Video: Introduction to MOST

January 23, 2018:LINDAMOST

We recently released an eight-minute video that provides a conceptual overview of the multiphase optimization strategy (MOST). Methodology Center Director Linda Collins explains the phases MOST, a framework for optimizing behavioral and biobehavioral interventions. This is the third in our new series of instructional videos; video introductions to latent class analysis and time-varying effect modeling are also available.


Five-Day Training on Optimization

December 5, 2017:lcollinsDANmirallkarikkguastaferro

Join us May 14-18, 2018, in Bethesda, Maryland for a five-day, multi-presenter training on the Optimization of Behavioral and Biobehavioral Interventions. Applications to attend the training will be accepted beginning today. Instructors include Drs. Linda M. CollinsDaniel AlmirallKari Kugler, and Kate Guastaferro. The training will cover the multiphase optimization strategy (MOST)factorial and fractional factorial optimization trials; adaptive interventions; the sequential, multiple assignment, randomized trial (SMART); and obtaining funds for optimization projects. In addition, a variety of researchers will describe how they are optimizing behavioral and biobehavioral interventions, followed by a panel discussion of scientific, operational, and practical considerations.

Read more or apply to attend.

Please contact Kate Guastaferro at with any questions.

Video: Two-Hour MOST Workshop

November 21, 2017:linda one on one

Thanks to all who participated in our 1 & 1 workshop on the multiphase optimization strategy (MOST). On Tuesday, November 14, 2017, Methodology Center Director Linda Collins presented an introduction to optimizing health interventions using MOST. We filmed both the one-hour presentation and the one-hour question-and-answer session that followed. If you were unable to attend, this recording of the workshop is a great way to learn the basics of MOST.

We will continue to host more 1 & 1 workshops. Watch the newsletter and our website for upcoming workshop topics, dates, and times.

Watch the video.

Linda Collins Receives Career Research Award

November 9, 2017:LindaC

Congratulations to Methodology Center Director Linda Collins, recipient of the 2017 Pauline Schmitt Russell Distinguished Research Career Award from Penn State’s College of Health and Human Development. This award is given to a faculty member who has “made outstanding research contributions to the field of health and human development across a major portion of her career.” Linda is being recognized for her work on optimization of interventions and development of latent class models.

Linda has been a professor in the College of Health and Human Development and Director of The Methodology Center since 1994. She is Fellow of the American Psychological Association (Division 5), the Association for Psychological Science, the Society for Behavioral Medicine, and the Society for Prevention Research. Previously, she has served as the president of both the Society for Multivariate Experimental Psychology and the Society for Prevention Research. In 2011, she received the Pattishall Award for Outstanding Research Achievement from the College.

Linda has always sought to integrate cutting-edge research methods and high-quality behavioral research. She is the driving force behind the development of the multiphase optimization strategy (MOST), an engineering-inspired framework for developing and optimizing behavioral, biobehavioral, and biomedical interventions. Earlier in her career, Linda developed latent transition analysis (LTA), a longitudinal extension of latent class models for detecting hidden subgroups within a population.

The award was presented at 3:30 pm on November 15, 2017 in the Bennett Pierce Living Center, 110 Henderson Building, on the University Park Campus of Penn State University. Again, congratulations to Linda for this well-earned honor!

Free, Two-Hour, Online Workshop About MOST

October 10, 2017:lmc

For our next 1 & 1, Methodology Center Director Linda Collins will present an introduction to the multiphase optimization strategy (MOST) for optimizing interventions on Tuesday, November 14, from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Log in at 1 & 1 workshops consist of a one-hour live video presentation on a method followed by a one-hour question-and-answer session with the presenter. After the presentation, Linda will accept questions via instant message and answer them live. This is a great opportunity to learn about the value of MOST and ask questions about planning a MOST or writing a grant proposal for a study that follows MOST.

About MOST

MOST is an engineering-inspired framework for optimizing and evaluating behavioral, biobehavioral, and biomedical interventions. MOST emphasizes efficiency and careful management of resources to move intervention science forward systematically. MOST can be used to guide the evaluation of research evidence, develop optimized interventions, and enhance Type I and Type II translation of research. Read more.

About 1 & 1

The 1 & 1 will be hosted via Zoom video conference. Login information will be posted on the 1 & 1 access page the day before the workshop. The workshop will be limited to 50 participants, who will be admitted on a first-come, first-served basis when they log on to the video conference the day of the workshop. If you try to attend the workshop but are unable to log on for any reason, please send an email to We hope you will join us to explore MOST and have Linda answer your questions directly in real time.


Read more about MOST.

Watch the video of our 1 & 1 on time-varying effect modeling.

Featured Article: Building Optimized Adaptive Interventions

January 18, 2017:

Every year in the United States, 800,000 deaths are directly attributable to behavioral factors like smoking and alcohol use.mostfig Interventions that help people modify their risky behavior could save many lives. Because adaptive interventions (also called dynamic treatment regimens) adjust based on participant need or preference, they have the capacity to increase intervention effectiveness and/or decrease cost and patient burden.

Two research projects at The Methodology Center develop methods for optimizing interventions and methods for adaptive interventions. These projects were developed from a common research agenda, and they remain deeply connected. The multiphase optimization strategy (MOST) for optimizing interventions sometimes employs factorial experiments to select what should be included in an intervention. The sequential, multiple assignment, randomized trial (SMART) is a special case of the factorial experiment. In the 2014 article “Optimization of behavioral dynamic treatment regimens based on the sequential, multiple assignment, randomized trial (SMART)” in Clinical Trials, Linda Collins and SMART researchers Inbal “Billie” Nahum-Shani and Daniel Almirall describe how to develop optimized adaptive interventions using a SMART.

Linda thinks interested researchers should understand the connection between SMART and MOST. “MOST is a comprehensive framework for development, optimization, and evaluation of all types of behavioral and biobehavioral interventions. The appropriate strategy for experimentation in the optimization phase depends on the type of intervention being developed. SMARTs are an excellent strategy for gathering the scientific information needed to optimize a time-varying adaptive intervention.” For researchers interested in SMART, MOST, or both, The Methodology Center provides advice about how to integrate MOST into a grant proposal and a list of funding opportunities that solicit the use of MOST and/or SMART.

Open the article.

Collins, L. M., Nahum-Shani, I., & Almirall, D. (2014). Optimization of behavioral dynamic treatment regimens based on the sequential, multiple assignment, randomized trial (SMART). Clinical Trials, 11, 426-434.

HIV Grant Following MOST

June 20, 2016:

An intervention has been funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse to increase treatment engagement among African-American/Black andLMC Hispanic people living with HIV. The study will target people who are neither taking antiretroviral therapy nor consistently engaged in HIV primary care. Linda Collins, Director of The Methodology Center, and Marya Gwadz, New York University Rory Meyers College of Nursing Senior Research Scientist, have received a five-year, $5.8 million grant to design this intervention using the multiphase optimization strategy (MOST).

“At least half of people living with HIV in the U.S. are neither sufficiently engaged in HIV primary care nor taking antiretroviral therapy,” said Gwadz. “In particular, African-American/Black and Hispanic people are less likely to be well engaged along the HIV care continuum than their White peers and, as a result, have lower rates of HIV viral suppression, greater morbidity, and earlier mortality from HIV.”

Read more

Meet us at SPR!

April 25, 2016:MAR-BCB-STL
Come see us at the Society for Prevention Research (SPR) 2016 Annual Meeting, May 31 through June 3 in San Francisco. This year, we will be presenting symposia, talks, posters, and a special interest group on a broad array of topics including time-varying effect modeling, HIV-risk behavior, optimization of interventions, smoking cessation, and much more.

Tuesday, May 31

5:30 – 7:30 p.m. Poster Session I
“Homeless youths’ daily positive and negative support from close friends,” Amanda Griffin.

Wednesday, June 1

12:00 – 1:00 p.m. “Brown bag” special interest group meeting: Optimizing preventive interventions
Discussion about how to apply the multiphase optimization strategy to attendees’ research. Linda Collins, presenter.

4:00 – 5:00 p.m. Roundtable: Using preventive interventions to better understand etiological mechanisms and risk for suicide. Stephanie Lanza, discussant.

5:45 – 7:45 p.m. Poster Session II

  • “Gambling and polysubstance use behavior patterns: Using latent class analysis to examine the syndromal model of addiction,” Bethany Bray.
  • “Motivations for marijuana use among young adults in the U.S.,” Bethany Bray.
  • “‘Gay age’ and recreational drug use among men who have sex with men,” Cara Rice.
  • “First-year college students’ health and well-being: The long-term effects of mindfulness training at 3- and 6-month follow-up,” Kamila Dvorakova.

Thursday, June 2

10:15—11:45 a.m. Individual paper presentations: School-based health-related prevention programs
“Girls just want to know where to have fun: Preventing substance use initiation in an under-resourced community through the leisure-focused Healthwise,” Mojdeh Motamedi.

1:15 – 2:45 p.m.  Organized 20 x 20 presentation: Diverse applications of time-varying effect modeling to answer important questions in prevention science. Michael Russell, chair.

  • “Four definitions of ‘time’ in time-varying effect modeling: Examples in marijuana use” Stephanie Lanza, presenter.
  • “Adolescent e-cigarette use: Age-varying prevalence and association with traditional cigarette smoking,” Michael Russell, presenter.
  • “Sexual behavior and depressive symptoms across adolescence and young adulthood,” Sara Vasilenko, presenter.

3:00 – 4:30 p.m. Organized paper symposium: Three M’s in prevention research: Mediation, multilevel modeling, and missing data. Bethany Bray, discussant.

6:15 – 8:00 p.m. Poster Session III

  • “Time-varying effect of risk-perception on cigarette use among high school seniors,” Jessica Braymiller.
  • “Using engineering methods during intervention design to increase participant engagement,” Emily Waterman.
  • “Free software for data analysis and experimental design from the Penn State Methodology Center,” Bethany Bray will demonstrate and distribute Methodology Center software.

Friday, June 3

8:30 – 10:00 a.m. Organized paper symposium: New insights to prevention sciences from intensive longitudinal data
“Using the time-varying effect model with intensive longitudinal data to inform prevention research,” Sara Vasilenko, presenter.

1:00 – 2:30 p.m. Organized paper symposium: Using big data to inform healthcare utilization, surveillance, and prevention research Stephanie Lanza, discussant.

Visit us at SBM & SRA

March 14, 2016:
Come see us at the Society of Behavioral Medicine (SBM) Annual Meeting and the Society for Research on Adolescence (SRA) Biennial Meeting. Methodology Center Investigators will be presenting pre-conference workshops, a seminar, talks, a Master Lecture, and more.

Society of Behavioral Medicine (SBM) Annual Meeting

Wednesday, March 30, 12:00 – 2:45 p.m.
Methodology Center Director Linda Collins will lead a special interest group, Introduction to the Multiphase Optimization Strategy (MOST) for Building More Effective, Efficient, Economical, and Scalable Behavioral and Biobehavioral Interventions.

Wednesday, March 30, 3:15 – 6:00 p.m.
Methodology Center Investigators and Affiliates Billie Nahum-Shani, Susan Murphy, Bonnie Spring, David Conroy, and Daniel Almirall will present the seminar, Building Just-In-Time Adaptive Interventions in Mobile Health: The Role of Micro-Randomized Trials.

Friday, April 1, 7:15 – 8:00 a.m.
Methodology Center Investigators Linda Collins and Kari Kugler will participate in a breakfast roundtable, Introduction to Optimizing Behavioral Interventions.

Friday, April 1, 8:15 – 9:30 a.m.
Methodology Center Investigator Kari Kugler will chair the symposium, Optimization of Behavioral Interventions: Three Real World Applications.

Friday, April 1, 3:15 – 4:45 p.m.
Methodology Center Investigator Kari Kugler will present the talk, “Optimization of an Intervention Targeting the Intersection of Alcohol Use and Sexual Risk Behavior among College Students,” during the paper session, Substance Use and Abuse. 

Saturday, April 2, 10:15 – 11:15 a.m.
Methodology Center Principal Investigator Susan Murphy will present the Master Lecture, Micro-Randomized Trials in Mobile Health.

Society for Research on Adolescence (SRA) Biennial Meeting

Wednesday, March 30, 1:00 – 5:00 p.m.
Methodology Center Investigators Stephanie Lanza and Sara Vasilenko will present the seminar, Time-Varying Effect Modeling in Developmental Research on Adolescence. 

Thursday, March 31, 8:30 – 10:00 a.m.
Methodology Center Investigator Rebecca Evans-Polce will present the talk, “Social Roles and Excessive Alcohol Use Across Young Adulthood” during the symposium, The Ins and Outs of the Transition to Adulthood: Social Role Transitions and Substance Use.

Thursday, March 31, 12:15 – 1:45 p.m.
Methodology Center Investigator Sara Vasilenko will present the talk, “Age-Varying Associations Between Sexual Behavior and Depression: The Role of Gender, Race/Ethnicity, Religion and Parent Attitudes,” during the symposium, Adolescent Sexual and Romantic Experiences and Psychological Adjustment: A Focus on Latino Adolescents.

Friday, April 1, 10:15 – 11:45 a.m.
Methodology Center Investigator Michael Russell will present the talk, “Age-Varying Associations Between Witnessing Violence, Substance Use, Depression, and Health From Adolescence to Young Adulthood,” during the symposium, Substance Use, Violence, and Health During Adolescence and the Transition to Adulthood.

Saturday, April 2, 12:15 – 1:45 p.m.
Methodology Center Investigator Michael Russell will present the talk, “Adolescent Alcohol Use, GABRA2 Genotype, and Developmental Stage: A Gene Intervention-Development Interaction,” during the symposium, Longitudinal and Polygenic Approaches to Gene x Intervention (G×I) Studies of Adolescent Behavior Problems.

Training on Optimizing Interventions

February 2, 2016:

Applications are no longer being accepted.

Applications are now being accepted for a five-day training, “Optimization of Behavioral and Biobehavioral Interventions” with instructors Linda M. Collins, Susan Murphy, and Daniel Almirall. The training will cover the multiphase optimization strategy (MOST); factorial and fractional factorial screening experiments; adaptive interventions; the sequential, multiple assignment, randomized trial (SMART); just-in-time adaptive interventions (JITAIs); and obtaining funds for optimization projects.  In addition, there will be a variety of presenters describing how they are optimizing behavioral and biobehavioral interventions. Join us May 16-20, 2016, in Bethesda, Maryland.

Featured Article: Getting the Most from HIV/AIDS Interventions

January 28, 2016:Kari KuglerLinda Collins

A new article in AIDS and Behavior introduces to HIV and AIDS researchers the multiphase optimization strategy (MOST), a framework for developing and evaluating optimized interventions. Methodology Center researchers Linda Collins and Kari Kugler and their collaborator Marya Gwadz of New York University wrote the article, “Optimization of Multicomponent Behavioral and Biobehavioral Interventions for the Prevention and Treatment of HIV/AIDS.” The authors explain the benefits of MOST within the context of a hypothetical intervention targeting people who live with HIV/AIDS and drink alcohol at hazardous levels. The authors explore MOST’s potential for answering questions that a traditional approach to intervention development cannot address.
Linda explained the rationale for using MOST: “MOST can be used to develop optimized behavioral and biobehavioral interventions in the HIV field and other areas. It enables scientists to engineer interventions to meet specific standards of effectiveness, efficiency, economy, and scalability. This is accomplished by looking inside the ‘black box’ of multicomponent interventions by using highly efficient randomized experiments.”

MOST is a comprehensive, principled, engineering-inspired framework. MOST includes a randomized controlled trial (RCT) for intervention evaluation, but also includes other phases of research before the RCT, unlike the standard approach to intervention development. The three phases of MOST—preparation, optimization, and evaluation—are aimed at intervention optimization using criteria selected by the scientist. The goal may be to develop a cost-effective intervention, an intervention that achieves a specified level of effectiveness, the briefest intervention that achieves a minimum level of effectiveness, or any other reasonable and explicitly operationalized goal.

Open the article.

Collins, L. M., Kugler, K. C., & Gwadz, M. V. (2016).  Optimization of multicomponent behavioral and biobehavioral interventions for the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS.  AIDS and Behavior, 20, 197-214.

Podcast: Using MOST to Improve STI Prevention

January 27, 2016:
In this podcast, we discuss the application of the multiphase optimization strategy (MOST) to the development of an online intervention to reduce sexualTanner-Kugler risk behavior among college students. Host Aaron Wagner speaks with Kari Kugler, Methodology Center investigator, and Amanda Tanner, assistant professor of public health education at University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG), about the project which is funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

In this study, the researchers will use MOST to strengthen intervention components aimed at reducing risky drinking, risky sex, and their co-occurrence, and then using the strengthened components to form an optimized intervention.  The principal investigator of the project is Methodology Center Director Linda Collins. David Wyrick, associate professor of public health education, leads the team at UNCG.

Podcast Timeline:


01:07—What public health problem does the grant address?

03:57—Definition of multiphase optimization strategy

06:45—Other applications of MOST

07:41—Why use MOST on this project?

10:37—How will this project encourage college students to make better decisions?

13:06—Why an online intervention?

14:02—What is incorrect about the term “risky sex?”

15:53—What else should people know about MOST?

16:46—The quality of the project team

Download Podcast 23

New Applet for Random Assignment

December 2, 2015:

blank MOST flow chartWe are pleased to announce the release of a new web applet helpful when conducting factorial experiments and fractional factorial experiments. The applet produces a list of random numbers that can be used to assign subjects to experimental conditions. When the applet is used properly, subjects will be spread as evenly as possible across conditions. Factorial and fractional factorial experiments are useful for selecting the components to be included in an intervention when scientists are following the multiphase optimization strategy (MOST).

Open the applet

Featured Scientist: Kari Kugler

October 9, 2015:

Methodology Center research associate Kari Kugler is interested in the development of effective and efficient interventions to improve sexual and karikreproductive health outcomes among adolescents and young adults. For the last four years, she has worked closely with Methodology Center Director Linda Collins to develop applications of the multiphase optimization strategy (MOST), an engineering-based framework for optimizing interventions.

 The Methodology Center: The Methodology Center draws on a lot of different research backgrounds. As an epidemiologist, what drew you to The Methodology Center?

Kari Kugler: I was trained as a behavioral epidemiologist (as opposed to a classical epidemiologist), which means that I focused on designing interventions to foster behavior change. The Methodology Center is leading the field in prevention science in terms of developing innovative methods to better understand the etiology of behaviors, but also to design more effective interventions targeting a wide range of behaviors. I’m enthusiastic about both, but my passion is interventions.

During my doctoral and post-doctoral training I was involved with a handful of interventions, primarily as an analyst. I’ve always been interested in applying novel analytic approaches to understand which components of our interventions worked and for whom. I hadn’t considered using alternative study designs, despite the fact that I knew that interventions were not fully answering these questions. When I met Linda, I knew MOST was exactly what was needed to understand how interventions work. So I came to Penn State to learn to apply MOST to behavioral interventions. I haven’t looked back since.

MC: Tell me more about why you are passionate about this research.

KK: My interest is in HIV, and sexual health more broadly, and that began during my undergraduate days. As a biology major, I was fascinated by a virus that uses a person’s DNA to replicate itself and is transmitted by a behavior that’s at the heart of human existence—we are all born sexual beings. In the U.S., HIV disproportionately affects gay men, and it affects every aspect of life—social, psychological, political, economical. There was, and unfortunately still is, a desperately unfair stigma with this disease. So my “call to action” was to try be a voice for the voiceless through my research—I don’t have the personality to stand on the steps of Capitol Hill, but I can bring awareness to those at risk, compassion for those that are infected, and find ways to make their lives better.

My interest in sexual health more broadly stemmed from my experiences working with a team of interventionists in sub-Saharan Africa who were interested in preventing the spread of HIV among young people. When the researchers asked the community members what their top 10 concerns related to health were, HIV wasn’t mentioned, despite the local HIV/AIDS epidemic that was eliminating the work force. Instead, they mentioned sexual and reproductive health. It was clear that we needed to reframe our messages to match their concerns. Fortunately, in this case, their concerns and our mission matched very neatly. This experience shaped both my research interests and how I conduct research in at-risk communities.

MC: Why should people care about MOST?

KK: What I love about MOST is that it is systematic process that builds on previous iterations of work. I whole-heartedly believe that in using MOST we can build better science that will have a greater impact on public health. In grad school, I understood why we used the two-arm randomized controlled trial to test the effects of our often multi-component interventions, but we were at a loss when it came time to make decisions about what to keep during the next round of experimentation. I love that, as MOST gets used more, we will build a body of evidence to guide that process more efficiently.

MC: What are you working on that you are particularly excited about?

KK: I am part of a team that was just awarded a grant to look at the intersection of alcohol and sex among college students. We are using MOST, and it’s amazing to put my experiences and training together: MOST and intervention development targeting the sexual behaviors of young people. I am hopeful this study serves as a springboard for even more prevention efforts to have an impact on all things related to sex!

New Grant To Engineer Better STI Prevention For College Students

September 28, 2015:
blank MOST flowchart
Congratulations to the team of researchers from The Methodology Center and University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) on their recently awarded grant, “Engineering an Online STI Prevention Program.” One in four students will be diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection (STI) over the course of their collegiate careers. Binge drinking, which is common among college students, contributes to STI risk factors like casual sex, unprotected sex, and multiple-partner sexual experiences. The research team for this National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism-funded project will use the multiphase optimization strategy (MOST) to design an optimized, internet-based intervention that targets the intersection of alcohol use and risky sex among college students.

MOST enables researchers to engineer effective and efficient behavioral interventions. In this study, the researchers will use MOST to strengthen intervention components aimed at reducing risky drinking, risky sex, and their co-occurrence, and then using the strengthened components to form an optimized intervention. The research team comprises Linda Collins, director of The Methodology Center; David Wyrick, associate professor of public health education at UNCG; Kari Kugler, Methodology Center investigator; Amanda Tanner, assistant professor of public health at UNCG; and Jeff Milroy, associate director of the Institute to Promote Athlete Health & Wellness at UNCG. The project has three aims: to develop and pilot test intervention components targeting the link between alcohol use and sexual risk behaviors, to build an optimized preventive intervention, and to evaluate the new intervention’s effectiveness through a randomized controlled trial. The resulting intervention will be designed to reduce STI incidence among college students and provide a knowledge base for STI-prevention interventions for other at-risk populations.