Puga named to national committee

NAS committee set to establish framework for behavioral science research

Photo:  Puga FrankBy Erica Thecho
Behavioral science research is a complex field where measures, definitions and terms can vary depending on field, researcher and more. To combat this challenge, the National Academies of Sciences (NAS) has established an ad hoc committee to identify important concepts, standardize definitions, and provide an ontological framework for behavioral research.

University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing Assistant Professor Frank Puga, PhD, has been appointed to the committee—formally named the Accelerating Behavioral Science Through Ontology Development and Use Committee—through May 2022.

Puga was nominated for this appointment by UAB School of Nursing Associate Professor Carolyn Pickering, PhD, RN, based on his expertise in biobehavioral research.

“I am excited to be part of this important NAS committee and to help advance behavioral research. It is amazing to help inform directly where the future of behavioral science is going,” said Puga, who received his PhD in psychology. “Behavioral measures, including how we define, and study behaviors, can be all over the place, and this committee is going to help provide a clearer roadmap of how we can more efficiently and effectively advance behavioral research in a variety of fields, whether psychology, health care, or others.”

Members of the committee represent a variety of fields and will review existing literature to build a consensus on a classification system, known as an ontology, to describe and organize how behavioral science research is done. In addition to creating a framework, Puga said this committee can help emphasize high priority topics.

“This work will eventually provide a roadmap for high priority research topics for not only researchers, but also to help guide the funding agencies that support behavioral science research,” Puga said. “The ultimate goal is to establish best practices for developing an ontology, identify high priority research areas, and provide recommendations on implementing and sustaining a formal framework for behavioral science research.”

As a researcher who focuses on aging mental health in diverse patient populations, Puga said he will use this appointment as an opportunity to ensure research across diverse populations is represented in the discussion and to emphasize the need for culturally relevant interventions that improve outcomes for groups that may be underrepresented in behavioral research.

“My personal and professional goal is to be an advocate for underrepresented populations on this committee, and to make sure a behavioral science research ontology is inclusive of social and cultural factors that impact behavior.,” he said. “We really want to make sure we’re developing a framework that advances behavioral research and also take into consideration unique factors across different patients or populations.”

Sponsors for the committee include the American Psychological Association, National Cancer Institute, National Science Foundation, National Institute on Aging, and others. This interest from other entities importance of this committee and its work, Puga said.

“The involvement of other entities and the investment from the larger institution of NAS shows this framework is needed to put a finer point on the science,” Puga said. “Their involvement shows this is needed in the scientific community and shows this will contribute to the quality and outcomes of science across any program connected to behavioral science research.”
Read 348 times Last modified on February 11, 2021

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