About the Center

The Methodology Center: Solving Public Health Problems Using Complex Data

New technologies and approaches have enabled the collection of important data that have great potential for increasing scientific understanding of drug use, risky sex, and other dangerous behavior. For example, smartphones and sensors are being used to obtain frequent (e.g., several times/day) real-time measures of an individual’s behavior, cognitions, mood, and environment. Longitudinal studies have collected behavioral data on their participants across much of the life course, in some cases including multiple generations of participants. Very large databases on drug use, HIV risk behavior, mental health, and a wealth of related variables have been amassed and continue to be updated. Behavioral studies increasingly are collecting genetic data, which produce many thousands of variables that potentially can be linked with behavioral phenotypes.

These new technologies and approaches are producing complex data sets that are rich with information that could be used to create a new generation of interventions for drug abuse and HIV prevention and services. However, statistical analysis methods, the keys investigators use to open the door to the scientific knowledge contained in behavioral data, have not kept up with the complexity of modern data sets and the sophistication of the questions posed by today’s behavioral researchers. The Methodology Center has worked to develop and disseminate innovative statistical methods that are essential to unlock the knowledge contained in complex behavioral data and apply it in the fight against drug abuse and HIV.



The Penn State Methodology Center has been continuously funded through National Institute on Drug Abuse Center of Excellence awards from 1996-2021. These grants, P50 DA039838 and P50 DA010075, have served as the cornerstone of Methodology Center funding and enabled The Methodology Center to become an internationally recognized leader in the development and dissemination of methods for experimental design and data analysis in the social, health, and behavioral sciences.

For more information about the leadership team, see our people pages.


Last updated May 4, 2020