From the Science Directorate
Decade of Behavior: Year Two and Beyond
By Keren Yairi, Decade of Behavior Coordinating Office
Behavior matters. These two words, which so concisely capture the essence of the Decade of Behavior, have been coined as the new slogan for the Decade initiative as it charges ahead into its second year. The idea for this slogan, along with a host of other exciting plans, was generated at a recent meeting of the Decade of Behavior National Advisory Committee in Washington, DC. The committee of distinguished scientists convened in November to review the Decade’s first year of activities, plan for future years and exchange ideas with representatives from the initiative’s 64 endorsing societies about expanding programs and encompassing additional disciplines.
With its goal of highlighting how research in the behavioral and social sciences can and does address many of our nation’s toughest challenges, the Decade of Behavior has served an important function since its inception. But with the recent terrorist attacks on our country, each of the initiative’s five themes--safety, health, education, prosperity, and democracy--have taken on an even more exceptional relevance. The Decade is an ideal vehicle to demonstrate how behavioral and social science findings can help save lives and enable us to understand, prevent, or prepare for a wide range of disasters. “We are fighting the first behavioral and social science war,” says APA Chief Executive Officer Ray Fowler. So, with battle gear in hand, here’s a look at where the Decade has been and where it’s going:
Distinguished Lecture Program—Support for major addresses on Decade themes to showcase research that stretches traditional disciplinary boundaries at professional meetings of endorsing organizations. Three Distinguished Lectures were held in 2001, and five more have been selected for 2002.
Exploring Behavior Week—An annual outreach program that brings the excitement of the behavioral and social sciences to secondary schools. This October, graduate students and faculty across the country introduced psychology to middle and high school students using a downloadable lesson plan developed by APA. A psychological association in Argentina is working on a Spanish-language translation of these materials, and the effort is expanding to other disciplines as additional endorsing organizations embrace the project.
Smithsonian Lectures—A public information program, sponsored in conjunction with the Smithsonian Associates, that offers public lectures related to Decade themes. The inaugural lecture of the series highlighted the theme of “democracy” as political scientist Robert Putnam (author of Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community) gave a lively talk on civic engagement. This lecture attracted a crowd of over 200 and was so popular that it ranked as a Smithsonian “hot item” event!
Policy Seminars—An effort to translate frontier research into action by informing key individuals in the government and media about the importance of behavioral and social sciences. The first event in this program was a congressional briefing on the mechanics of election reform, jointly sponsored by the Decade and the American Political Science Association, the Consortium of Social Science Associations, and APA. A second congressional briefing is planned to address the threat of terrorism now facing our nation and will focus on such aspects as panic prevention, threat assessment, effective responses, and causes of religious fundamentalism.
FundSource—A web search tool for locating funding opportunities in the behavioral and social sciences that provides access to a database of foundations, federal agencies, and international funding sources, as well as direct links to funding source web pages. A second database is being developed to provide links to short-term training institutes and workshops across the behavioral and social science disciplines.
Special Publications—Scientific conference proceedings and journals published for the Decade effort. This effort currently includes an APA book series and special issues of the journals Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology and Psychology of Women Quarterly.
Research Awards—A new program that will cull the best applications of behavioral and social sciences in each of the Decade theme areas. Each year, endorsing societies will be invited to nominate research that has made a significant, demonstrable impact on public policy or common behavioral practice. Selected nominations will receive an award and will be featured at a forum for public policy makers.
Other plans for new programs include an interdisciplinary, web-based journal; a website dialog for information exchange across disciplines; and an effort to increase the visibility of behavioral and social science research through op-ed pieces in local and national newspapers.
With one year down and nine to go, the Decade of Behavior continues to pick up steam as it rolls along. Please stay tuned for further developments. And remember: Behavior matters.
John Cacioppo, Megan Gunnar, and Joseph LeDoux have been chosen to participate in the 2002 APA Distinguished Scientist Lecture Program. As part of this program, which is sponsored by APA’s Science Directorate, three of the seven regional psychological associations’ annual meetings will feature an address by one of the 2002 Distinguished Scientist Lecturers. The remaining four regional meetings will feature an APA G. Stanley Hall Lecturer, sponsored by APA’s Education Directorate. The Board of Scientific Affairs (BSA), with the support of the regional association presidents, developed this program 12 years ago as part of its ongoing mission to promote scientific psychology.
Cacioppo will present his research on “Social isolation and health: The subtle differences between social isolates and social stars" at the Midwestern Psychological Association meeting in Chicago, Illinois, May 2-4, 2002. Cacioppo is the Tiffany and Margaret Blake Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago. He is also the director of the social psychology program and the co-director of the University of Chicago’s Institute for Mind and Biology.
Gunnar is a professor of Child Development at the Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota, where she has taught since 1979. Her research deals with the psychobiology of stress in infants and young children, particularly the HPA system, a stress-sensitive hormonal system that plays a key role in resistance and adaptation to threat in humans. Gunnar will speak on “Stress and early development” at the New England Psychological Association meeting, October 18-19, 2002, in Nashua, New Hampshire.
LeDoux is currently the Henry and Lucy Moses Professor of Science at New York University’s Center for Neural Science. His work is focused on the brain mechanisms of memory and emotion and is funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, which has awarded him a MERIT Award and a Research Scientist Award, in addition to several research grants. LeDoux’s address, titled “Synaptic Self,” will be featured at the Southwestern Psychological Association meeting in Corpus Christi, Texas, April 18-20, 2002.
Do you know someone who would make an outstanding Distinguished Scientist Lecturer? The Board of Scientific Affairs is currently seeking nominations for the 2003 Distinguished Scientist Lecture Program. All nominations must include the nominee’s name, university affiliation, and a brief statement of recommendation. Nominees must be actively engaged in research and be excellent public speakers. Please send nominations by Friday, February 15, 2002, to Elizabeth Klint in the APA Science Directorate, 750 First Street NE, Washington, DC, 20002-4242. For further details, call (202) 336-6000 or e-mail Elizabeth Klint. More information about the Distinguished Scientist Lecturer Program, including a list of past speakers and their topics, can be found on-line.