The Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) at the National Institutes of Health has released a new strategic plan for 2017 through 2021. The plan focuses on scientific priorities, which reflect key research challenges that OBSSR is uniquely positioned to address. Developed with considerable input from internal and external NIH stakeholders, the plan ensures OBSSR continues to fulfill its mission.
While it is widely accepted that behavioral and social factors account for approximately half of the premature deaths in the United States, understanding how these behavioral and social factors interact with biology and can be modified to improve health requires a robust and rigorous behavioral and social sciences research agenda. Recent scientific and technological advances in the biomedical, behavioral, and social sciences are generating massive amounts of information from the molecular and genetic levels to clinical and community outcomes. NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., and OBSSR Director William T. Riley, Ph.D., wrote an editorial published today in Science Translational Medicine that highlights some of the scientific and technological advances that are transforming the behavioral and social sciences.
OBSSR’s strategic priorities are to: improve the synergy of basic and applied behavioral and social sciences research; enhance and promote the research infrastructure, methods, and measures needed to support a more cumulative and integrated approach to behavioral and social sciences research; and facilitate the adoption of behavioral and social sciences research findings in health research and in practice.
To address these priorities and broader NIH efforts in the behavioral and social sciences, OBSSR will rely on four foundational processes:
- Communicating behavioral and social sciences research findings
- Coordinating behavioral and social sciences research programs across the NIH and integrating behavioral and social sciences research within the larger NIH research enterprise
- Training the next generation of behavioral and social science researchers
- Evaluating the impact of behavioral and social sciences research and addressing scientific policies that support this research
About the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR): The Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR), which is located in the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Office of the Director (OD), Division of Program Coordination, Planning and Strategic Initiatives, serves to stimulate the growth of the behavioral and social sciences at the NIH. Although social and behavioral research has a long funding history at the NIH, its vital importance to the NIH’s overall mission has never been more apparent. Behavioral and social factors are important contributors to health and illness and frequently interact with biological factors to influence health outcomes. They also represent critical avenues for treatment and prevention.
The OBSSR serves as the focal point for establishing NIH-wide goals and coordinating activities for research on the role of behavior in the etiology, course, prevention, and treatment of disease. In addition to integrating the development of NIH policies, goals, and objectives, the OBSSR serves as a liaison between the NIH intramural and extramural communities, other Federal agencies, academic and scientific societies, national voluntary health agencies, the biomedical research community, the media, and the general public on matters pertaining to behavioral and social sciences research.
About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.
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