studies to the development of trials and other human studies, and (2) research aimed at enhancing the adoption of best practices in the community. This second component of translation, that is, the science of dissemination and implementation of best practices, requires strong behavioral and social sciences research.
Framework for the Future: Office of Portfolio Analysis and Strategic Initiatives (OPASI)
The NIH Roadmap is now administered by the Office of Portfolio Analysis and Strategic Initiatives (OPASI), a new office within the Office of the Director of NIH. OPASI has several related missions, including the development of methods to help the agency analyze and manage its portfolio; the gathering and analysis of data on the public health burden to help set priorities; and the evaluation of the outcomes of NIH-funded activ- ities. A major purpose of OPASI is to provide an incubator space, in the form of NIH Roadmap initiatives, to accel- erate critical research efforts that address major, cross- cutting NIH priorities. The general intent of OPASI is consistent with the concept of systems science across NIH and the identification of new opportunities that cut across disciplines and across different levels (from cells to soci- ety) as well as the fostering of research that will reduce the public health burden—all of which is also consistent with the mission and vision of OBSSR. 70
The sciences concerned with optimal health, well- being, and disease management have revealed just how broad the future world view needs to be. At the end of the day, the simple, single-cause, single-discipline, and now, even single-level-of-analysis models—whether pre- dominantly biomedical or predominantly behavioral or social–ecologic—are increasingly viewed as necessary but insufficient. This is especially true for the common, most preventable, and most expensive chronic diseases that afflict the vast majority of populations in the developed nations of the world and that cry out for research to provide a more timely understanding of basic mechanisms, better interventions, and more science-informed health policy. The biomedical, reduc- tionist world view of the causes of disease and the behavioral, social–ecologic world view of the “causes of the causes” of disease are really two sides of the same coin that must be merged to develop a new synthesis and a more complete and useful heuristic framework to guide future research.
Systems science, cyber-infrastructure, and new technol- ogy may well provide the foundation stones to facilitate OBSSR’s strategic vision: an integration of next-generation basic science with its applications to clinical practice, community dissemination, and health policy; a vertical
integration from cells to society and a progression from interdisciplinary science to a deeper set of transdisci- plinary conceptual syntheses; and an ability to examine nonlinear causal loops and solutions using backward engineering of the complex causal pathways, starting from a defined problem or pressing public health challenge (like eliminating health disparities; reversing the epidemics of obesity, sedentary lifestyle, and type 2 diabetes; and further reducing tobacco use and the incidence HIV/AIDS). In the final analysis, the mission of basic and applied science at OBSSR and across the NIH embraces a problem-focused, outcomes-oriented set of goals to make a timely and cost-efficient impact on improving the nation’s health and reducing the absolute burden of disease and disability at the individ- ual and population levels.
The authors would like to thank Bobby Milstein, PhD, at the CDC for his inspiration and education on systems science, which is reflected in this work. They are grateful for his unwavering support and partnership with OBSSR on systems science initiatives.
The authors would also like to thank the reviewers of the manuscript for this paper. While the reviewers are un- known, the authors believe the reveiwers’ feedback helped strengthen this paper.
No financial disclosures were reported by the authors of this paper.
The Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research, NIH. The contri- butions of behavioral and social sciences research to improving the health of the nation: a prospectus for the future. 2007. http://obssr.od.nih.gov/ Content/Strategic_Planning/StrategicPlan_2007/ObssrIndex.htm.
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