Government Relations Update

APA Staff Meet with NIH Directors Raynard Kington and Christine Bachrach

NIH leaders are upbeat about the possibilities for science in general and the behavioral and social sciences in particular.

By Pat Kobor

Several APA Science Directorate staff met with Raynard Kington, Deputy Director of the National Institutes of Health, and Christine Bachrach, Acting Director of NIH's Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR), at APA headquarters on August 17. The meeting was part of a conference call organized by the Federation of Associations in Behavioral and Brain Sciences (FABBS), formerly the Federation of Behavioral, Psychological, and Cognitive Sciences, of which APA is a member organization.

The conversation took place on the day that Francis Collins was sworn in as the new Director of NIH. Kington, who held the role of Acting Director of NIH for nearly a year, and is serving as Deputy Director under Collins, was upbeat about the possibilities for science in general, and behavioral and social sciences in particular, with the new NIH leadership team. He noted that Collins mentioned behavioral and social science in his first-day "town meeting" with NIH employees, referring to behavioral interventions that work well in preventing and treating disease and to the importance of social and behavioral factors in understanding health disparities.

Kington also discussed a legacy of his tenure as Acting Director, an initiative to enhance NIH support of basic behavioral and social sciences research (see April PSA). Modeled on the Neuroscience Blueprint (an already established plan for joint action of the NIH institutes that fund neuroscience research), the new initiative, called OppNet, will be co-chaired by Jeremy Berg, Director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, and Richard Hodes, Director of the National Institute on Aging. Several institutes will contribute funds to the initiative, which will be managed by OBSSR. Details about the initiative are expected to be released in the fall.

Kington, a former head of OBSSR, and Bachrach, the current Acting Director of the Office, encouraged behavioral and social scientists to apply for the OBSSR Director position, which is open through September 30th. Bachrach said "It's a great job," because the director is able to influence the growth and direction of the behavioral and social sciences across the entire NIH.