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Basic Behavioral Research Gains a Toehold at NIGMS

The APA has worked for several years to encourage the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) to establish a program of basic behavioral research.

By Patricia Kobor

Frequent PSA readers know that APA has worked for several years to encourage the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) to establish a program of basic behavioral research. NIGMS is considered the basic research institute at NIH. Although it once funded a program of basic behavioral research, the institute moved toward genetic and molecular research in the past ten years, away from studies involving humans.

The arrival of Jeremy Berg as Director of NIGMS over a year ago has brought a more open attitude toward basic behavioral research, but encouragement from Congress is likely another reason that NIGMS is opening up. The U.S. Senate has included non-binding language encouraging NIGMS to begin a program for the past six years. In addition, Reps. Brian Baird (D-WA) and Patrick Kennedy (D-MA) have met and corresponded directly with NIH leadership encouraging the institute to embrace basic behavioral research. The letter generated by Rep. Baird is the latest example of Congressional efforts to encourage NIGMS to establish a program. PSA went to press before we learned whether the language in the Baird letter was in fact included in the NIH funding legislation for Fiscal Year 2006.

A recent program announcement from NIGMS shows that the institute is indeed amenable to some types of basic behavioral research. One recent program is to facilitate collaborations between behavioral scientists and investigators with expertise in molecular and genetic studies. The title of the program is "Collaborative Research for Molecular and Genomic Studies of Basic Behavior in Animal Models." Please spread the word so that your departmental colleagues know that there's a new potential source of funding.