The Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) recently held the 11th NIH Matilda White Riley (MWR) Behavioral and Social Sciences Honors. Dr. White Riley was the OBSSR before OBSSR was formed. She joined the National Institute on Aging (NIA) in 1979 and formed and led what is now the Division of Behavioral and Social Research at NIA. In the 1980s, she co-chaired the NIH Steering Committee for the Institute of Medicine’s Project on Health and Behavior, and subsequently chaired the trans-NIH Working Group on Health and Behavior. In her various roles at the NIH, she performed many of the functions that OBSSR currently performs: encouraging coordination among the NIH Institutes; serving as a spokesperson for the NIH behavioral and social sciences; responding to inquiries from Congress and others; and providing advice to NIH leadership on the role of the behavioral and social sciences in health. It is a privilege each year for OBSSR to honor her achievements and her contributions to the behavioral and social sciences at the NIH.
The 2018 Matilda White Riley Distinguished Lecturer was Dr. Terrie Moffitt, the Nannerl O. Keohane University Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University, and Associate Director of the Dunedin Longitudinal Study, which has followed the health and well-being of more than 1000 people born in 1972-73 in Dunedin, New Zealand. She has made exceptional contributions in many areas of research, most significantly in our understanding of the development of antisocial behavior and in the gene by environment interactions that contribute to mental health. In her lecture, Dr. Moffitt highlighted a few of the many findings from the Dunedin Study, the advances in multidisciplinary research that inform prevention, and how a lifecourse perspective informs prevention. She showed how 20% of the Dunedin Study participants accounted for approximately 80% of months on social welfare, hospitalizations, and prescription refills, as well as nearly all the obesity and criminal court convictions in the cohort; and how basic brain health indices at age 3 predicted those in this high cost, high need subgroup. Dr. Moffitt joins an illustrious group of exceptional researchers who have been honored by the NIH OBSSR each year for their substantial contributions to our understanding of health, behavior, and social systems.
This is the third year in which the Matilda White Riley Honors included early stage investigator paper awards. Four papers were selected from more than 300 papers published in 2017 by early stage investigators. The awardees, who presented their research at the 2018 event, were:
- Diego Garcia-Huidobro; Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile; Squeezing observational data for better causal inference: Methods and examples for prevention research.
- Ruth T. Morin; San Francisco VA Medical Center; Do multiple health events reduce resilience when compared with single events?
- Justin Parent; Florida International University; Dynamic stress-related epigenetic regulation of the glucocorticoid receptor gene promoter during early development: The role of child maltreatment.
- Bryan F Singer; The Open University, UK; Are Cocaine-Seeking “Habits” Necessary for the Development of Addiction-Like Behavior in Rats?
These early stage investigator presentations illustrated the breadth of behavioral and social sciences research relevant to health and the exciting new research directions being pursued by promising researchers.
Congratulations to our 11th NIH Matilda White Riley Distinguished Lecturer and our Early Stage Investigator Paper Awardees. I also want to thank the many people who reviewed papers, distinguished lecturer nominations, and contributed to the event’s success. If you missed the MWR event this year, it is available on the NIH videocast site. We look forward to seeing as many of you as can attend in person next year to reflect on the achievements of our field and to honor those who have made such exceptional contributions to it.