Request for Information (RFI): Input on Future Directions for the Science of Behavior Change Common Fund Program

Notice Number: NOT-RM-14-007

Update: The following update relating to this announcement has been issued:

  • March 11, 2014 - See Notice NOT-RM-14-011. Notice to Extend Response Date.

Key Dates
Release Date: February 20, 2014
Response Date:  (Extended to March 20, 2014 per NOT-RM-14-011) , Originally March 6, 2014

Related Announcements

Issued by
National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Office of Strategic Coordination (Common Fund)


The NIH Common Fund Science of Behavior Change (SOBC) Program has sought to transcend disciplinary and disease-specific boundaries through a focus on mechanisms of behavior change. The SOBC Program seeks input to aid in shaping the directions for potential future investments and is soliciting input from members of the extramural research community working in any area of science relevant to behavior change. We also encourage input from stakeholders who: represent research communities focused on a range of diseases or conditions for which behavior change is relevant, are at all stages of career development, or are working at any point on the basic to applied continuum. Input is also requested from groups and organizations with an interest in understanding behavior and intervening to promote and sustain behavior change for purposes of health promotion, health maintenance, disease management, and disease prevention.

SOBC investments have focused on mechanisms of decision-making, including risk perception, discounting and impulsivity, self-regulation and control, and executive function; structural mechanisms such as choice architecture, defaults and environmental affordances; social and cultural transmission of behavior; and the neurobiological and genetic mechanisms related to these processes and influences, including individual differences in resilience or vulnerability. However, other mechanisms are certainly appropriate for support from NIH programs on behavioral change research.


With more than 40 percent of premature deaths estimated to be due to specific patterns of behavior (Schroeder, NEJM, 2007), enhancing strategies for behavior change is critically important. The broad goal of the SOBC Program is to stimulate a transformation of behavior change research, with an associated transformation in the design, conduct, efficacy, effectiveness, and cost efficiency of behavior change interventions. The SOBC Program’s initial activities focused on identifying how to achieve these transformations in behavior change research. Expert recommendations and several pilot grant programs identified a promising approach involving: 1) redefining NIH’s translational approach to behavior change research by targeting basic mechanisms of behavior change that are common to multiple health risk or protective behaviors, contributing to a wide range of conditions and diseases; and 2) improving understanding of the underlying mechanisms of behavior change that can serve as targets for intervention.

More information on SOBC Program activities can be found at the following URLs:
Program Overview:
Meetings and Workshops:
Funded Research:
Science Publications:

Requested Information
Please comment on the value and significance of the following approaches for overcoming barriers to the development of a unified science of behavior change, and potential strategies for their achievement. In your remarks, wherever possible, please provide input on the use of mechanisms of behavior change as targets to be identified, engaged, and validated in intervention designs. Where applicable, your input may include but is not limited to research evidence in the form of data or references to support your statements.

A. Redefining NIH’s Translational Approach to Behavior Change Research by Targeting Basic Mechanisms of Behavior Change. The SOBC Program proposes to reshape NIH’s approach to the design of and investment in behavior change interventions by establishing the expectation that clinical trials incorporate mechanistic hypotheses and rigorous methods to test them. A unified approach to behavior change research could be adopted across the NIH, such that research projects related to behavior change would be expected to lead to an understanding of how change occurs (i.e., mechanisms of behavior change). A greater emphasis could be placed on the translation of basic behavioral and social science findings into behavior change interventions, and intervention studies could be expected to incorporate studies of mechanisms, in addition to testing for efficacy and/or effectiveness. Encouraging a mechanistic approach to clinical trials could enhance the value of each trial beyond its specific disease, population, or setting, and potentially produce data useful across fields.  

B. Improving Understanding of the Underlying Principles of Behavior Change that Can Serve as Targets for Intervention. Understanding the principles of behavior change requires clear definitions and measures of key constructs and intervention targets. The SOBC Program proposes tosupport research that identifies, defines, and measures constructs essential for mechanistic studies of behavior change. Some constructs have been identified as important in behavior change across multiple health fields (e.g., motivation, decision-making, family communication, health literacy, built environments), but measures often vary across research laboratories, scientific disciplines, and health conditions. Refining the core components of these constructs, mapping similar components across fields, and developing rigorous measures of those components could accelerate progress in behavior change research. In addition, it may be useful to map similar mechanisms across multiple levels (e.g., genetic, neurobiological, social, cognitive, affective and environmental), so that behavior change can be captured and verified in multiple ways. 

Submitting a Response
All responses must be submitted via email to by March 6, 2014.

Please limit your response to a total of 800 words. You are not required to respond to each category, but please clearly indicate in your response if you are providing input to issue A or B. Response to this RFI is voluntary. Responders are free to address any or all of the categories listed above. The submitted information will be reviewed by NIH staff.

This request is for information is for planning purposes only and should not be construed as a solicitation or as an obligation on the part of the Federal Government generally or the NIH specifically. The NIH does not intend to make any awards based on responses to this RFI or to otherwise pay for the preparation of any information submitted or for the Government's use of such information.

The NIH will use the information submitted in response to this RFI at its discretion and will not provide comments to any responder’s submission. However, responses to the RFI may be reflected in future solicitation(s). The information provided will be analyzed and may appear in reports. Respondents are advised that the Government is under no obligation to acknowledge receipt of the information received or provide feedback to respondents with respect to any information submitted. No proprietary, classified, confidential, or sensitive information should be included in your response. The Government reserves the right to use any non-proprietary technical information in any resultant solicitation(s).


Please direct inquiries to:

Minda R. Lynch, PhD
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
Phone:  301-435-1322