On the date of the formation of the OBSSR 25 years ago, James M. Anderson, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives, provides a perspective of the OBSSR from NIH leadership.
The behavioral and social sciences have also changed substantially over the past 25 years; however, some of the research published in 1995 is still highly relevant and influential today. For example, among the more influential publications from 1995 is work on the basic need for social attachments and the negative health effects of social isolation that many are now experiencing due to COVID-19 mitigation. Another influential publication from 1995 was on implicit social cognition, which has been the basis for our assessment and understanding of implicit racial attitudes, biases, and stereotypes that contribute to the continued racial and social injustices of our society.
There have been many advances in the behavioral and social sciences in the past 25 years. Basic research in areas such as attention, learning and memory, behavioral economics, self-regulation, resilience, and social determinants of health have laid the foundation for better understanding and changing behavior. Effective prevention programs delivered by health care systems and communities have improved population health. Chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer are more effectively managed as a result of behavioral and social science interventions. Mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression are more effectively treated as a result of behavioral and social sciences research. Implementation science and digital interventions have increased the reach, scalability, and adoption of effective social and behavioral interventions.
Since its inception, the integration of the behavioral and social sciences within the larger NIH biomedical enterprise has been a priority of the OBSSR. The integration of the behavioral and social sciences with the neurosciences, genomic sciences, and the computer and data sciences has strengthened all of these sciences, expanded methods and approaches, and accelerated research to improve health. In recent years, the OBSSR’s efforts on NIH-wide initiatives such as the All of Us Research Program, the Helping to End Addiction Long-term® Initiative, and most recently COVID-19 have been critical to better integrating the behavioral and social sciences in these NIH-wide initiatives.
The OBSSR is one of several program coordination offices of the Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives (DPCPSI) in the Office of the NIH Director. The mission of DPCPSI includes identifying emerging scientific opportunities, rising public health challenges, and scientific knowledge gaps that merit further research, and coordinating NIH-wide initiatives that address these gaps. As the Director of DPCPSI, it has been my privilege to direct the activities of these coordination offices. The OBSSR has been a vital coordination office of DPCPSI, leading numerous NIH-wide initiatives and coordinating the behavioral and social sciences at the NIH. Join me in celebrating 25 years of the OBSSR’s contributions to advancing the behavioral and social sciences at the NIH, and I look forward to what the OBSSR will achieve as it embarks on its next 25 years of service to the NIH.