NIH Council Approves Report on Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Integration

During the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Council of Councils Meeting on May 19-20, a report on the  Working Group on Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (BSSR) Integration was presented and approved by the Council. The report, which was presented by Acting Director of the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) and Acting Associate Director for BSSR at NIH Dr. Christine Hunter, is the work of the working group chartered by the Council of Councils and charged with examining the proportion of NIH research with a significant social or behavioral component and the representation of BSSR in the expertise of those within NIH. The report finds that while BSSR is relevant across each of the Institutes and Centers (ICs) at NIH, there are “significant gaps and variation in BSSR integration across the NIH.” Several recommendations for NIH were made in the report including:

  • Better incorporating and integrating BSSR into IC and NIH-wide strategic plans;
  • Evaluating and monitoring the distribution of BSSR staff across the agency;
  • Aligning NIH Advisory Council representation to have two minimum members with BSSR or public health expertise;
  • Working with OBSSR to identify opportunities to increase BSSR applications at ICs with low BSSR usage;
  • Increasing centers, resource grants, and trial networks that include a BSSR focus;
  • Increasing resources allocated to OBSSR for staff and programs; and
  • Engaging BSSR expertise throughout the development of new research policies and practices.

The members of the Council of Councils were largely supportive of the report and its findings, with some questions directed to Dr. Hunter regarding the importance of research grant success rates, the “shockingly low” amount of BSSR used at some of the ICs, and, given the wide range of application of BSSR, calls that it be better utilized in improving public health. The working group report and the presentation slides are available on the Council of Councils website.

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