As previously reported by FABBS, the Biden Administration has proposed the creation of a new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) at the National Institutes of Health. Over the summer the NIH and White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) hosted 15 listening sessions to get feedback on the proposal. The sessions were held to understand the opportunities and barriers to accelerating health research breakthroughs with input from nearly 250 organizations including patient advocates, nonprofit and philanthropic organizations, professional societies, the academic research community, industry, and others. FABBS accepted invitations to participate in a STEM Community listening session and also to present comments on behalf of the Friends of NIMH, a coalition which FABBS co-chairs with the American Psychological Association (APA).
OSTP and NIH have released a summary from the listening sessions outlining the key themes heard. The summary identifies seven areas of scientific emphasis including one of particular interest to FABBS members: “Prioritizing programs that consider individuals holistically, including behavior and the context of these behaviors…” Another emphasis included: ‘Wearable and digital technologies could be developed to collect information longitudinally – throughout development, the lifespan…” And while numerous groups mentioned opportunities of wearable devices, FABBS welcomes the specific reference to opportunities in development and the lifespan. The summary highlights the importance of interdisciplinary research, specifically mentioning the behavioral and social sciences.
FABBS collaborated with APA and the Association for Psychological Sciences (APS) to send a joint letter to OSTP and NIH leadership encouraging ARPA-H leadership to integrate behavioral sciences into the new health agency. The letter urges that the proposed ARPA-H agency fund behavioral science projects, integrate the behavioral sciences throughout its operations, and hire project managers or other program officials with expertise in the behavioral and social sciences.