American Sociological Association

ASA Footnotes

A publication of the American Sociological AssociationASA News & Events
September/October 2015

Science Policy

HHS Releases Proposed Revisions to the Common Rule

The U.S. Department on Health and Human Services released on September 2 proposed revisions to the Common Rule for the Protection of Human Subjects. The Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, National Research Council, reports that the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) now more thoroughly addresses social science and behavioral research perspectives. The Common Rule has not been updated since 1991. The NPRM is the next step in a process that began in 2011 with the issuance of an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) that asked for input. A number of the current proposed changes address concerns raised by the social and behavioral science community, particularly those that attempt to make the level of review proportional to the potential level of harm. The recent NPRM acknowledges benefiting from the guidance provided in the National Academies of Science report, Proposed Revisions to the Common Rule for the Protection of Human Subjects in the Behavioral and Social Sciences (December 2014). The social science community is encouraged to send comments by December 7, 2015. For the full report, see


White House Announces New Steps to Improve Federal Programs by Leveraging SBS Research Insights

On September 15, the White House announced new actions to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of Federal programs, which included an Executive Order “Using Behavioral Science Insights to Better Serve the American People.” The Executive Order directs Federal agencies to identify programs in which applying social and behavioral science insights can yield substantial improvements; develop strategies for applying behavioral science insights to programs, and, where possible, for rigorously testing and evaluating the impact of these insights; recruit behavioral science experts to join the Federal Government; and strengthen agency relationships with the research community. The Executive Order directs Federal agencies to take action in four areas in which behavioral science insights can play an especially strong role in program outcomes: streamlining access to programs, improving the presentation of information, structuring choices carefully, and considering a full range of incentives. To read the White House Fact Sheet, see, and read the Executive Order at


William T. Riley Selected as Next Director of the NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research

A letter from the National Institutes of Health Director Francis S. Collins on July 30, 2015, stated, “It gives me great pleasure to announce the selection of William T. Riley, PhD, as the next Director of the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR).” Riley has served as Acting Director of the OBSSR since May 2014. Riley first came to the NIH in 2005, as Deputy Director of the Division of AIDS and Health & Behavior Research at the National Institute of Mental Health. In 2009, he joined the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute as Program Director of the Clinical Applications and Prevention Branch. He moved to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in 2012, where he was Chief of NCI’s Science of Research and Technology Branch in the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences. A clinical psychologist by training, Riley’s research interests include behavioral assessment, psychosocial health risk factors, tobacco use/cessation, and the application of technology to preventive health behaviors and chronic disease management. For more information on OBSSR, see