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Biobehavioral Research Interest Group in the 21st Century

Looking Back to Move Forward


TSNRP is celebrating this momentous year recognizing 30 years of this unique program providing essential funding and patronage to our research community. As our membership grew and diversified, it became clear to TSNRP leaders that there was a need to name and support collectives of like-minded members into interest groups that could supply collaborations and counsel unique to the group. At this anniversary moment, we would like to take a brief look back at the initiation of the Biobehavioral Research Interest Group (BHRIG) as a platform for introducing the events planned for the coming year.


The first Research Interest Groups (RIGs) were Biobehavioral Health (BHRIG) and Military Women’s Health based on the expressed needs of the members at that time. The leaders of the BHRIG established a strategic planning meeting at the Institute for Social Research (ISR) at the University of Michigan in 2011. Since the outset, the BHRIG has enjoyed collaboration with the ISR as well as the instructional resources of the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR, icpsr.umich.edu), an international consortium of more than 750 academic institutions (home of the Army STARRS study data collection hub). The original mission of the BHRIG was drafted at a Strategic Planning Meeting at the ISR in 2011, capitalizing on their expertise in program development and research education. Research Interest Groups (RIGs) originally focused on a specific topic area however the Biobehavioral Research Interest Group was persuaded to focus on providing advanced methodological and statistical innovations to both novice and experienced researchers to strengthen the capabilities of military researchers serving our war fighters and military beneficiaries. The approach used by the BHRIG, continuing to this day, is to first hold a strategic planning meeting to assess the state of the science and potential training gaps, followed by a needs assessment survey of our members, taken together to plan for an educational offering. The first programs were designed on the format of the ICPSR “Summer Institutes,” capitalizing on their longstanding experience with intensive summer courses and their talented faculty.


In 2012, the first program was “Military Nursing Research: Fundamentals of Survey Methodology.” Surveys were being used extensively by DoD researchers at that time. The course was designed to include observational and experimental methods to test key hypotheses about the nature of human behavior that affect the quality of survey data. In 2013, the emergence of mixed methods design (particularly physiologic and behavioral data) led to the development of a Mixed Methods Summer Institute taught by Dr. William Axinn (author of the text on Mixed Methods). The methods explored included unstructured or in-depth interviews, semi-structured interviews, focus groups, survey interviews, observation, geographic information systems, archival research, social media analysis and hybrid methods.


In 2017, the BHRIG capitalized on the growing area of System Science by planning a program on Social Network Analysis (SNA). A working group was again formed to design a survey to capture diverse types of military networks that in totality comprise an individual’s collaboration universe, e.g., who they interact with, advice-seeking/, socializing and intellectual exchanges. A summer institute course, “Dynamic Social Network Analysis of Military Nurse Researchers” was held and formed the basis of the survey of our members, which resulted in several dissemination outcomes including a publication from the project


The BHRIG initiative this year returns to the roots of psychometric science that has developed over the past 75 years at the Institute for Social Research (ISR) where TSNRP has benefited from the talent of innovators, social scientists, and methodologists. The most well-known investigator is Rensis Likert (correct pronunciation is LICK-ERT) who developed the scaling technique widely known as the Likert scale of attitudes, beliefs, values, and other latent variables (those not objectively visible and measurable). With other colleagues, Likert formed the Survey Research Center (SRC) at the University of Michigan and served as the first director of the ISR where he remained for many years.


The impetus for drawing attention to this widely used scaling technique at this time is due to longstanding misconceptions and myths about its use, structure, and analytic approaches since its origin in 1932. We believe it is important for our members to not only learn the origin and use of the scale in measuring latent variables, but to understand the pervasive debates of the instrument, to be well equipped to counter comments from reviewers, colleagues, and professional organizations. Therefore, the BHRIG project in 2022 is to provide our members with the historic roots of the scale, information about its originator, the period in which it was developed, and the emergence of psychometric principles that have enjoyed widespread use in the years since. A presentation of the psychometric foundation and use of the Likert scale (for practice and scientific investigations) will be provided at the TSNRP Dissemination Conference followed by an online seminar in the Fall with support of AMSUS, followed by a publication. Proper use of the Likert scale has important implications for practitioners and scientists alike and we look forward to providing an interesting and worthwhile session.


Reflecting on our 30th year anniversary, we note that the vision of the BHRIG has remained consistent over time, which is to continue to arm military nurse researchers with contemporary methodological approaches and data analytics to be outstanding and productive scientists in service to our community. Military nurse investigators continue to lead the way!

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