An Enjoyable and Informative Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Festival

An Enjoyable and Informative Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Festival

On December 8, 2017, we held our second annual NIH Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Festival on the NIH campus. This one day festival, a combined effort of the NIH Behavioral and Social Sciences Coordinating Committee (BSSR-CC) and OBSSR, highlights recent advances in NIH-supported behavioral and social sciences research in fiscal year 2017 (FY17) and provides NIH staff with the opportunity to network and discuss future collaborations.  We were honored to have Dr. Larry Tabak, NIH Principal Deputy Director, give the welcome and opening remarks for the festival this year.

The extramural presentations at this year’s event, nominated by program staff of the NIH institutes and centers, were consistently excellent. The intervention research panel described the findings from studies of interventions to reduce dementia and memory loss, to improve adherence to anti-retroviral treatment, and to prevent alcohol abuse among Native Americans. The panel on behavioral neuroscience provided an engaging description of research findings and perspectives on brain avoidance circuitry, decision making and the effects of cocaine, and the effects of social behavior on the brain. The social factors and health panel presented research on the opioid use and mortality in rural and small towns, social stress and aging, and the effects of social disadvantage on immune activity and neurocognitive development. The video recordings of the panel presenters are available on the NIH videocast website. Scroll down below the video to click and see a specific panelist.

In addition to presentations from recently funded extramural scientists, this year’s festival included two new features: 1. a NIH Institute Director’s Perspective, and 2. A NIH Intramural Research Highlight. For the NIH Institute Director’s Perspective, we were honored to have Dr. Eliseo Perez Stable, Director of the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), present on the priorities of NIMHD and the role of the behavioral and social sciences in advancing the mission of NIMHD. For the NIH Intramural Research Highlight, we were pleased to have Dr. Jack Yanovski from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) present his Bench to Bedside funded research on the role of psychosocial factors, particularly depression, in obesity and diabetes. Dr. John Gallin, NIH Associate Director for Clinical Research, introduced Dr. Yanovski and provided an overview of the value of the NIH Bench to Bedside program. The video recordings of the plenary speakers are available on the NIH videocast website. Scroll down below the video to click and see a specific speaker.

Since one of the goals of the festival is to bring NIH research and program staff together to foster future collaborations, we held two town halls—one on OBSSR serving the NIH, and one on OBSSR serving the research community. These town hall discussions are a valuable source of information about the needs of the NIH staff and the research community, and hopefully serve as a forum for these groups to exchange ideas and consider new collaborations. The OBSSR staff are busily compiling their notes from these town halls that our office will use to shape future efforts. In addition to the town halls, a poster session during lunch provided the various NIH Institutes and Centers the opportunity to describe their behavioral and social science research interests and highlight programs or initiatives that advance the NIH mission through the behavioral and social sciences.

In my State of the Behavioral and Social Sciences at the NIH for FY17, I noted that we have seen a steady increase in funding for the behavioral and social sciences over the past few years, from a little under $4 billion in FY15 to over 4.75 billion in FY17. Basic behavioral and social sciences represent nearly half ($2 billion) of this amount. Among competitive (new or renewal) grants funded in FY17, the National Institute on Aging (NIA), National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and NICHD led the funding of behavioral and social science coded grants, but nearly every NIH institute and center supports behavioral and social sciences research to some degree. OBSSR continues to provide approximately $20 million each year to help the NIH institutes and centers fund meritorious behavioral and social sciences research. In FY17, we co-funded 123 grants.

Thanks to the Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Festival Planning Committee and to the OBSSR staff who made this vision for an annual research festival in the behavioral and social sciences at the NIH a reality. And thanks to all of you who attended this year’s festival. If you missed the festivities, links to videos of the presentations are embedded above.

Read more about the 2017 festival in the report “The 2017 National Institutes of Health Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Festival: Meeting Summary.Download PDF (2MB)

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