Social and behavioral research is finally getting some of the high-level attention it has sought for years at the National Institutes of Health. Yesterday NIH Director Francis Collins announced that $10 million in recovery money will go to support the launch of the Basic Behavioral and Social Science Opportunity Network – they're calling it OppNet, an initiative to support and coordinate basic behavioral research throughout NIH.
The American Psychological Society Association for Psychological Science (APS), which has been working with Congress for about a decade to get more behavioral science into NIH, is ecstatic about OppNet. APS Executive Director Alan Kraut says NIH's Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research, which isn't a funding agency, "has had less and less impact over time." OppNet, to be led by Jeremy Berg, director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, and National Institute on Aging Director Richard Hodes, "is much higher visibility." It will be getting all institute directors together on a regular basis to talk about behavioral research needs. Although basic behavioral research already gets about $1 billion a year from NIH, Kraut says OppNet will funnel money into cross-disciplinary areas that have hitherto been ignored. NIH institutes and centers have committed to putting another $110 million into the initiative over the next 5 years.