The Use of Ontologies to Accelerate the Behavioral Sciences: Promises and Challenges

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Behavioral scientists produce a vast amount of research every year yet struggle to produce cumulative knowledge that is easily translated in applied settings. This article summarizes a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine consensus report on the development and use of ontologies to accelerate the behavioral sciences. The report examines key challenges in the behavioral and psychological sciences motivating an evaluation of ontology use and development in the behavioral sciences. The advantages of ontologies, including enhanced organization and retrieval of research evidence, improved scientific communication, reduction of duplication, and enhanced scientific replicability, are highlighted. Challenges that may impede the development and use of ontologies in the behavioral sciences are also considered. The article concludes with future directions for fulfilling the promise of ontologies to accelerate the behavioral and psychological sciences.





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Sharp, C, RM Kaplan and TJ Strauman (2023). The Use of Ontologies to Accelerate the Behavioral Sciences: Promises and Challenges. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 32(5). pp. 418–426. 10.1177/09637214231183917 Retrieved from

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Timothy J. Strauman

Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience

FOR POTENTIAL STUDENTS (fall 2024 class): 

Dr. Timothy Strauman and Dr. Ann Brewster will be seeking to admit a student for Fall 2024 who will be an important member of their collaborative projects. Dr. Brewster is an intervention scientist and a faculty member in Duke’s Social Science Research Institute. The collaborative projects focus on creating, testing, and implementing school-based therapeutic and preventive interventions for adolescents at risk for negative academic and mental health outcomes. We are partnering with the Durham Public Schools as well as with other local school districts, and Dr. Brewster has extensive experience and expertise in developing the partnerships, working with community members, and the intervention process itself. We are especially interested in applicants with experience in community-based interventions, with interests in adolescence, and with knowledge and experience working with both behavioral and neuroimaging data.

Professor Strauman's research focuses on the psychological and neurobiological processes that enable self-regulation, conceptualized in terms of a cognitive/motivational perspective, as well as the relation between self-regulation and affect. Particular areas of emphasis include: (1) conceptualizing self-regulation in terms of brain/behavior motivational systems; (2) the role of self-regulatory cognitive processes in vulnerability to depression and other disorders; (3) the impact of treatments for depression, such as psychotherapy and medication, on self-regulatory function and dysfunction in depression; (4) how normative and non-normative socialization patterns influence the development of self-regulatory systems; (5) the contributory roles of self-regulation, affect, and psychopathology in determining immunologically-mediated susceptibility to illness; (6) development of novel multi-component treatments for depression targeting self-regulatory dysfunction; (7) utilization of brain imaging techniques to test hypotheses concerning self-regulation, including the nature and function of hypothetical regulatory systems and characterizing the breakdowns in self-regulation that lead to and accompany depression.

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