Public Release: 

$13 million grant to continue funding for new social science research methods

Penn State

The Methodology Center at Penn State has received a $13 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to support both ongoing and new research for the next five years that could lead to health apps for smartphones and more accurate genetic research.

"This grant is the cornerstone of all our scientific funding, providing funding for three of our largest research projects," said Linda Collins, director of The Methodology Center. "Importantly, it is enabling us to launch a new initiative in the area of analysis of complex behavioral data related to substance use and HIV."

These projects are designed to develop research methods for use with newly available types of data. In one project, scientists are examining for whom interventions work -- or fail to work -- and the best timing for intervention delivery. In another, scientists are developing methods for finding the most important variables in data sets with huge numbers of variables, such as genetic data. In the third, scientists are developing algorithms for delivering interventions through smartphones.

The Methodology Center includes about 25 Ph.D.-level researchers and trainees. The research projects in the new grant are headed by Stephanie Lanza, Methodology Center scientific director and professor of biobehavioral health; Runze Li, Verne M. Willaman Professor of Statistics and professor of public health sciences; and Susan Murphy, H.E. Robbins Professor of Statistics at The University of Michigan. These projects all serve The Methodology Center's mission to advance public health by improving experimental design and data analysis in the social, behavioral and health sciences.

This will be the fifth NIDA grant awarded to the Methodology Center as a whole, for a total of 24 consecutive years of funding. Along with this five-year grant comes the designation of "Center of Excellence."

"This grant also provides a large part of the infrastructure that supports the Center," said Collins. "It is going to enable us to step up our outreach efforts to include much more online training about the innovative methods we develop."

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The Methodology Center was created in 1989, and Collins has served as director since 1994.

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