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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