OBSSR to Develop “Revised, Contemporary Definition of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research”

As part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) strategic planning process to update its 2007 strategic plan for fiscal years (FY) 2016-2020, the Office plans to reconsider NIH’s definition of behavioral and social sciences (BSSR). In his recent OBSSR Connector blog post, OBSSR Director William Riley explained that the office is Congressionally mandated to “define behavioral and social sciences research to assess and monitor NIH funding.” As a consequence, the current definition “resulted in a high level taxonomy of BSSR and delineates basic versus applied behavioral and social sciences research with a range of examples for each.” Riley noted that in order to revise the current definition, NIH must acknowledge “that there is no single discipline of ‘Behavioral and Social Sciences Research;’ instead the field is a multidisciplinary set of sciences.” The definition of these sciences “are evidence that behavioral and social sciences cover a broad expanse of research interests from interpersonal mental processes, through large scale social and cultural constructs.” Emphasizing this is “more than a philosophical exercise,” Riley stressed that OBSSR intends to “develop a revised, contemporary definition of BSSR” with stakeholder input. OBSSR convened an expert panel to provide input into its strategic plan in January (see Update, February 8, 2016).

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