integrated approach to behavioral and social sciences research
  • Priority Three: Facilitate the adoption of behavioral and social sciences research findings in health research and in practice.

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Posted in Issue 6 (March 21), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

Friends of NIH Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Submit Statement in Support of OBSSR

On March 9, COSSA, as co-chair of the Friends of NIH Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (Friends of NIH BSSR) with the American Psychological Association (a COSSA founding member), submitted a statement for the record in support of the National Institutes of Health and its Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR). The statement emphasizes that the behavioral and social sciences are integral to the NIH mission and highlights the fact NIH supports behavioral and social science research throughout its 27 institutes and centers. The Friends of NIH BSSR is a coalition of professional organizations, scientific societies, and research institutions concerned with the promotion of and funding for research in the social and behavioral sciences.

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Posted in Issue 6 (March 21), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

Date Change: 10th Matilda White Riley Behavioral and Social Sciences Honors

The date for the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) 10th Matilda White Riley Behavioral and Social Sciences Honors has been changed to April 25 on the NIH campus. The Honors program pays tribute to the “research trajectory and continuing influence of Dr. Matilda White Riley in the behavioral and social sciences across and beyond” the NIH. For more information about the program see the NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research’s website.

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Posted in Issue 4 (February 21), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

2017 Matilda White Riley Early Stage Investigator Paper Awards: Call for Papers

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) has issued a call for papers/articles for its Matilda White Riley Early Stage Investigator Paper Awards. The Paper Awards was launched in 2016.This year’s ceremony scheduled for May 5 is the 10th anniversary of Matilda White Riley Day, which commemorates Matilda White Riley’s contributions to the NIH and to behavioral and social sciences research. Awards will be presented on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland. The deadline for submission is February 1, 2017. Awardees will be notified March 8, 2017. For more information, including on past recipients, see the OBSSR’s website.

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Posted in Issue 2 (January 24), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

Healthier Lives Through Behavioral and Social Sciences Research: NIH OBSSR Releases Strategic Plan for 2017-2021

obssr-sp-2017-2021_page_01On November 23, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) officially released its Strategic Plan 2017-2021. The plan focuses on the scientific priorities and fundamental research challenges that “OBSSR is uniquely positioned to address,” according to OBSSR Director William Riley. The overarching theme of the three “equally important scientific priorities identified in the plan … is to encourage a more cumulative and integrated behavioral and social science research enterprise that extends from basic science through the adoption of approaches to improve the nation’s health.”

Specifically, the three priorities are:

  1. Improve the synergy of basic and applied behavioral and social sciences research (view video).
  2. Enhance and promote the research infrastructure, methods, and measures needed to support a more cumulative and integrative approach to behavioral and social sciences research (view video).
  3. Facilitate the adoption of behavioral and social sciences research findings in health research and in practice (view video).

These priorities, according to the plan, “were determined based on their potential to have the greatest impact on the largest proportion of health-related behavioral and social sciences research.” To address the priorities, OBSSR intends to depend on four foundational processes, which are “central functions consistent with the OBSSR mission that can be marshalled to meet the objectives of the scientific priorities” outlined in the plan. The four processes are communication, program coordination and integration, training, and policy and evaluation (view video).

Upon releasing the plan, Riley acknowledged that OBSSR received “excellent support for the development of this plan from NIH leadership, including the NIH Director and Deputy Director, the Director of the Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives, and from NIH Institute and Center Directors.” Additionally, NIH Director Francis S. Collins and Riley authored an editorial published in Science Translational Medicine highlighting scientific and technological advances that are transforming the behavioral and social sciences. The OBSSR Strategic Plan 2017-2021 can be downloaded here.

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Posted in Issue 23 (December 13), Update, Volume 35 (2016)

NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Holds Inaugural Research Festival

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.

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Posted in Issue 23 (December 13), Update, Volume 35 (2016)

Inaugural NIH Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Festival — December 2, 2016

On December 2, 2016, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) will hold an inaugural NIH Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Festival. Intended to become an annual event, the festival “will highlight recently funded contributions of behavioral and social science to health research.” It will also “explore new directions for health-related behavioral and social science research.” The event is tailored to build the “understanding and capacity to implement transformative behavioral and system interventions that lead to sustainable improvements in health and well-being.” The festival agenda and additional information is available on OBSSR’s website.

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Posted in Issue 21 (November 1), Update, Volume 35 (2016)

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