Promoting Inclusion of the Behavioral and Social Sciences Across the NIH: OBSSR 2000–2003

Promoting Inclusion of the Behavioral and Social Sciences Across the NIH: OBSSR 2000-2003

As we celebrate 25 years of the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR), we have asked the former Directors to reflect on their time at the OBSSR. This guest blog was authored by OBSSR’s second Director, Raynard Kington, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A.

I would like to thank the current OBSSR Director, Bill Riley, and staff for providing this opportunity to reflect on the accomplishments when I directed the OBSSR from 2000 to 2003. Prior to serving in this role, I was the Director of the Division of Health Examination Statistics at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, where I led the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a program of studies designed to assess the health and nutritional status of adults and children in the United States. Upon becoming the OBSSR Director, my primary goal was to promote and facilitate the inclusion of behavioral and social science research (BSSR) across the NIH. I worked to advance multiple areas of BSSR-related topics that cut across the NIH Institutes’ and Centers’ (ICs) missions, but likely would not have a sufficiently large enough portfolio in each IC for optimal program development. I tried to focus on areas where the OBSSR can step in and coordinate efforts between the ICs to maximize the scientific impact and to demonstrate the important role of BSSR in clarifying complex health-related questions.

During my three years as Director of the OBSSR, the Office had several notable achievements and accomplishments:

For about a year of my tenure as the Director of the OBSSR, I also served as the Acting Director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The experience of leading an institute with a portfolio of research that cut across almost every biomedical, behavioral, and social science discipline helped me in my work as the Director of the OBSSR, as well as my future NIH leadership roles. After the OBSSR, I served in other leadership positions at NIH from 2003 to 2009, including serving as Principal Deputy Director of NIH and Acting Director of NIH.

After NIH, I was appointed President of Grinnell College in August 2010 and will end my tenure in the summer of 2020. In August, I will become the 16th Head of the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. In that role, I look forward to advancing ways to expose top high school students to the full range of scientific disciplines.

The accomplishments during my tenure at the OBSSR were possible due to committed behavioral and social science staff across the NIH. In my various leadership roles at the NIH, the extraordinary commitment of NIH staff to its mission was critical. I benefited tremendously from the opportunity to serve as the OBSSR Director and know that it will continue to play an essential role in improving the health of the nation and the world.