Senior director's column

Senior Director's Column: It's Time for Psychology to Step Up

The vision of a vigorous science enterprise and a strong science-to-policy link dovetails well with APA’s newly revised mission statement “… to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people’s lives.”

By Merry Bullock, PhD

The website of the US Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), the advisory office to President Obama, states that the administration is “committed to restoring science to its rightful place … as a tool for crafting smart policies… That means getting the best available evidence to decision-makers…” Accomplishing this vision includes focusing on science research funding, and ensuring science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education is available to all “[t]o participate in modern society and to be a part of a reinvigorated .. economy…."

The vision of a vigorous science enterprise and a strong science-to-policy link dovetails well with APA’s newly revised mission statement “… to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people’s lives.” It also fits well with APA’s new vision statement. This statement, endorsed by the February 2009 APA council, poises APA to become the “go to” organization for professional development, training, policy and inspiration. It also calls on APA to be a "global partner promoting psychological knowledge and methods to facilitate the resolution of personal, societal and global challenges in diverse, multicultural and international contexts…and an effective champion of the application of psychology to promote human rights, health, well-being and dignity."

What does this vision mean for APA’s international policies, especially in a time of fiscal austerity? Since 2005, when the Board mandated that CIRP and the Office of International Affairs develop mechanisms for stronger APA involvement in international policy arenas, exploring international outreach, policy partners and opportunities has been a priority. Through its UN representation, APA has a forum for providing both education and advocacy on the contributions of psychological science to global issues, for example those represented by the eight UN millennium goals. Through its newly formed “International Experts Data Base” APA can recommend speakers, reviewers and consultants for global policy and program initiatives within APA and within US and global agencies.

At its recent (March, 2009) meetings, APA’s Committee on International Relations (CIRP) addressed some additional policy opportunities:

  • CIRP agreed to develop statements on the importance of an international perspective in policy arenas, with examples; and to develop fact sheets and information for the US State Department (especially for their international visitors’ programs)

  • CIRP urged APA’s UN representatives to help define how APA and other psychology organizations at the UN might approach developing a global mental health resolution and convention.

  • CIRP addressed “next steps” in the development of APA as a “learning partner” in addressing quality assurance for psychology education and training at the international level

CIRP recognized that, given APA’s present fiscal constraints, moving forward with new policy and program initiatives will be a long-term goal. They did, however, endorse laying the groundwork for accomplishing this goal, through continued monitoring and interaction with those global organizations important for bringing psychology to the table. Within psychology, these include international umbrella organizations such as the International Union of Psychological Science (IUPsyS) and its US National Committee, as well as analogous regional organizations, and individual-member international organizations. Outside of psychology these include both global umbrella organizations such as WHO, the UN, UNESCO and the World Bank, and NGOs focused on humanitarian as well as psychological work.

Interacting with these agencies will require input from across the association, and a different kind of translation – not just from science to practice, but from our science to topics that stretch the boundaries of an individual-based psychology -- sustainability, water safety, global warming, population growth, migration, and change.

We call on our help to do this – let us know about psychologists working for and with global agencies; let us know examples of the application of psychology to global challenges. Ψ