The National Academies Celebrates the 20th Anniversary of its Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences

November 15, 2017

On October 19, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) celebrated “20 Years of Informing Policy and Practice” by its Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences (BBCSS). The interdisciplinary board, a “locus of work” for the behavioral sciences at NASEM, held a symposium to discuss the future of these sciences. Established in 1997, BBCSS was created to provide a “forum for objective, independent, and rigorous deliberation among researchers, the public, the media, Congress, professional associations, and federal agencies.”

Mary Ellen O’Connell, Executive Director of Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education (DBASSE) welcomed participants. Current BBCSS Chair Susan T. Fiske (Princeton University) and former Chairs Philip E. Rubin (CEO Emeritus of haskins Laboratories) and Anne C. Peterson, University of Michigan, reviewed the Board’s accomplishments over the past 20 years. Successful activities include the release of more than 39 publications responding to various requests from the federal government and addressing important social needs. BBCSS’ report, How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School: Expanded Edition (2000), has been downloaded in every country of the world. In 2018 the Board expects to release a follow-up report that reviews the research on learning conducted since the late 1990s. BBCSS Director Barbara Wanchisen was instrumental in developing and overseeing many of the projects, and was recognized by the Board and attendees for her work.

A panel of distinguished scholars presented research from the behavoral sciences and commented on possible future directions for the field. Their presentations addressed the human brain (functional imaging and rewiring), stress (its impact on aging, morbidity, and mortality, and racial differences), and aging (happiness). A second panel of emerging scholars provided a look toward 2037 and presented research examining mindfulness interventions for health, health disparities in preclinical Alzheimer’s Disease, computational cognitive science at the intersections of humans and technology, and applied behavioral science research in policy. The Symposium’s sponsors, including federal agency funders and FABBS’ Executive Director Paula Skedsvold, shared their visions for future research in these sciences. The day’s events concluded with a conversation on “Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness” by Daniel Gilbert (Harvard University) and David Brooks (New York Times).

BBCSS will post an archive of the event on its website.