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Linda Collins

 

 

Research Centers in the College of Health and Human Development are dedicated to improving human health through innovative research. This is the story of The Methodology Center, which exists to advance public health by improving experimental design and data analysis in the social, behavioral, and health sciences.

“We are motivated by knowing that our methodological work enables scientists to explore new research areas and to produce more valid scientific findings, which represent the key to improving public health,” said Center Director Linda Collins, who became director in 1994. “The Methodology Center serves as a national resource in the development and dissemination of innovative research methods.”

Founded as the “Center for Developmental and Health Research Methodology” by John Nesselroade in 1989, the center was renamed “The Methodology Center” in 1995. In 1996, the center received its first NIDA Center of Excellence Grant; these grants have been the cornerstone of the center’s funding ever since.

“Our research involves developing new quantitative research methods and also adapting methods from fields such as engineering and computer science, for applications in the social, behavioral, and health sciences,” Collins said. “The new methods we produce not only enable scientists to do a better job addressing important research questions; they also open up a world of new research questions.”

 

 

 

 

The multiphase optimization strategy (MOST) is one of several methods under development at The Methodology Center. MOST is a framework for engineering effective and efficient behavioral interventions while carefully managing resources to maximize scientific knowledge.

Interventions designed to treat behavior typically involve many components. For example, a smoking intervention may include pre-quit counseling, nicotine gum, and post-quit counseling. MOST enables researchers to test each intervention component in a way that results in scientific progress regardless of the results of the experiment. MOST also enables researchers to gain the greatest amount of knowledge about each component from the fewest research subjects.

Collins and her collaborators conceptualized and created MOST. Along with methodological work, The Methodology Center researchers have created tutorials and software to enable other researchers to use MOST. Currently, large-scale projects around the nation are using MOST to build interventions that address smoking, drug and alcohol abuse, obesity, risky sex, and more.

The center, located at 404 Health and Human Development Building, comprises between 20 and 30 researchers and trainees across a variety of disciplines, including statistics, engineering, psychology, and human development.