NIH Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Support: 1980–2016

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The history of behavioral and social science research funding at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) between 1980 and 2016 is reviewed. Noncommunicable diseases are now the primary cause of death worldwide and most are strongly linked to behavior. Developed under the prevailing zeitgeist of the biomedical model, behavioral and social science has often been underfunded at NIH. In 1990, the Senate Appropriations Committee, recognizing that behavior may contribute to about half of all premature deaths, recommended that funding for behavioral and social sciences research should be about 10% of the NIH budget. NIH and American Psychological Association efforts to address this goal are described. Data from several sources suggest that this goal has never been realized. Patterns of federal funding for research may have a significant influence on scientific disciplines. Fields of study that have received more extramural funding are associated with greater growth in faculty and higher faculty salaries. A renewed effort to increase the federal investment in behavioral and social sciences research is necessary.

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