Outlook: Newsletter of the Society of Behavorial Medicine

Linda Collins Talks Strategies for Optimizing Behavioral Interventions

Kari Kugler, PhD, Optimization of Behavioral Interventions SIG chair

Linda Collins, PhD
Linda Collins, PhD

The Society of Behavioral Medicine's (SBM) new Optimization of Behavioral Interventions Special Interest Group (OBI SIG) recently interviewed Linda Collins, PhD, director of the Methodology Center at Penn State University and distinguished professor of human development and family studies. Dr. Collins is an original developer of the multiphase optimization strategy (MOST) for development, optimization, and evaluation of behavioral and biobehavioral interventions (BBIs).

OBI SIG: This spring you held a week-long training on the optimization of BBIs. Tell us a little about how this training emerged.

Collins: “I do several workshops per year on optimization of BBIs—for example, I often offer one at SBM’s annual meeting—but these are typically only 3-6 hours long. For several years I had been thinking a longer, more in-depth training was needed. I spoke to Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) Director Bill Riley, PhD, about this at the SBM meeting in San Antonio, and he was very supportive. OBSSR ultimately provided funding so that we were able to offer a 4.5-day training and cover travel for many of the attendees. The goal of the training was to help attendees gain the knowledge and develop the skills they need to optimize BBIs and write successful grant proposals for research involving optimization of BBIs.

“When we started to plan the training we had no idea whether there would be much interest. We booked a modestly-sized meeting room at the hotel that would fit about 35 attendees, and nervously hoped we would fill most of the seats. As it turned out, we had 115 applications to attend the training! We were thrilled at this demonstration of interest in the topic, but also sorry to be forced to turn away so many excellent applicants. To anyone reading this who was turned away: We hope to offer another training in a couple of years, so be sure to apply to attend that one!”

OBI SIG: Do you feel that the training was successful?

Collins: “We asked the attendees to complete an evaluation form and, based on their responses, it appears the training was very well received. Many attendees said they are planning to apply for funding using what they learned, which for us is an important indicator of success. There were also some great suggestions for ways to improve the training the next time, many of which we are planning to implement.”

OBI SIG: What would you recommend to an investigator who is interested in learning more about MOST (or wanting to optimize a BBI)?

Collins: “On the Methodology Center’s website there is a section on MOST that is intended to be a starting point for anyone interested in MOST. There are extensive FAQs, suggested readings, and free software, such as a macro for doing power analysis for factorial experiments. There is even a brief section with hints on how to write a grant proposal involving MOST.”

OBI SIG: You are involved with two books about MOST that are due to come out in 2018. What can you tell us about them?

Collins: “I am very excited about these books. There are two companion volumes. I am writing one, titled Optimization of Behavioral and Biobehavioral Interventions: The Multiphase Optimization Strategy (MOST). This book will be a comprehensive introduction to optimization of BBIs, suitable for use in a graduate course. It will cover topics such as the phases of MOST; factorial and fractional factorial experiments; selecting an experimental design based on the resource management principle; and how to make decisions about what components and component levels to include in a BBI based on the results of an experiment. The other book is being edited by Kari Kugler and me. It is called Advanced Topics in the Optimization of Behavioral and Biobehavioral Interventions. The chapters are being written by experts on topics such as the sequential multiple-assignment randomized trial; multivariate mediation; just-in-time adaptive interventions; and the control systems approach to optimization of BBIs. Both books will be published by Springer, and you can expect them to come out in the first half of 2018.”