If the 1990s were the decade of the brain, then the behavioral and social sciences appear to have staked their claim to the first decade of the new century.
The Decade of Behavior initiative, in the planning stages for the past two years, seeks to highlight the contributions of the behavioral and social sciences in addressing many challenges facing American society.
The initiative was launched Sept. 25 in Washington, D.C., at an event that brought together scientists, policy-makers and representatives from scientific, professional and lay groups, and featured 13 research exhibits related to the five major themes of the initiativeimproving health, increasing safety, improving education, increasing prosperity and promoting democracy.
Robert Willis, senior research scientist, Institute for Social Research (ISR), and professor of economics, and J. Thomas Juster, professor emeritus of economics and research scientist emeritus, ISR, presented one of the exhibits, highlighting the unique role of a special data set for understanding the interrelationships between socioeconomic status, health and economic behavior as they may affect retirement.
The data set, the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), is a longitudinal national panel study that started with interviews in 7,600 households in 1992. (Respondents were 5160 years of age, along with their spouses.) Follow-up interviews occur every two years for 12 years. The entire data set is on the HRS Web site at the U-M, www.umich.edu/~hrswww.
Juster received support from the National Institute in Aging in 1990 to begin HRS, and Willis took over as director in 1996.
A multidisciplinary group of 16 distinguished behavioral and social scientists serve on the National Advisory Committee and provide leadership for the initiative. Members include representatives from anthropology, educational research, child development, psychology, sociology, public health, nursing, geography, behavioral neuroscience, political science, economics and demography.
A major feature of the Decade of Behavior initiative will be a multifaceted public education campaign to address the compelling need for greater understanding by the general public and local, state and federal policy-makers of behavioral and social science research findings. Supporters of the effort also will champion the translation of research findings from the various disciplines into the public policy arena.
For more information on the initiative, visit the Web at www.decadeofbehavior.org.