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Planning for the Role of Behavioral Science in National Research. William A. Yost Parmly Sensory Sciences Institute Loyola University Chicago. OR: We Don’t Get No Respect! . What can the behavioral sciences do to gain more respect?. We Don’t Get No Respect! .
William A. Yost
Parmly Sensory Sciences Institute
Loyola University Chicago
What can the behavioral sciences do to gain more respect?
The Behavioral Sciences have always had to battle to gain respect, e.g., in the
80’s the political right held that the behavioral and social sciences were
responsible for the failed welfare system leading to President Reagan zeroing
the Behavioral Science’s budgets at NSF.
Today, the Behavioral Sciences do not appear to have risen above the Gathering
Storm (“Rising Above the Gathering Storm;” NAS Report).” There appears to be
little “B (Behavioral Sciences)” in STEM, the Behavioral Sciences are
conspicuously absent from Bush’s American Competitive Initiative, and the
Behavioral Sciences are but a small destination on NIH’s Roadmap.
Again, the Behavioral Sciences have their work cut out for them if they want a
bigger share of the Federal research budget.
The study of the behavior of an individual and the application of the knowledge gain from this study is far ranging
The behavioral sciences could use an
“umbrella” organization like AIP or FASEB
to present an integrated view of and provide
advocacy for the behavioral sciences
The largest share of the Federal support for Behavioral Sciences research
comes from NIH, and almost all of the NIH Institutes support some form of
behavioral research; some a great deal more than I believe many realize.
HOWEVER, there are many other Federal Agencies that support behavioral
research: NSF, DoEd, DOD (AFOSR, ONR, DARPA), and the VA to name just
Thus, a national plan to improve funding for behavioral research should
pay attention to all of the Federal Agencies that support behavioral research.
It would be nice if there existed an “inventory” of what each agency supported
in terms of the Behavioral Sciences.
And, science in the United States is more and more being done by non-US
scientists. How will this influence US science funding?
Systems scientists including most Behavioral Scientists seem to embrace
the role of both nature and nurture, but many molecular scientists appear to
have a low regard for the role of nature.
Systems Neuroscience has a hard time competing with Cellular and Molecular
Neuroscience for funding and societal attention.
Even if funding for science stay constant, Behavioral Science is likely to loose
ground unless and until Systems and Behavioral Science can demonstrate the
relevance of this approach to answering crucial questions.
The Behavioral Sciences must do a better job of demonstrating their relevance
in meeting the challenges of the 21st century.
The Behavioral Sciences need to work together to formulate and promote a
strategy for demonstrating the relevance of the Behavioral Sciences.
For instance, more could be done to make the point that the major cause of mortality and morbidity is maladaptive behavior, education reform is behavioral reform, understanding our economy is largely about understanding behavior, crime is criminal behavior, the causes of war are usually based on behavior like hate, etc.
Distrust of science, apathy toward science, and science illiteracy hurt all of the
sciences, but maybe the Behavioral Sciences the most.
Of all of the sciences the Behavioral Sciences have the research tools to better
understand the correlates and causes of the public’s scientific distrust, apathy, and illiteracy and their interactions.
In a world in which resources are becoming scarce, the Behavioral Sciences need to know how to convince the public of the value of providing resources to the Behavioral Sciences.
The continents or the land masses
on which we live have been moving
for millions of years and will
continue to move in the future
The earliest humans lived at the
same time as the dinosaurs
Percent Answered Correctly
Antibiotics kill viruses as well as
Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and Mercury Public Affairs for AIP, 2006
WHAT IS THE GOAL OF A SCIENCE EDUCATION?
Learn how to draw conclusions from evidence
Prepare for college or a career
To learn how to think critically
Gain a broad knowledge of the natural and
Learn how sciences is conducted
Learn about the real world, such as how antibiotics
Explore moral and ethical questions related to
science and technology
Understand the origin and diversity of life on earth,
1) Behavioral Scientists of all sorts need to work better together to present the
importance and relevance of the behavioral approach to solving problems. One
way this could be done is via a strong consortium/federation of Behavioral
2) Behavioral Scientists receive research support from almost all of the Federal
Agencies that support research. Increased funding in all agencies is important.
It could help if there were some form of an inter-agency group that dealt
with (coordinated) Behavioral Sciences research, somewhat along the lines of
OBSSR at NIH.
3)Advancing knowledge will be less than it could be if systems approaches
(including behavioral approaches) are under funded relative to molecular
approaches. Translational research can be as much about basic systems
application as it can be about basic molecular applications. I would
like to see more discussion of the importance of using both classes of
approaches being carried out in the publications of major organizations like
AAAS, APA, APS, ASHA, SFN, etc.
4) It is too bad that the Behavioral Sciences do not have a report like “Rising
Above the Gathering Storm” that could articulate the importance of the
Behavioral Sciences for society and suggest an agenda for providing support to
further the benefits that the Behavioral Sciences can provide. Perhaps the
NAS/NRC (e.g., the Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences)
might generate such a report.
5) The Behavioral Sciences should not shy away from demonstrating their
relevance to major societal issues like climate change, energy use, causes of
morbidity and mortality, peace, poverty, education, national and homeland
6) It wouldn’t hurt if there were funding for studies of the correlates and causes of
the public’s attitudes toward science, especially the Behavioral Sciences. Such
studies should lead to ways to influence the public toward a greater
understanding of and appreciate for science, especially the Behavioral Sciences.
7) Clearly long-term assistance for improved Behavioral Sciences funding will be
determined by the education of society and of future Behavioral Scientists.
The Behavioral Sciences should strongly support the STEM initiatives and work
hard to make sure that the Behavioral Sciences are integral to these initiatives.