NIH/NIA – High-Priority Behavioral and Social Research Networks (R24 Clinical Trial Not Allowed)

June 22, 2018 by School of Medicine Webmaster

This FOA invites applications to provide infrastructure support for advancing development of specific high-priority areas of behavioral and social research of relevance to aging. The infrastructure support will facilitate research networks through meetings, conferences, small-scale pilots, short-term educational opportunities (such as intensive workshops, summer institutes, or visiting scholar programs), and dissemination to encourage growth and development of specified priority areas and build resources for advancing aging-relevant research in the field at large. Responsive applications will propose network activities in one of the following seven priority areas:

  1. Midlife Reversibility of Biobehavioral Risk Associated with Early Life Adversity: Assessing the prospects for mid-late life reversibility of biological and behavioral phenotypes associated with early life adversity (ELA) and subsequent later life health and socioeconomic disparities. Applications should build on research accomplishments of the current NIA-supported network to promote needed increases in scientific knowledge regarding the array of processes and pathways through which different ELAs (e.g., low socio-economic status (SES), stressful experiences, poor parent-child relationships [e.g. child neglect/abuse] or other violence; poor maternal diet, body composition and lifestyle) may similarly or differentially impact later life health and well-being. Focus should be placed on leveraging evidence from this body of research to promote the development and testing of novel later-life preventive interventions targeting risk mechanisms to remediate, compensate, or reverse risks attributable to ELAs.
  2. Stress Measurement: Advancing the science of psychosocial stress measurement to enhance behavioral and social surveys of aging and strengthen lab-survey linkages in the study of stress, health, and disease over the life-span. Applications should build on research accomplishments of the current NIA-supported network with a focus on supporting use and refinement of newly developed and newly harmonized measures of stress, as well as outreach and pilot testing to bridge theoretical and empirical gaps between psychological/laboratory and population/survey science in how stress is assessed and studied.
  3. Reproducibility in the Social and Behavioral Sciences: Facilitating the process of replication of research results in the behavioral and social sciences relevant to aging. Applications should build on research accomplishments of the current NIA-supported reproducibility network to continue efforts to facilitate reproducibility through the development and implementation of open practices and to broaden their application to aging-relevant science.
  4. Life Course Health and Disparities at Older Ages: Facilitating an interdisciplinary research agenda to identify measures not limited to the health care sector, that would reduce disparities in health at older ages along multiple dimensions, including SES, regional and racial/ethnic disparities.
  5. Genomics and Omics of Behavioral and Social Sciences: Facilitating coordination of genetic association studies for social science outcomes as well as the introduction of epigenomics, metabolomics, transcriptomics, and other -omics into relevant studies; developing platforms for interdisciplinary collaboration; and developing of new methods for data analysis. A network can also promote the collection of harmonized and well-measured phenotypes. NIA seeks applications for a network that would help in advancing these goals for the social and behavioral sciences as well as ensure support for a greater focus on aging-relevant phenotypes.
  6. Integrating Animal Models to Inform Behavioral and Social Research on Aging: Researchers have long recognized the potential value of using animal models to deepen the understanding of social and behavioral phenomena. Until recently, however, animal models have been largely underutilized for examining behavioral and social processes in midlife and older age.
    The rapidly growing interest in developing animal models of aging points to the need for a network comprised of both human and animal researchers to facilitate communication and information exchange. Such a network could help to identify key knowledge gaps and rigorous and valid methods and approaches to fill them, and lead to the construction of better animal models for advancing our understanding of the role of behavioral and social influences in human aging. The need for this kind of network was articulated in the recent National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine meeting entitled, “Developing Informed Animal Models of Social Aging.”
  7. Rural Aging: More research is needed on factors affecting the health and well-being of older people living in rural areas in the United States, and on new approaches to programs, policies, environmental modifications, and health and long-term care to improve well-being, health, and function. An interdisciplinary research network could encourage behavioral and social research on issues for rural areas and small towns (and nonmetropolitan counties more generally) at a national level or could focus on one or more large regions with disproportionate levels of poor health and disability, including but not limited to Appalachia and the Mississippi Delta.

The National Institute on Aging, Division of Behavioral and Social Research (BSR) supports basic social and behavioral research and research training on the processes of aging at both the individual and societal level. A summary of BSR research objectives is available on the NIA website and in the summary of the 2013 National Advisory Council on Aging Review of the BSR program. Though a significant fraction of research supported by BSR in pursuit of the NIA mission falls within a specific discipline or field, BSR encourages transdisciplinary approaches to behavioral and social research. BSR also supports data resources to support analyses that span disciplines.

BSR supports a range of initiatives to seed integrative and transdisciplinary research that exploits new methodologies and knowledge as well as infrastructure development in emerging and high priority areas of behavioral and social science related to aging. These areas are typically developing rapidly and require ongoing flexible dynamic infrastructure support to advance the production of high quality research and facilitate collaborations between scientists whose diverse areas of expertise are essential for actualizing innovative research in the field. They also require training new investigators and recruiting the best scientists to aging research to ensure continued growth in these fields.

Background information on currently supported BSR networks can be found here.

Reports and publications from many of the scientific workshops that have informed the selection of priority emerging areas can be found here.

Frequently asked questions about this FOA are addressed here.


This FOA is designed to address the network development needs of researchers interested in advancing transdisciplinary aging-relevant research agendas in the social and behavioral sciences. The goal is to produce resources that will serve the field at large. Applications must propose efforts to advance one of the above-listed high priority aging-relevant research areas in the behavioral and social sciences. Applications should prepare plans for new high impact activities that are not feasible with existing resources.  For the purposes of this FOA, aging-relevant research is that which addresses issues of importance to the well-being and health of either mid-life or older adults and can include data spanning the entire life course. Applicants need not have a prior history of conducting research in aging.

Network support includes all activities designed to bring together leading scientists across disciplines and institutions to develop an emerging priority area. This program is intended to be flexible and support the creation of innovative networks that will propose activities and bring unique resources necessary to advance a set of well-articulated research goals. The application should be designed to have a substantial impact on the progress and quality of behavioral and social research of relevance to aging by virtue of the proposed activities. Networks are intended to serve the broader community of behavioral and social researchers engaged in aging-relevant research in the designated scientific area and are consequently unlikely to be limited to a single institution. Applications should propose activities designed to advance a field to the point of no longer requiring network support to sustain growth. Applicants should articulate criteria for assessing this progress.

Examples of network support activities include, but are not limited to:

  • Meetings, both large and small, to develop novel research areas and interact on the development of infrastructure.
  • Small-scale pilots to develop data, theoretical frameworks, empirical methods, or support the development of novel or high-risk approaches requiring interdisciplinary collaboration.
  • Dissemination and outreach activities to draw researchers from relevant disciplines into the field.
  • Educational activities such as intensive summer institutes, series of workshops and related network activities, advanced seminars on methodology, or short term residential opportunities.

The networking, education, and infrastructure-building activities required for these efforts are rarely covered under an individual grant, and often do not fit the timelines for typical support mechanisms. In many instances the researchers that can support a successful network in an emerging area span multiple disciplines and are rarely located at a single institution. Therefore, this FOA is designed to provide research resources that create opportunities to shape the direction of an emerging field by addressing the network and infrastructure development needs required.

A goal of Network projects is to disseminate network resources to the field at large. These resources can include (but are not limited to) meeting papers/summaries; scientific publications; web resources; tools or guides to support research or data enhancement; data sets ranging from public-access “user-friendly” research data to meta-data, macro data or other aggregations of data to support research; and harmonized versions of existing data or instruments.

Networks may propose to support small-scale pilot projects. Network funding for pilot projects should either advance broad network goals or support preliminary studies with potential to form the basis for independent research applications consistent with network goals. Projects proposing small-scale pilot programs must propose how pilot projects will be solicited and reviewed in the Approach section of the Research Plan.

NOTE: Applicants are strongly encouraged to limit the number of key personnel on Network applications, to avoid establishing conflicts of interest throughout the emerging field. Participation in network activities, including presentation at workshops, or serving as faculty on summer institutes, or receiving pilot funding, will not constitute formal collaboration from the perspective of NIH, with the exception of those key personnel listed on the application. Network activities are intended to advance the field at large. An important consideration in developing a network is the potential to grow the field substantially through recruitment of new investigators rather than sustaining only the original team.

For network activities that span multiple institutions, applicants are encouraged to propose how those activities will be coordinated across institutions, and how the proposed activities will effectively engage with other relevant activities at participating institutions. Projects must propose a plan for dissemination of network products to the field at large.

The NIA encourages potential applicants to contact Scientific/Research staff listed in Section VII to discuss potential network development programs prior to submission of an application. The NIA encourages network applicants to support activities that will foster diversity of the scientific workforce.

Deadline:  January 1, 2019 (letters of intent); February 1, 2019 (full proposals)


Filed Under: Funding Opportunities