History and Scientific Contributions

Following establishment of the IBR in 1962, Dr. Saul B. Sells served as its Director until his retirement from this role 20 years later. He was a 1936 Ph.D. from Columbia University who trained under Robert S. Woodworth and Edward L. Thorndike. Robert I. Watson and Phillip H. Dubois served as members of his first IBR Advisory Council. Dr. D. Dwayne Simpson, a student of Dr. Sells beginning in 1966 and a member of the IBR faculty since 1970, became IBR Director in 1982 when he temporarily moved the Institute to Texas A&M University. Reestablished at TCU in 1989, the IBR’s mission and role in the University has remained essentially unchanged since it was founded. In 1996, it was designated as a “Center of Excellence” at TCU and has provided valuable training opportunities in graduate and postgraduate education, contributing to the professional success of many former students and staff members in academic and applied research leadership positions. In April 2009, Dr. Patrick M. Flynn was appointed as Director of the IBR—only the third since the Institute was established. As a Professor of Psychology and the Saul B. Sells Chair of Psychology, he is strengthening collaborative relationships with TCU’s Department of Psychology as well as continuing the long-standing tradition of providing training opportunities for IBR graduate students in health services research.

The Early Years

After Dr. Sells joined the TCU Department of Psychology in 1958 he began to formulate plans for establishing a center for applied behavioral research. His paper on “interactive psychology” [American Psychologist, 18(11), 1963] foretold his commitments to merging interests in personality profiles, selection techniques that could predict performance outcomes, and organizational functioning with real-world applications. Sells admonished fellow scientists “to consider more seriously the dimensional nature of the behavior repertoire and the measurement characteristics of his apparatus, as well as the dimensions of the environments in which the behavior occurs” within multivariate analytic process models (p. 698). He soon began drawing leading applied scientists to visit Texas and consult with him and his growing research team. His longtime drug treatment research affiliations with Robert Demaree, Dwayne Simpson, George Joe, and Don Dansereau were established in 1966-69, followed by a cadre of young scientists who came to work and train in the IBR.

As the IBR approached its 50th anniversary, several prominent scientists and policy
makers—especially from the program evaluation and addiction treatment fields—reflected on their years of experiences with Sells and the heritage he left. Robert DuPont and Karst Besteman (the first Director and Deputy Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse) recalled the pioneering role and impact of Saul Sells and his associates in conducting the first large-scale national evaluation of community-based substance abuse treatment in the U.S. Barry Brown (University of North Carolina at Wilmington), Carl Leukefeld (University of Kentucky), and George De Leon (New York University School of Medicine) noted the IBR contributions in moving treatment research beyond large-scale effectiveness evaluations into key issues of therapeutic process and field implementation of innovations. More…