Also in this Issue
APA Invites Applications for 2007-2008 Science Policy Fellowship
APA's Science Directorate invites psychologists to apply in January for its annual Science Policy Fellowship program. One Fellow will spend the 2007-2008 academic year working as a special assistant in an executive branch science agency, with specific, individualized placement based on the Fellow's expertise and interests. Past APA Science Policy Fellows have worked in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the National Science Foundation.
The overall goals of the program are to provide psychological scientists an invaluable learning experience in research administration and policy, while contributing to more effective use of psychological knowledge within federal science mission agencies. The prospective Fellow must demonstrate competence in scientific psychology and show strong interest in applying psychological knowledge to national science policy issues. Complete application instructions and materials are available on the Science Public Policy Office website and Dr. Heather Kelly may be contacted at (202) 336-5932 or via email for more information about the Fellowship.
Children's Mental Health Following Hurricane Katrina Highlighted on the Hill
On September 22, APA partnered with seven scientific and advocacy organizations, including the Society for Research in Child Development, in sponsoring a congressional briefing entitled, "In the Eye of the Storm: Lessons Learned from Hurricane Katrina." Psychologist Joy Osofsky of the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center and current President of Zero to Three presented data on the mental health status and needs of children following Katrina. According to her research on a cohort of 2200 older children who had been displaced, almost half met the cut-off for mental health referral, 37 percent reported experiencing previous loss or trauma, and nearly 40 percent reported feeling depressed, angry, or sad. For younger children ages 3-8, the data indicate that they have more difficulty with separation and exhibit clingy behavior. Overall, the data show that most children are resilient even when faced with traumatic events that include displacement, relocation, and loss of homes and communities. Dr. Osofky's data also demonstrate a need for intervention and supportive therapeutic services in settings that are accessible to children and their families, such as schools and community centers.
Additional speakers at the briefing included Cathy Grace, EdD, from the Mississippi State University Early Childhood Development Institute and Gary Asmus, PhD, MIS, Director of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Center for Child Development.
Psychologists Provide Over-The-Counter Advice to FDA
On September 25, two psychologists, Saul Shiffman, Professor of Psychology, Psychiatry and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Pittsburg and Ruth Day, Associate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University, were invited to present to the FDA Nonprescription Drugs Advisory Committee. The Committee was considering issues related to the analysis and interpretation of studies of consumer behavior that would support marketing a drug as an over-the-counter (OTC) product rather than as a prescription product. Dr. Shiffman's presentation focused on behavioral studies supporting switches from prescription to OTC. Dr. Day's presentation focused on the cognitive accessibility of OTC drug information.
Asked to reflect on the meeting, Dr. Shiffman said, "The discussion highlighted the importance of behavior and of psychological science in evaluations of medications for OTC status. Since candidates for OTC switch are usually drugs that are well-understood pharmacologically, and are safe when used properly, the core issue is a behavioral one, namely, how will people use the medication in an OTC setting."
Dr. Day took a long-term view in her evaluation, and made the following comments: "How successful was this FDA Advisory Committee meeting? The measure of a meeting is not always immediate. That is especially the case with this one, since no formal votes were taken. Most of the discussion and recommendations for testing comprehension of drug information were from the clinical trials tradition. Recommendations from the cognitive science and experimental psychology traditions were also given (such as methods used in my lab). These methods have already sparked attention in subsequent meetings and discussion by both the FDA and drug companies. Time will tell -- they may be used in future research designed to determine whether a prescription drug can be safely switched to over-the-counter. The public must understand the package information well enough to determine whether the drug is right for them and also understand both the benefits and risks."
Psychologists Brief Intelligence Community On "GROUPTHINK"
On September 25, three psychologists were invited by the Office of Analytic Standards and Integrity in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to provide a briefing on Capitol Hill. "Group Judgment and Intelligence Analysis: Thinking in Groups without Groupthink" featured James Surowieki, a columnist for The New Yorker and author of "The Wisdom of Crowds", who set the stage and played off his book's theme in his talk entitled "The Wisdom and Folly of Crowds: Overcoming Groupthink in Intelligence Analysis." Psychologist Dr. Reid Hastie, the Robert S. Hamada Professor of Behavioral Science at the University of Chicago's Graduate School of Business, gave a presentation entitled "How to Make Groups Wiser". Dr. Anthony Pratkanis, professor of Psychology at the University of California - Santa Cruz presented "Mitigating the Negative Decision-making Consequences of Groupthink and Other Social Pressures". Lastly, Dr. Baruch Fischhoff, Howard Heinz University Professor in the Department of Social and Decision Sciences and Department of Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University, presented "Managing Knowledge to Reduce Groupthink".
The timing of the event was fortuitous, as it brought psychological science to the fore in the midst of a media frenzy over declassified elements of the National Intelligence Estimate, a consensus document representing the combined input of 16 intelligence agencies under the umbrella of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Asked to comment on their experiences in Washington, Dr. Pratkanis said "I'm impressed with the diligence and commitment of analysts involved with intelligence work." He also noted that he's "honored that psychological science has been asked to play a role in helping the intelligence community make better decisions about some very difficult, but important issues." Dr. Fischhoff added some historical perspective: "Intelligence is a 'mind game' in the choice of method as well as the analysis of data. In the 1970s, there was a burst of interest in the intelligence community regarding research into judgment, which has become part of its training. It is gratifying to see the renewed attention to the psychological science of analyzing complex, uncertain problems."
Two additional handouts were available at the briefing:
The Decade of Behavior Honors Scholars at Capitol Hill Briefing
On October 5, APA coordinated a congressional briefing highlighting award-winning research on making workplaces and public places safer. The Capitol Hill briefing for congressional and federal agency staff, titled "Workplace and Public Safety: The Role of Behavioral Research," was sponsored by the Decade of Behavior, the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, and the National Communication Association. On behalf of the Decade of Behavior, Steven Breckler, Executive Director for Science at APA, honored David Hofmann (University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill), Michael Burke (Tulane University), and Charles Atkin (Michigan State University) for their significant contributions to this timely issue. Deborah Boehm-Davis, Chair of the Department of Psychology at George Mason University, moderated the panel of speakers.
Hofmann focused his remarks on the role that leadership and safety climate play in improving workplace safety, thereby reducing organizational costs. Burke discussed how successful training interventions can improve safety performance. In the final presentation, Atkin described effective communication campaign strategies for improving health and safety.
If you would like to read more about how behavioral research can inform workplace and public safety, please click on the PowerPoint presentation below.
Atkin's presentation (PPT, 144KB)
APA Member Convenes Research Workshop on the Psychology of Terrorism
In early October, Kevin Murphy, APA Fellow and Director of the International Center for the Study of Terrorism at Pennsylvania State University, and Boaz Ganor, founder and Executive Director of Israel's International Policy Center for Counter-Terrorism, convened an Advanced Research Workshop titled "What Do We Know About the Psychology of Terrorism?" A number of APA members participated in the workshop, with the goals of defining, in clear and non-technical language, what is known about the psychology of terrorism, particularly as it relates to the process of joining a terrorist group; identifying pressing research needs and opportunities; and communicating this knowledge to a broad audience. Murphy explained that although there have been a number of conferences over the past few years focusing on the psychology of terrorism, some of which have produced books or reports, results rarely have reached non-scientific audiences such as policymakers and federal agency staff.
For this workshop, Murphy and Ganor assembled an international, multi-disciplinary panel of leading experts from the United States, United Kingdom, Israel and Singapore to develop a statement about the psychology of terrorism. Participants drew on research, theory and accumulated expertise in the social and behavioral sciences to both "debunk" myths and misconceptions surrounding terrorism and present conclusions vital to understanding and combating terrorism. The final day of the conference included a public dissemination session attended by international representatives of research and security-related agencies, including the FBI, Defense Threat Reduction Agency, Office of Naval Research, Economic and Social Research Council and London Metropolitan Police.
Drug Abuse Liability Testing in Non-Human Animals
On October 19-20, the College on Problems of Drug Dependence (CPDD) hosted a conference in Annapolis, MD entitled "Preclinical Abuse Liability Testing: Current Methods and Future Challenges." The conference brought together more than 70 participants from government, industry, and academia, and presentations were divided into three sessions.
The first session, chaired by APA Fellow Bob Balster, focused on the role of preclinical abuse liability testing in the missions of government agencies in the U.S. and Europe (FDA, EMEA, WHO, NIDA, and DEA). APA Fellow William Woolverton provided the overview for the second session, which reviewed the three principal experimental procedures used in preclinical abuse liability testing: drug self-administration, drug discrimination, and studies of physical dependence. In particular, this session described the influence of key independent variables on experimental outcomes. The final session focused on future challenges in abuse liability testing, including strategies for testing new chemical entities (presented by APA Fellow James Woods) and new formulations of existing drugs, selection of species for experimental subjects, compliance with GLP standards (presented by APA Fellow Nancy Ator), and integration of analytic concepts from behavioral economics. Case studies were also presented to illustrate some of the nuances involved in the conduct and interpretation of abuse liability studies.
The organizing committee is reviewing the possibility of posting the program and selected slides from the conference on the CPDD website.