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Univ. of North Carolina at Charlotte
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University of Missouri
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Binghamton Univ., SUNY
Graduate Student Representative
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Representative to APA Council
Lewis P. Lipsitt (8/04-07)
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University of Kentucky
Irving Biederman (Awards)
University of Southern California
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Charles L. Brewer
I don’t know whether it’s a natural consequence of aging, or has something more to do with one’s position on a professional career track, but it’s clear that a person’s concerns and perspective change over time. Early in my career I was very concerned with the success of my own endeavors (articles, grant proposals, etc.). I still am, of course, but somewhat less so than before. However, there may be a conservation principle at play here, because as concern for my own endeavors has decreased, broader concerns for the field have increased. I would like to briefly discuss here concerns at the level of the Division/APA and of the field at large.
Division 3 membership has held relatively steady over the past few years, but I’m not sure that is a good thing. Looking through the rolls on the APA website it seems that many of the members listed are retired and in a few cases the member listed is actually deceased. (The lack of good record keeping by APA is a separate issue with which I am not concerned today.) I haven’t had time to calculate the mean age, but it is clearly quite high. We need to bring in more young members. One program we have instituted is the annual New Investigator Awards, for the best paper in each of the JEPs that is authored or co-authored by a recent Ph. D. The Division underwrites one year’s membership in the American Psychological Association and five year’s membership in Division 3 for each of these award winners.
Recently, the Executive Committee has taken some steps to more directly involve graduate students. We now have a graduate student representative on the Division 3 Executive Committee, Rebecca Singer of the University of Kentucky (see her column in this Newsletter). Her term is 2006-2007; at the end of her term the next representative will be Dan Brooks of the University of Iowa. We have also instituted a prize for the best poster by a graduate student in a divisional poster session at the APA convention in San Francisco. Additionally, at that convention we have taken a two-hour time slot that would ordinarily be filled with a symposium or with two invited addresses, and turned it into a hybrid event combining two invited addresses and a poster session on a single topic. The topic this year will be memory dynamics and the optimization of instruction. The opening talks will be given by Elizabeth Ligon Bjork and Robert Bjork. Following the talks there will be a poster session with thirteen presentations authored or co-authored by graduate students. We think these innovations will improve the appeal of the convention (and hence of APA and the Division) to graduate students. We hope to continue and expand such activities in the future. If you have thoughts about this effort, please let me know. You are encouraged to get your graduate students to apply for membership in Division 3; the application form is available on the Division website.
At the level of the field my thoughts have been heavily influenced by my association with the Federation of Behavioral, Psychological, and Cognitive Sciences (and with its relatively new spinoff, the Foundation for the Advancement of the Psychological and Brain Sciences). These organizations are devoted to bolstering the positions of psychology and related sciences. This is an ongoing struggle. If you are not familiar with the efforts of these two organizations I would urge you to check out their websites: www.thefederationonline.org, and www.fabbs.org. One of our major efforts is to improve the public image of our sciences. In my previous column as President of the Division I mentioned that Jim Pomerantz and I were interested in getting an X-Prize for psychology. (Jim is currently President of FABBS.) In that column I asked for suggestions. I think it would be fair to characterize the response as underwhelming. But that task had very specific and very demanding requirements. So let me try again with another topic that Jim and I are interested in pursuing. We call it the Rodney Dangerfield Project in honor of the comedian whose trademark line was “I don’t get no respect.” The premise underlying the endeavor is the belief that it is best to know one’s enemies, that as much as we might be tempted to dismiss misconceptions about us as foolish and misguided, these myths seem to persist. Our goal is to take them apart and better understand their origin, so that we might better counter them. Pretending they don't exist or are not worthy of our attention may be the worst way of dealing with the issue, which affects not just people's opinions of us but their willingness to fund us. Jim wrote a brilliant first draft listing numerous reasons why psychology may be undervalued both by the “man-on-the-street” and by other scientists. (Sample reason: “It’s all common sense, after all,” or to put the point differently, “Everyone is a psychologist.”) An exhaustive listing of the reasons we may be undervalued is just the start of the project. More important is the next step, coming up with concrete suggestions for overcoming the negative image psychology has in many, although fortunately not all, quarters. Of course many people are already trying to do something about this; they write good textbooks, they appear as guests on radio and TV shows, they testify before Congressional committees, etc. What we are especially interested in are any fresh new ideas you may have on this topic. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.