Phil Rubin Assumes Chair of NRC Board

On July 20-21, the Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences (BBCSS) of the National Research Council held its twelfth meeting here in DC. The meeting was unusual in that there was essentially a wholesale turnover of Board membership.

On July 20-21, the Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences (BBCSS) of the National Research Council held its twelfth meeting here in DC. The meeting was unusual in that there was essentially a wholesale turnover of Board membership. Two departing members, APA Fellow and BBCSS Chair Anne Petersen and APA member Eugene Emory were on hand to provide some historical perspective and process continuity for the new members and were feted for their years of dedicated service to the Board.

The new Chair, APA member Philip Rubin will now join several other psychologists (Linda Bartoshuk, Susan Carey, Martin Fishbein, Lila Gleitman, Arie Kruglanski, Richard Nisbett, Valerie Reyna, Lisa Savage and Frank Yates) to provide guidance in setting a research agenda that will help inform science-based public policy issues. During the first day new members received an orientation to the historical work of BBCSS and its relationship to its parent administrative unit the Division of Behavioral, Social Sciences and Education (DBASSE).

Staff Director Chris Hartel briefed the Board about the impact of several previous reports which were grouped thematically in areas such as health and aging, learning and development, and military recruitment and performance. Some of those reports, notably the education series were among the National Academies all time best sellers. Others, including a 2003 report on the Polygraph and Lie Detection had a direct and compelling effect on federal agency policies (in that case Department of Energy's use of the polygraph). Dr. Hartel, Senior Program Officer, Susan B. Van Hemel then briefed members on two current projects that speak to the breadth of the DBASSE charge: One, examining staffing standards for Federal Aviation Administration Safety Inspectors; and the other looking at the potential and limitations of modeling to understand the mechanisms of how individuals and groups operate on behalf of the US Air Force.

Dr. David Abrams, Director of the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research at the National Institutes of Health then provided an update on OBSSR activities and led a discussion about how previous reports like the 2001 "New Horizons in Health: an Integrative Approach" had really set the agenda for the work of his Office.

The remainder of the first day was spent discussing possible new Board initiatives on Emergency Preparedness, Terrorism, and Bioinformatics with a focus on what unique aspects of those topics could be addressed by the behavioral, cognitive and sensory science community.

The following day Dr. Richard Suzman, Director of the National Institute of Aging's Behavioral and Social Research Program, discussed issues in behavioral research on aging. Among the points he made was that he hopes psychologists will look more seriously at issues of infrastructure, particularly large datasets and how they can best be used to enhance knowledge and methodology development. He spoke about the Health and Retirement Study, a large longitudinal study funded by NIA, that recently gained enhanced cognitive measures. Dr. Suzman hopes psychologists will learn more about the HRS and use it for satellite studies, as well as use the data for additional analyses. Watch APA publications for a more in-depth look at these issues in the next few months.