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Genes, Behavior, and the Social Environment: Moving Beyond the Nature/Nurture Debate
discrete, fields because studies are more difficult to mount and more expensive to replicate.
A number of data issues and concerns need to be addressed in order to facilitate research that is aimed at explicating the impact on health of interactions among social, behavioral, and genetic factors. Therefore, the committee makes the following recommendation:
Recommendation 9: Enhance Existing and Develop New Datasets.The NIH should support datasets that can be used by investigatorsto address complex levels of social, behavioral, and genetic variables and their interactive pathways (i.e., physiological). Thisshould include the enhancement of existing datasets that alreadyprovide many, but not all, of the needed measures (e.g., the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, ADDHealth) and the encouragement of their use. Furthermore, NIH should develop newdatasets that address specific topics that have high potential forshowing genetic contribution, social variability, and behavioralcontributions—topics such as obesity, diabetes, and smoking.
INCENTIVES AND REWARDS—NIH AND ACADEME
According to the 2004 NAS/NAE/IOM report on interdisciplinary research, several key conditions are required for the conduct of effective interdisciplinary research. The committee believes that these same conditions are necessary for success in transdisciplinary research—a primary recommendation of this current report. The conditions identified by the 2004 report include “sustained and intense communication, talented leadership, appropriate reward and incentive mechanisms (including career and financial rewards), adequate time, seed funding for initial exploration, and willingness to support risky research.” Although such aspects of university functioning are not within the NIH’s purview, they may affect its ability to find scientists who can conduct the kind of transdisciplinary research that is envisioned here. The 2004 report is thorough and detailed, and the committee believes that its recommendations are crucial to the successful implementation of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research. The purpose of discussing certain key points of the 2004 report in the following section of this report is to emphasize their relevance and importance to the topic under consideration—assessing the interactions among social, behavioral, and genetic factors on health.
Researchers generally work in a university environment (only about 10 percent of NIH research funds are expended at independent research institutes, and an additional 10 percent of the NIH budget is expended in the NIH intramural program [IOM, 1998]). Furthermore, universities are the sites for virtually all professional training. Therefore, it is useful to consider