Director's Voice Blog

In the monthly Director’s Voice Blog, OBSSR Director William T. Riley, Ph.D., discusses timely topics related to behavioral and social sciences research (BSSR). Subscribe to receive updates from OBSSR Director William T. Riley, Ph.D.

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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.
Suppose you are bitten by a spider and the chance of death from the bite is quite small (1 in 100,000), how much would you pay to receive the antidote?  Now suppose instead you are recruited to participate in a study in which this spider venom is being studied and the consent form says that you have a 1 in 100,000 chance of dying from the experiment.  How much would you want the researchers to pay you to participate?
Some may be surprised to learn that there is a small but thriving cadre of behavioral and social sciences researchers in the NIH intramural program.  At this year’s NIH Intramural Research Festival, held September 13-15, 2017, a social and behavioral sciences category poster session included 17 presentations by intramural researchers across a range of NIH Institutes and Centers. Examples of these presentations included:
Some may be surprised to learn that there is a small but thriving cadre of behavioral and social sciences researchers in the NIH intramural program.  At this year’s NIH Intramural Research Festival, held September 13-15, 2017, a social and behavioral sciences category poster session included 17 presentations by intramural researchers across a range of NIH Institutes and Centers. Examples of these presentations included:
In July 2017, the National Academies held a public event on their recent publication, “The Value of Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences to National Priorities: Report for the National Science Foundation.” This report provides many examples of the impacts of social, behavioral, and economic sciences on business, industry, welfare, and prosperity of our country. The report also describes the impacts of social, behavioral, and economic sciences on the health of the nation. These impacts include a better understanding of how environmental factors interact with genetic influences to impact he…
The Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee and the Office of Pain Policy at the National Institutes of Health recently released the draft Federal Pain Research Priorities, followed by a period of public comment and a symposium to discuss these draft research priorities. Given the modest effects of our current pain management strategies and the contributions of our limited ability to manage pain on the opioid abuse epidemic, every social and behavioral scientist should read this report and consider how to advance our ability to better manage pain.  Among the cross cutting priorities,…
There are many benefits from living in more diverse and integrated neighborhoods, and a recently published study funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) provides additional evidence that moving to more integrated neighborhoods has health benefits.
Last month in a report prepared for the Brookings Panel on Economic Activity titled “Mortality and morbidity in the 21st century,” Anne Case and Nobel Laureate Angus Deaton provided a more in-depth analysis of their groundbreaking 2015 findings of increasing midlife mortality rates among working class (high school or less education) Whites in the United States.  In the context of continued declines in mortality rates for other age, education, and race/ethnicity groups, these increased mortality rates among midlife, working class Whites are particularly striking and reverse decades of progress…
Opioid Abuse has rapidly become a public health epidemic.  The CDC reports that while the amount of overall pain that patients report has not changed, the amount of prescription opioids sold in the U.S. has quadrupled since 1999.  Deaths from opioid overdose increased 200% between 2000 and 2014, and opioids are the leading cause of drug overdose in this country.
When I was named director of the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research in August, 2015, we had almost as many unfilled as filled positions in the office.  We could have moved quickly to fill these positions, but I remembered the advice of one of my mentors in government leadership, “Hire slowly,” so we had a deliberate and thoughtful process for identifying candidates and making selections over the past 18 months. Before introducing OBSSR’s new staff, I want to thank the “stalwarts” – Bill Elwood, Attallah Hampton, Paula Roberts, Wendy Smith, Mike Spittel, Erica Spotts, and Deborah…