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NIH to Improve Its Behavior(al Science)

Or so says the interim director, taking matters into his own hands while he still can.

The U.S. National Institutes of Health may finally be heeding behavioral scientists' plea for more attention. Former NIH Director Elias Zerhouni brushed off a report 5 years ago recommending that NIH create a "home" for social and behavioral sciences at one NIH institute, perhaps the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). But now acting NIH director Raynard Kington, a social scientist himself, has asked two institute directors—one is Jeremy Berg, director of NIGMS—to come up with a basic behavioral sciences "blueprint."

Like a neuroscience blueprint that NIH produced a few years ago, it will look for gaps in institutes' funding of behavioral research. At recent meetings, NIH officials have talked of finding at least $30 million in new money for the blueprint, according to Alan Kraut, executive director of the Association for Psychological Science. While a cross-agency blueprint isn't exactly a home, "this is really a new day for behavioral science at NIH," claims Kraut, who is optimistic that the momentum will continue even when NIH gets a permanent director.