Behavioral and Social Sciences at the National Institutes of Health: adoption of research findings in health research and practice as a scientific priority


The National Institutes of Health’s Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) recently released its Strategic Plan for 2017 to 2021. This plan highlights three scientific priorities: (1) improve the synergy of basic and applied behavioral and social sciences research, (2) enhance and promote the research infrastructure, methods, and measures needed to support a more cumulative and integrated approach to behavioral and social sciences research, and (3) facilitate the adoption of behavioral and social sciences research findings in health research and in practice. This commentary focuses on the challenges and opportunities to facilitate the adoption of research findings in health research and in practice. In addition to the ongoing NIH support for dissemination and implementation (D&I) research, we must address transformative challenges and opportunities such as better disseminating and implementing D&I research, merging research and practice, adopting more rigorous and diverse methods and measures for both D&I and clinical trials research, evaluating technological-based delivery of interventions, and transitioning from minimally adaptable intervention packages to planned adaptations rooted in behavior change principles. Beyond translation into practice and policy, the OBSSR Strategic Plan also highlights the need for translation of behavioral and social science findings into the broader biomedical research enterprise.

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Correspondence to William T. Riley PhD.

Additional information


Practice: Transformational opportunities such as the merging of research into practice and planned adaptations of evidence-based interventions should provide practitioners with greater flexibility to adapt evidence-based interventions to the population, context, and resource constraints of the settings.

Policy: More rapid and readily available research findings from questions generated by policymakers and other research stakeholders should make behavioral and social sciences research more responsive to policy needs.

Research: The National Institutes of Health and the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences research support for more rigorous and diverse methods and measures, for research designs more readily translated into practice and for continued dissemination and implementation research should facilitate the adoption of behavioral and social sciences research into practice, policy, and the broader biomedical research enterprise.

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Riley, W.T. Behavioral and Social Sciences at the National Institutes of Health: adoption of research findings in health research and practice as a scientific priority. Behav. Med. Pract. Policy Res. 7, 380–384 (2017).

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  • Dissemination and implementation research
  • Implementation science
  • Practice adoption
  • Planned adaptation
  • Clinical research methodology
  • Clinical translation
  • Behavioral and social sciences research