OBSSR 2016-2020 Strategic Plan Discussed at NIH Council of Councils

On May 20, National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) Director William Riley updated and received feedback from the NIH Council of Councils regarding the progress of the OBSSR 2016-2020 Strategic Plan. The Council consists of approximately 30 members, selected from the various NIH Institute and Center (IC) Advisory Councils, representatives nominated by the Office of the Director program offices, and broad lay representation. It also advises the NIH Director on matters related to the policies and activities of the Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives (DPCPSI), where OBSSR is housed.

Authorized by Congress in 1993 and established by NIH in 1995, OBSSR was created to “coordinate research conducted or supported by the agencies of the NIH” and to “identify projects of behavioral and social sciences research (BSSR) that should be conducted or supported by the national research institutes, and develop such projects in cooperation with such institutes,” as Riley noted.

Riley provided background on OBSSR’s mission: (1) enhancing the scientific and public health impact of BSSR, (2) coordinating BSSR “conducted or supported by the NIH and integrat[ing] these sciences within the larger NIH research enterprise,” and (3) communicating health-related BSSR findings to stakeholders. The 2016-2020 strategic plan updates the 1997 and 2007 plans. The 1997 strategic plan focused on enhancing BSSR research and training, integrating “biobehavioral perspectives in all NIH research, and improving communication among BSS researchers and the public.” The 2007 plan focus included basic science, interdisciplinary research, systems science, and population impact.

The guiding principles for the 2016-2020 Strategic Plan, Riley explained, gives attention to integrating BSSR “into the broader biomedical research efforts consistent with the NIH mission,” coordinating and collaborating with the NIH’s 27 institutes and centers, identifying the “critical challenges that are barriers to BSSR’s advancement,” and focusing on those challenges that “OBSSR is uniquely positioned to address.” According to Riley, the 2016-2020 OBSSR Strategic Plan includes three scientific priorities.

Scientific Priority 1: Improve the Synergy of Basic and Applied Behavioral and Social Science Research

Objective 1.1: Identify and encourage promising basic behavioral and social science research (bBSSR) with strong potential for applied translation relevant to health.
Objective 1.2: Facilitate greater interaction between basic and applied BSSR researchers to facilitate furthering the translation of basic and applied behavioral and social sciences research.

Scientific Priority 2: Enhance the Methods, Measures, and Data Infrastructures to Encourage a More Cumulative Behavioral and Social Sciences

Objective 2.1: Encourage date integration and replication in the behavioral and social sciences.
Objective 2.2: Facilitate the development and testing of new measurement approaches.
Objective 2.3: Expand the repertoire of methods available to social and behavioral researchers.

Scientific Priority 3: Facilitate the Adoption of Behavioral and Social Science Research Findings in Health Research and Practice

Objective 3.1: Encourage research that studies mechanisms and interventions in context.
Objective 3.2: Enhance the relevance and scalability of social and behavioral interventions.
Objective 3.3: Foster collaboration with agencies and entities that utilize and/or deliver social and behavioral research findings, and evaluate systemic and policy changes that facilitate or impede adoption of effective approaches.

OBSSR expects to release the completed plan in the very near future.

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