OBSSR Strategic Plan 2017-2021

Strategic Plan 2017-2021

The OBSSR Strategic Plan 2017-2021 (PDF)  includes three equally important scientific priorities that reflect key research challenges the OBSSR is uniquely positioned to address, along with four foundational processes to enhance and support these scientific priorities and the OBSSR’s mission.

Strategic Plan-Related Publications

Publications highlighting and expanding upon the OBSSR Strategic Plan.

November 2016 | Science Translational Medicine 
NIH's transformative opportunities for the behavioral and social sciences

January 2017 | Nature Human Behaviour 
Basic and applied behavioural and social sciences at the NIH

January 2017 | Health Psychology 
Behavioral and social sciences at the National Institutes of Health: Methods, measures, and data infrastructures as a scientific priority

June 2017 | Translational Behavioral Medicine 
Behavioral and Social Sciences at the National Institutes of Health: adoption of research findings in health research and practice as a scientific priority

Prior OBSSR Strategic Plans

OBSSR’s first strategic plan "Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Strategic Plan 1997" was published in 1997 under the leadership of OBSSR's founding director, Norman B. Anderson, Ph.D.

David B. Abrams, Ph.D., led the development of OBSSR's second strategic plan, which was published in 2007 and was titled "The Contributions of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research to Improving the Health of the Nation: A Prospectus for the Future."

Strategic Priorities

Priority One: Improve the synergy of basic and applied behavioral and social sciences research

New and innovative approaches to change behavior and social systems to improve health rely on fundamental research that characterizes novel mechanisms and targets. The OBSSR is committed to identifying and encouraging basic behavioral and social sciences research (bBSSR) to develop viable pathways to improve individual and population health. To do so, the OBSSR will work with the NIH Institutes and Centers to identify promising and emerging lines of bBSSR relevant to the health research mission of the NIH, stimulate new areas of bBSSR that address important research questions, and facilitate the translation of bBSSR findings to applied research.

Priority Two: Enhance and promote the research infrastructure, methods, and measures needed to support a more cumulative and integrated approach to behavioral and social sciences research

Technological and scientific advances offer exciting opportunities as well as novel challenges for behavioral and social sciences research. Varied and voluminous data from multiple data sources increase the importance of data sharing, harmonization, and integration. To take full advantage of the data being produced, a robust and open research infrastructure, including common data elements, ontologies, and consensus measurement metrics, must be developed and refined—a need that the OBSSR is uniquely positioned to address. Advances in science are often preceded by advances in measurement, and the OBSSR will continue to encourage new approaches that improve the precision, accuracy, and efficiency of measures of behavioral and social phenomena and their context. New data types and new measurement approaches necessitate new methodologies and analytics. The OBSSR is committed to encouraging a broad repertoire of methods and analytics to answer increasingly complex and relevant research questions.

Priority Three: Facilitate the adoption of behavioral and social sciences research findings in health research and in practice

A substantial gap remains between the research findings in the behavioral and social sciences and the implementation of this research in practice. The OBSSR can play an important role in narrowing this gap by encouraging behavioral intervention research in the context in which these interventions are intended to be delivered. To foster adoption of effective behavioral and social interventions, the OBSSR can disseminate research findings, encourage dissemination and implementation research, and partner with other agencies and entities to reduce the barriers to adoption of effective interventions.

Foundational Processes

To address the scientific priorities and the broader NIH efforts in the behavioral and social sciences, the OBSSR will rely on four foundational processes. These foundational processes are central functions consistent with the OBSSR mission that can be marshalled to meet the objectives of the scientific priorities outlined in this strategic plan.

Communicating behavioral and social sciences research findings

Communication is a core function for the OBSSR to accomplish its mission. OBSSR communications efforts encompass science communication and public engagement. The communications framework is inextricably linked to and in service of its mission and scientific priorities. OBSSR communications efforts are intended to serve a broad and diverse audience of stakeholders.

Coordinating behavioral and social sciences research programs across the NIH and integrating behavioral and social sciences research within the larger NIH research enterprise

Program coordination has been a core mission of the OBSSR since its inception. OBSSR is fortunate to have a diverse and dedicated BSSR community at the NIH, with whom it partners to achieve its program coordination goals. The OBSSR's program coordination functions are also served by the NIH Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Coordinating Committee (BSSR-CC).

Training the next generation of behavioral and social science researchers

OBSSR recognizes the importance of scientific stewardship, particularly in developing the scientific talent and skills needed to advance health-related behavioral and social sciences. Training researchers in the behavioral and social sciences is foundational for implementing many of the OBSSR's strategic planning objectives. The OBSSR has and will continue to offer training in the behavioral and social sciences to scientists across a wide array of disciplines. Training programs that focus on cutting edge methods, designs, and measures or that expand behavioral and social scientists' capabilities in areas such as genetics, neuroscience, and the microbiome will strengthen BSSR's ability to meet the scientific challenges of the future.

Evaluating the impact of behavioral and social sciences research and addressing scientific policies that support this research

OBSSR is dedicated to strengthening ways to help manage and monitor the BSSR portfolio and to shaping scientific policies and procedures to facilitate an efficient and productive health-related BSSR agenda. OBSSR's policy and evaluation activities help address important research gaps and monitor and track progress in meeting its strategic goals and mission. Ongoing analyses will gauge the portfolio more accurately, identify where research is concentrated, and where OBSSR guidance can help the NIH to continue to support cutting-edge science.