Agency Officials Meet With APS Board

As is customary, the APS Board of Directors met for a day and a half prior to the Society’s convention in San Francisco, with APS President Richard A. Thompson chairing the meeting. (For a list of Board members and other APS officers, see the Observer masthead, p. 2).

The Board reviewed APS’s ongoing activities in the areas of publications, membership, convention, administration, and government relations. In addition, they met with senior officials from several federal research agencies.

Following is a brief synopsis of those visits.

Behavioral Science at NIH

Norman Anderson, director of the Office of Behavioral and Social Science Research (OBSSR) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) provided an update on the development of a standardized definition of behavioral and social science at NIH. This definition, which is currently being tested on a pilot basis, will be used to estimate the overall NIH portfolio in these areas.

Previously, different institutes used different definitions in identifying their behavioral and social science research grants, making it virtually impossible to get an accurate picture of what NIH is really doing in these areas. Anderson told the Board that some of OBSSR’s $2.3-million budget is used to fund grants that just missed the paylines at individual institutes, but for the most part the Office does not directly fund research. Instead, the Office is working to increase the visibility of behavioral and social science research at NIH through a variety of activities, including conferences, a special interest group, seminars, and other forums that highlight recent developments across a range of fields within these disciplines.

Basic Research at NSF

The Board also met with William Butz, director of the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Research (SBER) division of the National Science Foundation (NSF). Butz described several initiatives of interest to psychology currently underway at NSF, including a major program in the area of cognition. In addition, he reported that the Human Capital Initiative (HCI), a national behavioral science research agenda developed by more than 70 organizations under the auspices of APS, continues to be expanded by NSF, and is receiving favorable attention from the National Science Board, the agency’s oversight panel. In other areas, Butz told the Board that NSF is trying to make its review processes more conducive to interdisciplinary research collaborations; that NSF is looking seriously at the issue of teaching versus research in terms of career rewards; and that young investigators continue to be a high priority at the Foundation.

New Era at NIMH

Jane Steinberg, acting director of the Division of Clinical and Treatment Research at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), described a new era of activity since the arrival of NIMH’s new director, Steven Hyman. Hyman has been especially involved in a review of the Institute’s intramural program and is giving a good deal of attention to the merger of NIMH’s peer review system with that of the larger NIH. She indicated that although he is not a psychologist, Hyman is receptive to behavioral research and that he believes strongly in integrating all areas in addressing mental health and mental illness. Steinberg also touched on two other items of interest: NIH research applicants will now be limited to three submissions per idea; and an RF A (request for applications) will be issued on informed the consent process in clinical populations (see page 49 this issue).


Tim Condon, Associate Director for Science Policy of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), described several behavioral science-related activities that are taking place under the leadership of Director Alan Leshner, who he noted is the first psychologist to head one of the NIH Institutes. NIDA has launched a B/ST AR T (Behavioral Science Track Award for Rapid Transition) program of small grants for young investigators, and a new behavioral science research branch has been created and is spearheading the Institute’s efforts broaden its behavioral science portfolio to attract new perspectives to drug abuse research.

Condon described NIDA’s behavioral therapies initiative, which is a large, clinical trial-like effort to assess the effectiveness of various therapies in treating drug abuse and addiction. He also told the Board about NIDA’s emphasis on research training, noting that training is growing as a percentage of the Institute’s budget.

Condon closed by telling the Board about NIDA’s efforts to disseminate its research and asked the Board to help “spread the word” to researchers, policymakers, and the general public about NIDA’s scientific message, which is that drug abuse and addiction are health Sandra Scarr took over the reins as APS President, Kay Deaux became President- Elect, and the terms of

Past-President Marilynn Brewer, Secretary Betty Capaldi, and Board Member Richard Weinberg expired.  In addition, Milt Hakel, chair of the Human Capital Initiative Coordinating Committee has been appointed by Scarr to serve as APS Secretary and Paul Thayer will continue as APS Treasurer.

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