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OBSSR Releases Revised Definition of “Behavioral and Social Sciences Research”

The Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has completed its revision of NIH’s definition of “behavioral and social sciences research” (BSSR) (see previous coverage) after crowdsourcing input from stakeholders. The new definition begins:

“Behavioral and social sciences research at the National Institutes of Health involves the systematic study of behavioral1 and social2 phenomena relevant to health3.

1“Behavioral phenomena” refers to the observable actions of individuals or groups and to mental phenomena such as knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, motivations, perceptions, cognitions, and emotions.

2“Social phenomena” refers to the interactions between and among individuals, and to the characteristics, structures, and functions of social groups and institutions, such as families, communities, schools, and workplaces, as well as the physical, economic, cultural, and policy environments in which social and behavioral phenomena occur.

3”Health” refers to state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity (as per WHO).”

The complete definition is posted on the OBSSR website. In an email message announcing the revision, the Office said that “some suggestions, although not reflected in the BSSR definition, will be used to for future blog post topics to share in-depth discussion of the areas of science that are included in the BSSR at NIH.”

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Posted in Issue 10 (May 14), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

NASEM Report Analyzes Factors for Reproducibility and Replicability in Scientific Research

In response to a Congressional directive to conduct a comprehensive study of issues related to reproducibility and replicability of scientific research, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has released a new report, Reproducibility and Replicability in Science. The consensus study report defines the terms “reproducibility” – or getting similar results using the same research methods – and “replicability” – getting similar results across multiple research methods – as they relate to research practices. The report sets forth several steps on how to improve the reproducibility and replicability of research, including identifying clear descriptions of how the reported result was reached, providing training for scientific institutions on proper statistical analysis, investing in tools and infrastructure that support reproducibility, encouraging journals to consider reproducibility factors in publications, and having the National Science Foundation (NSF) facilitate the sharing of data for NSF-funded research. The report also considers how the public’s confidence in scientific findings can be improved by two factors: first, that scientists avoid overstating the implications of their research to public-facing audiences, and second, that journalists report on scientific results with “as much context and nuance as the medium allows.” The full report can be found on the National Academies website.

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Posted in Issue 10 (May 14), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

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