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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The Inaugural NIH Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Festival was held December 2, 2016.  This event was hosted jointly by the NIH Behavioral and Social Sciences Coordinating Committee (BSSR-CC) and the NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR).  Thanks to these groups for organizing such a successful event.  We had 185 attend in person with another 280 livestreaming the event.  If you missed it, an archive of the videocast is available at https://videocast.nih.gov/summary.asp?Live=21386&bhcp=1 There were dual purposes for this event – 1) to highlight compelling re…
Today, the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) releases its Strategic Plan 2017 to 2021. 
Last month, the NIH released new policies and related efforts to improve our stewardship, accountability, and transparency of clinical trials.  NIH is the largest funder of clinical trials in the U.S., and these multi-faceted efforts are designed to address issues at multiple stages of the clinical trials process, from grant application through dissemination of results to the public.  Although these policies and efforts were developed primarily with the traditional biomedical clinical trial in mind, they are applicable to social and behavioral trials as well.
By William Riley, Ph.D., OBSSR Director Far too many times as a teenager, after displaying a clear lack of judgment, my parents would ask, “What were you thinking?” I suspect that this is a common question of many parents and lies at the heart of an NIH study launching today to understand better how teens’ brains develop into adulthood and how the many social and emotional challenges of adolescence shape this development. The landmark NIH Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study, the largest long-term study of brain development and child health in the United States, will follow the…
Graduate training in the behavioral and social sciences remains largely unchanged from the training I received as a graduate student 35 years ago. While the current curricula reflect new knowledge gleaned from decades of research, the overall structure and goals of graduate training in the behavioral and social sciences are essentially the same. More than 60% of new science Ph.D.s will not pursue an academic research career; however, the academia continues to train graduate students primarily for just such careers. According to the most recent National Science Board report on Science and Engin…
Each year, OBSSR pays tribute to the influence of Dr. Matilda White Riley (1911-2004) in the behavioral and social sciences at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), as she was instrumental in the coordination and advancement of behavioral and social sciences at the agency. Dr. Riley laid the foundation for the establishment of OBSSR over 20 years ago.
The goal was ambitious: Develop a strategic plan in less than 10 months. But the need and the eagerness of staff and stakeholders alike made it clear it would be done. Today, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) is in the final stages of a strategic planning process, and a draft plan is being prepared for public comment. OBSSR last developed a strategic plan in 2007, which served as point of departure for the new strategic planning process to update our priorities and focus our activities on the areas OBSSR is uniquely suited to lead…
By William Riley, Ph.D., OBSSR Director The United States pays more for health care than any other country and yet reaps comparatively fewer health benefits. April is National Minority Health Month, a good time to focus on the negative impact that health disparities affecting racial and ethnic minorities and low income populations have on the nation’s health care bill. The Commonwealth Fund reports that health care costs in the United States represent 17 percent of GDP—or more than $9,000 per person per year.
Twenty years ago, when OBSSR was created by Congress, one of its mandates was to define behavioral and social sciences research to assess and monitor NIH funding in this area. This resulted in a high level taxonomy of BSSR and delineates basic versus applied behavioral and social sciences research with a range of examples for each. The taxonomy goes on to describe what is meant by “behavioral” – overt actions, psychological processes, and bio-behavioral interactions – and “social” – sociocultural, socioeconomic, biosocial interactions, and various levels of social context.