From University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
NSF grant will enable UNC scientists to make child development research more useful
CHAPEL HILL -- The National Science Foundation has awarded Drs. Martha Cox and J. Steven Reznick and colleagues at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Center for Developmental Science $2.5 million over five years to improve research on children by establishing the N.C. Child Development Research Collaborative.
The grant will enable the scientists to conduct innovative interdisciplinary studies and train a new generation of researchers to carry out such research, they say.
"One of many things we're going to do is to get the word out to policy-makers, members of Congress and others that we must recognize the complexity of children's development and not allow oversimplified accounts to direct our policies toward children," said Cox, the center director. "Because children exist in relationships in families, in neighborhoods, in communities and in cultures, all of which affect them, we need better research models that capture that complexity."
Oversimplifying the process of development can make research findings useless, she said. Studying that complexity requires experts from many disciplines who have traditionally not collaborated, but have individually studied pieces of the child development puzzle. The grant will allow the center to bring together experts in biology, genetics, sociology, psychology, public health, social work, nursing and other disciplines to study child development in a more comprehensive way.
Besides UNC faculty, researchers from Duke University, UNC-Greensboro and N.C. State University will participate. Cox will serve as principal investigator, and Reznick, professor of psychology, will be co-principal investigator. The centerpiece of the grant will be a new multidisciplinary study examining the biological, social, emotional and mental development of 200 local children between ages 1 and 4 and from various backgrounds, Cox said.
Among the goals will be to provide policy and program recommendations based on sound science rather than good intentions and speculation.
"This grant acknowledges the Center for Developmental Science's pivotal role in establishing the field of developmental science and will enable us to maintain that leadership position in the coming years," Reznick said. "The multi-level, collaborative approach to developmental research mandated by NSF's new program is a well-established tradition at the center. When they opened this door, we were already standing on the porch.
"We consider this a great opportunity for us to put our ideas about developmental science into practice," he said. "A longitudinal study should be quite informative."
The new grant is part of the National Science Foundation's Children's Research Initiative, a nationwide effort to improve children's lives and future prospects.
Note: Cox can be reached at 919-966-3509, Reznick at 962-9720
Contact: David Williamson, 962-8596