Optimizing Interventions News | The Methodology Center

Optimizing Interventions News

Linda Collins, Ph.D.January 12, 2015

Are you interested in the new approaches that are emerging for optimization of behavioral interventions? Linda Collins invites you to join a new special interest group on optimization of behavioral interventions that is being formed within the Society of Behavioral Medicine (SBM).  


This group will explore approaches to optimization of behavioral interventions, including, but not limited to, the multiphase optimization strategy (MOST); factorial and fractional factorial experiments; the sequential, multiple assignment, randomized trial (SMART); and system-identification procedures drawn from control engineering.

August 27, 2014

researchers Kari and AngieEach year, we hold regular meetings of special interest groups open to all researchers and graduate students working with and developing cutting edge research methods. The groups provide a forum for individuals to discuss their own research and to learn from others. Topics include analyzing complex data, mixture modeling, optimizing behavioral interventions, and causal analysis. 


The schedule for this fall and contact information is now available. For specific dates, please see The Methodology Center’s calendar.


July 23, 2014

Linda Collins TEDx Talk on Behavioral Interventions

Behaviors such as smoking, drug and alcohol abuse, and risky sex lead to illnesses that cost millions of lives and billions of dollars worldwide every year. Interventions designed to reduce these behaviors have tremendous potential to reduce morbidity and mortality and improve public health, but currently they are not reaching their full potential.

Methodology Center Director Linda Collins believes we can do better. In an eleven-minute talk at TEDxPSU in March, “Reducing smoking deaths: Is it rocket science?” Linda proposes using engineering methods to build more potent, efficient, and scalable behavioral interventions. She illustrates how this can be done by comparing our national effort to reduce smoking to our national effort to put a person on the moon. Though the multiphase optimization strategy (MOST), an engineering-inspired approach to development, optimization, and evaluation of behavioral interventions developed by Dr. Collins and other Center scientists, is not explicitly discussed, the talk lays out its rationale.

Stephanie LanzaDonna CoffmanLinda Collins

April 23, 2014

Several Methodology Center principal investigators are being recognized this spring.  At the 2014 Society for Behavioral Medicine (SBM) Annual Meeting, Methodology Center Director Linda Collins was named a Fellow of SBM for her contributions to behavioral medicine. The Society for Prevention Research (SPR) has awarded Donna Coffman the Early Career Award for her outstanding research contributions to prevention science. SPR also recognized Scientific Director Stephanie Lanza with the Friend of Early Career Prevention Network (ECPN) award, which is presented for “promoting training, funding, or early career involvement in prevention efforts; or encouraging early career preventionists in their work”. Congratulations to all three!


Read more about Linda’s work on optimizing behavioral interventions, Donna’s work on causal inference, or Stephanie’s work on latent class analysis.

Linda Collins, Daniel Rivera, Kevin Timms, Megan PiperApril 17, 2014

Dynamical systems models were developed in engineering to describe complex systems using differential equations. Methodology Center Director Linda Collins and Daniel Rivera, professor of chemical engineering at Arizona State University, recently completed a National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Roadmap grant (R21 DA024266) in which they applied dynamical systems models to improve behavioral interventions. These models can be used to understand the psychological processes that contribute to the outcomes of behavioral treatments.


In a new publication, the authors applied dynamical systems models to better understand what contributes to relapse during the smoking cessation process. The article, “A dynamical systems approach to understanding self-regulation in smoking cessation behavior change,” appears in the May 2014 special issue of Nicotine and Tobacco Research. The research team included Daniel’s graduate student Kevin Timms, Daniel, Linda, and Megan Piper, assistant professor at the Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

Linda CollinsFebruary 27, 2014

We are pleased to announce that Penn State has named Linda M. Collins, director of The Methodology Center and professor of human development and family studies and of statistics, a distinguished professor for her research, leadership, and service.
Linda's research focuses on development of innovative research approaches to optimize behavioral interventions. She has been an important contributor to the field of prevention science through her work on preventing tobacco and other substance use. She is now extending her work into other public health areas such as obesity and HIV/AIDS. Linda has also developed methods for analysis of longitudinal data, particularly latent transition analysis.

Linda CollinsDecember 10, 2013

The multiphase optimization strategy (MOST) provides a framework for building effective and efficacious behavioral interventions by following principles from the field of engineering. MOST emphasizes efficiency and resource management to move intervention science forward, and one of the cornerstones of MOST is selecting the most efficient and appropriate design for each experiment. In many instances this means conducting a factorial experiment. (Read more about factorial experimental designs.) In a new article in Translational Behavioral Medicine, Linda Collins and her coauthors explore how to use data from a factorial screening experiment to decide what should be included in the experimental intervention treatment package. This article is aimed at scientists who are considering conducting a factorial screening experiment.

Seth KalichmanSeptember 27, 2013

The Penn State Methodology Center, in collaboration with Columbia University's School of Social Work, organized a two-day meeting of leading experts in HIV prevention and experts in methods for engineering better behavioral interventions on September 12 and13 in Bethesda, Maryland. The meeting gave methodologists insight into the state of HIV research and the challenges faced by HIV researchers. The HIV researchers were introduced to new methods for experimental design, specifically the multiphase optimization strategy (MOST) and the sequential, multiple assignment, randomized trial (SMART). Videos of the keynote addresses by Seth Kalichman and Rick Altice, and slides from all presenters are available below.


We thank the National Institute on Drug Abuse (through R13-020334 and P50-DA10075), the Office of AIDS Research, and the Office of Behavior and Social Science Research for their generous support of this meeting.

Read more and see available presentations

June 4, 2013

We are pleased to announce the release of the %FactorialPowerPlan SAS macro for planning a factorial or fractional factorial experiment. The calculations can be done for either posttest-only or pretest-posttest designs. Participants can either be assumed to be independent, or nested within existing clusters as discussed in Dziak, Nahum-Shani, and Collins (2012).


The macro can be used to calculate

  • statistical power based on an available sample size and assumed effect size,
  • required sample size based on a desired statistical power and an assumed effect size, or
  • minimum detectable effect size based on available sample size and desired statistical power.


Download the macro or read more

Linda Collins, Stephanie Lanza, Donna Coffman, Bethany Bray, Kari Kugler, and Anne Fairlie

Society for Prevention Research (SPR) Annual Meeting

San Francisco, CA, May 28-31, 2013


The Methodology Center will be active at the upcoming annual meeting of the Society for Prevention Research (SPR).  At this year's conference, The Science of Prevention: Building a Comprehensive National Strategy for Well-Being, we will be presenting symposiums, a special interest group, paper talks, and multiple posters. Also look for us at the ECPN symposiums. We hope to see you there!

Like Us On Facebook or Tweet This Page