OBSSR Marks Anniversary With Three Days of Events


OBSSR logo 2_optTwenty years ago, Congress established an arm of the National Institutes of Health’s Office of the Director to emphasize the critical role that behavioral and social factors play in health, health care, and well-being. The doors to the resulting Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research, or OBSSR, opened on July 1, 1995, and later this month three days of events will mark that 20th anniversary at NIH’s Bethesda, Maryland campus. The festivities are themed, “Healthier Lives through Behavioral and Social Sciences.“


‘No more exciting time …’

The following is an excerpt of OBSSR Acting Director Bill Riley’s 20th anniversary message:

There is, perhaps, no more exciting time to be a behavioral and social scientist. Indeed, some of my “baby boom” colleagues have mentioned how great it would be to start our careers now.

The complex interplay of behaviors and social influences to brain function and genetic influences is being elucidated at an ever accelerating pace. Recent technological advances have led to a data rich environment for the study of behavior and social context and greatly improved our ability to objectively measure these phenomena.

These same technological advances have provided new approaches and delivery systems for changing behavior that are infinitely adaptive and scalable. New research methods and analytics are being developed to leverage the information available from the increasingly rich data available to behavioral and social sciences researchers.

Over its 20 years, OBSSR has helped lead in the development and adoption of these new behavioral and social science approaches as they have unfolded, encouraging trans-disciplinary exploration and embracing new scientific developments to harness the power of behavioral and social sciences to transform biomedical research, clinical interventions, and public health.


OBSSR’s mission is to stimulate and integrate behavioral and social sciences research throughout NIH, and thus improve our understanding, treatment, and prevention of disease. Psychologist William Riley is the acting director of the office, which has an annual budget of roughly $27 million.

On June 23, the eighth Matilda White Riley Award and Lecture in Behavioral and Social Sciences will honor Kevin Volpp and Jeanne Brooks-Gunn. The award is named for the former associate director for behavioral and social research at the National Institute on Aging, and recipients have demonstrated research that links theory, methods and research into both the behavioral and social factors that influence physical health and practical ways to apply their findings. Volpp is the founding director of the Leonard Davis Institute Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics, one of two NIH- funded Centers on Behavioral Economics and Health in the United States. His talk will center on “Behavioral Economics and New Models for Health Care Delivery.” Brooks-Gunn, the Virginia and Leonard Marx Professor of Child Development and Education at Columbia University, will address “The Long Reach of Early Childhood: Biological, Environmental Influences.”

The Riley lectures will run from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Lipsett Auditorium in Building 10.

On June 24, OBSSR will hold the day-long “Define Your Career in Behavioral and Social Sciences” event, aimed at those in the early stages of their careers, post-doctoral scholars, doctoral students, and others who are exploring training and careers in the behavioral and social sciences. Speakers will include Robert Kaplan from the Office of Agency for Health Care Research and Quality and Fay Lomax Cook, head of the National science Foundation’s Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences. After an initial panel discussion featuring leaders from foundations, professional and research societies, think tanks, NIH institutes, international organizations, advocacy organizations and more, attendees will take part in several breakout sessions lead by these panelists.

This event will run from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Porter Neuroscience Conference Center, in room GE 620-640 of Building 35A (the atrium conference room across the coffee shop).

And lastly, on June 25, there will be a research symposium showcasing some of the most impactful research in the behavioral and social sciences over the last two decades, and the most promising and cutting edge approaches that will contribute to better health through treatment and prevention of disease. Besides presentations from leading scientists from across the nation, the daylong event will feature scientific posters from NIH institutes, participation from several NIH institute directors and members of the leadership, screening of the “I’m a Behavioral and Social Scientist” video series, and several networking opportunities. The keynote speaker will be Alan I. Leshner of the American Association for the Advancement of Science while the plenary speaker is Vanessa Hayes of the Garvan Institute.

The symposium runs from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Natcher Conference Center in Building 45.

To register for these events, CLICK HERE.

Food will not be provided at these events and it is recommended that attendees pre-order and prepay for a box lunch for the research symposium at least two days in advance. Details are available on this page. There are dining services and concession stands on the NIH campus.

This report was compiled from material on the OBSSR website.


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