Government Relations Update

APA Responds to NIH Request for Information on Basic Behavioral Research

By Pat Kobor

A new National Institutes of Health (NIH) initiative on basic behavioral and social sciences research called the Opportunity Network, or OppNet, recently invited scientists and stakeholder organizations to respond to a Request for Information (RFI) to help NIH administrators focus and set priorities for the program.

Responding for APA, Executive Director for Science Steven Breckler echoed APA’s previous calls for NIH to more closely examine topics in areas of basic research in which NIH funding has been decreasing or inconsistent, including:

  • animal behavior research (both laboratory and field) that informs understanding of human mechanisms 

  • individual, social, and cultural processes underlying personality, self, and identity 

  • interpersonal interactions, close relationships, family processes, group processes, and social networks, across the lifespan and socio-cultural contexts 

  • prejudice, discrimination, stigma 

  • emotion regulation 

  • higher-level reasoning, problem-solving, planning, and decision-making 

  • attitudes and their relation to behavior

APA’s comments also included suggestions for new areas of research that several APA members and divisions had shared:

  • cognitive/perceptual research on how clinicians use advanced diagnostic technology 

  • neural and behavioral mechanisms associated with traumatic brain injury, psychosocial treatments for such injury, and long-term adjustment 

  • development of multi-method, multi-informant forms of behavioral measurement 

  • role of emotions and environmental factors in behavior change

It is anticipated that funding for OppNet projects in Fiscal Year 2010 will be $11-12 million, mostly from American Recovery & Reinvestment Act funds, which by law must be obligated by September 30, 2010.  Some funding announcements have already been issued.  Twenty-four NIH institutes and centers, plus four coordinating offices, are participating and will contribute funds to the program. The responses from the RFI will help NIH staff develop funding initiatives primarily for 2011 and beyond. 

William Elwood, who manages the OppNet initiative, said OppNet received 318 submissions through its RFI website: 254 from individuals, 57 from organizations, and 7 submissions whose authors chose to remain anonymous.  “Currently, a RFI Data Analysis Committee composed of NIH program director/volunteers is analyzing these data,” he said.  “NIH institute, center and office directors (ICO) and program staff (the steering and coordinating committees) will rely on the raw data and the analyses for a strategic planning retreat.  In May, the ICO Directors will approve a select number of ideas from this process to become OppNet Funding Opportunity Announcements.”

PSA will continue to report news about this initiative, including funding announcements and additional requests for comments.