Government Relations Update

NSF report charts future directions in behavioral and social sciences

Analysis builds on 252 white papers submitted by research community.

The National Science Foundation’s Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic (SBE) Sciences has released a report, Rebuilding the Mosaic (PDF, 1.91MB), that describes future trends and opportunities in the SBE sciences. 

The report summarizes major themes in the 252 responses that were received in response to the directorate’s call in August 2010 for white papers on the future of the field.  These white papers are posted on-line, and the report notes that about 19 percent of them are in the areas of “brain, cognition, or psychology.”

The major themes discussed are:

  • “Interest in the social, behavioral and economic (SBE) sciences is broad, deep, and varied, reflected both in the characteristics of the researchers and in the range of the science that they pursue and believe will be possible.

  • Future research will be interdisciplinary, data-intensive, and collaborative. That vision rests on thorough grounding in the core SBE sciences that continue to present important, discipline-based research and methodological challenges.

  • The research community looks to NSF/SBE to provide leadership and direction in building capacity and infrastructure, most notably in interdisciplinary training (capacity-building) and infrastructure (data and facilities to support analysis, simulation, tools, and training in new research methods, including integration and synthesis across data, methods, and disciplines).

  • Four major topic areas have been identified within the wealth of ideas received: population change; sources of disparities; communication, language, and linguistics; and technology, new media, and social networks.

  • NSF/SBE’s existing programs serve their communities well. New topics, especially multidisciplinary ones, may invite a more flexible structure within the directorate.”

The report also addresses the SBE directorate’s plans for expanding and updating the content of the science it supports, for building research capacity through training and team-building, and for advancing the data infrastructure for research.

See also:

SBE 2020: Future Research in the Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences