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o b s s r connector monthly

September 13, 2017

Director's Voice

Clinical Trials Policies: A Rose by Any Other Name. In a blog last October, I described a series of policies recently released by the NIH to improve transparency and our stewardship of clinical trials. In that blog, I noted that the definition of a clinical trial was being interpreted broadly, and that most research with humans that involved a prospective experimental manipulation of an independent variable likely would fall under these policies. With further guidance from the NIH Office of Extramural Research and in recently released case studies, it is clear that the intent of the NIH is to interpret the clinical trials definition broadly to include any NIH-supported study of humans that involves experimental manipulation (described as “prospectively assigned to one or more interventions” in the clinical trials definition).

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Research Spotlights

Findings from Recently Published Research

sad child

Father loss impacts children's DNA

Loss of a father (including by death, incarceration or divorce/separation) in childhood has been associated with many health and behavior related outcomes for youth, but the underlying biological processes are not well understood. A new study by NICHD-funded researchers examines this link at the cellular level by considering the role of telomeres: protective “caps” at the end of chromosomes that have been linked with stress-induced biological aging. The study used data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a racially diverse birth cohort study of primarily low-income children born in large US cities between 1998 and 2000.
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physical activity levels

Physical activity levels impact lifetime risk for cardiovascular disease but not cancer

A new study by NHLBI-and NCI-funded researchers sought to determine the link between weekly physical activity levels according to World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations and lifetime risk of experiencing cardiovascular disease or cancer. The study followed over 12,000 individuals from four U.S. communities who were part of the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study. The individuals were ages 45-64 at baseline, primarily Caucasian or African American and were followed from 1987 until 2012.
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food, social media

Food environments displayed on social media are associated with state-level health outcomes

Research has demonstrated that food environments are associated with health behaviors and chronic disease at the community level, however, social media remains a relatively unexplored source of such data. In an innovative new study, NIEHS-funded researchers constructed a national database of food environment indicators from Twitter and Yelp data and examined its relationship to state level health outcomes.
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In the Know

Events and Announcements

NIH Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Festival

SAVE THE DATE: December 8, 2017 — NIH Campus, Natcher Conference Center (Bldg. 45). The Annual NIH Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Festival will be hosted by OBSSR and the NIH Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Coordinating Committee. The purpose of the festival is to highlight recently funded behavioral and social sciences research that the NIH supports; bring together behavioral and social scientists within the NIH extramural and intramural communities to network with each other and share scientific ideas; and explore ways to advance behavioral and social sciences research.

NIH RFI to Solicit Feedback on ECHO-wide Cohort Protocol

The NIH has extended the public comments period for a request for information inviting input on the ECHO-Wide Cohort Data Collection Protocol. The NIH invites advocacy group leaders, physicians, researchers, other members of the scientific community, and the public at large, to provide valuable feedback on this document that will guide data collection for the ECHO Program. Respondents should submit their comments to or by 5PM on Wednesday, September 13, 2017.
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Webinar: How differences in the socioeconomic environment modifies genetic variation in cognitive ability

Join the OBSSR Director's Series Webinar on Tuesday, September 26, 2017 at 2 pm ET. Eric Turkheimer, Ph.D., will present on "How differences in the socioeconomic environment modifies genetic variation in cognitive ability."  It has been known for some time that children raised in impoverished environments do not express genetic differences in cognitive ability to the same extent as children raised in middle class homes, a phenomenon known as the Scarr-Rowe interaction. Dr. Turkheimer will summarize what is known about this phenomenon, focusing on new analyses of some classic twin datasets that have not previously been available. The goal of the new analyses is to emphasize the developmental processes that underlie modification of heritability and other quantitative genetic parameters.
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NSF/SBE recruiting for a Division Director, Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences

The BCS Division Director, a key member of the SBE Directorate leadership team, provides leadership and direction for the support of research that develops and advances scientific knowledge about the brain, human cognition, language, social behavior, and culture, as well as research on the interactions between human societies and their environments. The Division Director provides overall direction and management to a division that includes a staff of approximately 30 employees and a Fiscal Year 2017 budget of roughly $95 million. The nature of the position calls for an experienced manager with highly-respected expertise in the behavioral and cognitive sciences. The application deadline is September 29, 2017.
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Open Mike: Continuing to Clarify the NIH Definition of a Clinical Trial 

A few weeks ago NIH released some case studies and FAQs to help clarify for our research community whether their human subjects research study meets the NIH definition of a clinical trial. These resources prompted a number of follow-on questions and thoughtful suggestions from the community that have helped us refine both the FAQs and the case studies. In addition to providing additional rationale for our conclusions in the case studies, we made a number of changes, to include clarifying: what it means to be “prospectively assigned”; what we consider to be a “health-related biomedical and behavioral outcome”; how to classify “ancillary studies”; in what circumstances we would consider a mechanistic study to be a clinical trial; the use of surveys, questionnaires and user preferences; and more.
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Funding Announcements

Psychological, Behavioral, and Neurocognitive-Focused Ancillary Studies to the Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity in Humans Consortium

The purpose of this FOA is to support an ancillary study grant application(s) to add psychological, behavioral, and/or neurocognitive assessments to the data collection in adults (> 18 years of age) enrolled at the clinical sites in the Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity in Humans Consortium (MoTrPAC) supported by the NIH Common Fund. This ancillary study FOA complements the parent MoTrPAC study by supporting research to elucidate the individual level psychological, behavioral, and neurocognitive characteristics that explain variation in individual response and adherence to a program of physical activity. The goal of the research supported by this FOA is to characterize individual differences in response to exercise over the course of the MoTrPAC protocol to identify novel treatment targets and inform personalized physical activity intervention approaches in the future. Application Due Date: October 24, 2017, by 5:00 PM local time of applicant organization.
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NHGRI Call for Papers

Genomics at the frontiers of social and behavioral science research: theory, discovery, and translation

This special issue of Social Science & Medicine solicits papers focusing on the application of social science theory to advance the study of genomic translation. The National Human Genome Research Institute seeks to publish high impact research that considers the social contextual factors that influence the translation of genomic information through the lens of social science theory. The submission and review process will occur in two stages. First, authors should submit an extended abstract of 800 words by October 15, 2017, along with a cover letter explaining the unique features of the study, review, or commentary and how the contribution fits within the call for papers to Authors whose submissions fall within the scope of the special issue will be invited to submit a full manuscript between October 31, 2017 and February 1, 2018, with the goal of publishing the special issue in May 2019.
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