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Concept: Mid-Career Enhancement Awards To Integrate Basic Behavioral, Biomedical, and Social Sciences

Project Concept Review

Council Date: February 7, 2020

Program Officer: Lanay M. Mudd, Ph.D.; Bill Elwood, Ph.D.; Merav Sabri, Ph.D.


The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) supports a variety of research training and career development opportunities to increase the number and quality of scientists trained to conduct rigorous, cutting-edge research on complementary and integrative practices, and to foster interdisciplinary collaborations and partnerships. While most of our current training and career development opportunities focus on early stages of career development, we also recognize the importance of midcareer development; we have previously worked with other Institutes and Centers to support opportunities for transdisciplinary midcareer training.

NCCIH actively provides scientific guidance to the Basic Behavioral and Social Science Opportunity Network (OppNet), an NIH-wide collaboration that accelerates discoveries in basic behavioral and social sciences research (bBSSR), the underlying mechanisms and processes that inform health behaviors. OppNet shares NCCIH’s training interests—specifically to support investigators seeking to expand their research programs through the acquisition of new skills and knowledge in the areas of basic psychological processes, sociological processes, and/or biomedical pathways—expertise that is beyond and enhances their current areas of expertise. 

Purpose of Proposed Initiative

This initiative will support OppNet’s training interests and will align with NCCIH’s interest in supporting transdisciplinary training at the midcareer stage. The proposed initiative would support research training and career development experiences and a small-scale research project that will provide investigators with scientific competencies required to conduct independent research projects that more thoroughly investigate interrelationships among behavioral, biological (i.e., endocrine, epigenetic, immune, inflammatory, neurological, pain), psychological, and/or social processes. The applicant would propose a 1-year transdisciplinary training and research experience, which may coincide with a sabbatical. This initiative will be targeted to independent investigators at midcareer faculty rank or level. This type of training experience could particularly benefit first-time R01 investigators by augmenting their expertise and enhancing their research trajectories and future proposed research projects. 

OppNet will lead this initiative and will seek NIH-wide participation. At this time, additional participating ICOs include the National Cancer Institute (NCI), National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), and the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR). Through OppNet, OBSSR provides matching funds for the meritorious projects that NCCIH (or another participating IC) chooses to co-fund. This initiative would address a critical need for continued training and career development at the midcareer level.


The objectives to be met by this concept include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Cross-training and collaboration among researchers with expertise in animal models of basic behavioral, social and biopsychosocial processes and those studying similar or related processes in human subjects.
  • Increased collaboration among basic and applied sciences and researchers to facilitate basic-applied translation. Innovative approaches to change individual health-related behaviors and/or social systems begin with basic (or fundamental) research that illuminates mechanisms and targets involved with attitudes, decision-making, and behavior change and maintenance. Applied (or intervention) research can identify intractable unhealthy behaviors or efficacious interventions whose original designs did not include sufficient basic measures to explain the intervention’s efficacy—thus suggesting basic research questions.
  • Increased interactions and cross-training among investigators with expertise in biological, behavioral, and social processes.
  • Cross-training in new approaches to research design and data collection, measurement, and analysis.

NCCIH-specific objectives for this concept would include the application of the above objectives to complementary and integrative health researchers in areas of basic behavioral and social science relevant to NCCIH strategic priorities. This may include cross-training complementary and integrative health researchers in biological, behavioral, and social science fields, or vice versa; collaboration and cross-training among complementary and integrative health researchers with expertise in animal models and human models and/or basic and applied science; and enhanced training in new research methodologies.