Thinking strategically and collaboratively to promote psychology globally

A summary of CIRP’s activities in 2012, outline of its mission and strategic goals, and discussion of the committee’s many collaborative projects and initiatives still in development.

By Tina Q. Richardson and Puncky Paul Heppner
CIRP members, Office of International Affairs Staff, and international visitors and liaisons at the fall 2012
consolidated meetings. Back row: Merry Bullock (OIA), Chandra Mehrotra, Kurt Geisinger, Chris Stout, Puncky
Heppner; Middle row: Bonnie Nastasi, Barbara Byrne, Susan Opotow, Tina Richardson, Virginia Kwan, Jean Lau
Chin; Seated: Dana Townsend (OIA), liaisons and guests Corann Okorodudu, Ava Thompson, Janet Sigal,
Oscar Barbarin.

APA’s Committee on International Relations in Psychology (CIRP) was founded in 1944 to advise APA on the rehabilitation of European psychological laboratories and libraries after World War II. Although the committee’s mission has changed over the years in line with other societal and global changes, CIRP’s central charge is to encourage the advancement of psychological knowledge that is relevant to international affairs and to encourage the application of that knowledge to the formulation of policy in international affairs.

A central theme in the work of CIRP this last year has been a broader conceptualization of the committee’s mission and its strategic goals. We discussed ways that our efforts might intersect more closely with APA’s strategic plan in order to further APA’s involvement in the promotion of psychology and development of psychological science globally, as well as to support the association’s aspiration to excel as a principal leader and partner promoting psychological knowledge and methods to facilitate the resolution of personal, societal and global challenges in diverse, multicultural and international contexts.

It seems that such a role may provide a wonderful opportunity to expand the international perspective of APA’s entire membership, promoting ways to create a global psychology. Clearly, the magnitude of such opportunities necessitates multi-year planning and adopting multiyear global initiatives. We anticipate that these opportunities will support a proactive and outcome-oriented approach within the committee. As members conceptualized these broader roles, they began to discuss possibilities for many initiatives, developed within CIRP and developed by collaborating with other groups at APA and across national borders. To carry out this expanded vision, the committee also believed it would be functional to utilize the skills and wisdom of its former members, leading to the development of a CIRP Alumni Group that will be engaged in project development and discussion. The emphasis on ensuring that the committee’s work becomes increasingly relevant at home and abroad underscored the value of framing many of its activities within the rubric of APA's strategic plan. We look forward to future developments along these lines.

CIRP members serve as monitors to a number of governance groups and collaborate with other boards and committees to enhance APA’s international activities. CIRP’s spring meeting included interaction with the Committee on Rural Health on issues relevant to APA’s U.N. representation; the fall meeting included a discussion with the Committee on Ethnic Minority Affairs to work on finding collaborative projects to address overlapping concerns, for example, discrimination against immigrant and international communities. A discussion with the Board of Scientific Affairs raised several potential projects, including working together to provide information and support for international faculty and researchers who are visiting in the United States.

Following its spring 2012 meeting, CIRP announced a new division grant program, the Division International Activities Program (DIAG). The purpose of the program is to provide seed money for divisions to promote international activities that are innovative and sustainable. CIRP gave awards for two proposals: one from Division 5 to forge an international community of scholars engaged in the advancement of psychological methods through an award and travel support; and a joint proposal from Division 2 and Division 52 to internationalize “Project Syllabus”. The awardee divisions will be invited to attend the CIRP-division breakfast at convention in Honolulu to present a report on their work.

CIRP Co-Chairs Tina Richardson and Puncky Heppner at the 2012 Psychology Day at the United Nations in New York CityCIRP has also been ambitious in initiating new projects. For example, CIRP is in the process of creating a special journal issue to facilitate international research among psychologists and to provide practical resources and references for psychologists interested in establishing cross-national projects. Another project is to develop a brochure on test use internationally, which will discuss differences between translation and adaption (indicating advantages/disadvantages) and will stress that simply translating an instrument is insufficient for international use. Another project in the works is a brochure aimed at facilitating the initiation of international research collaboration; we believe that such a brochure will serve multiple uses — as a guide for researchers and also as a way to initiate and spark conversations with potential research partners. Yet another project is to update the Resolution on Culture and Gender Awareness in International Psychology that was adopted by the Council of Representatives in 2004. CIRP believes that this revision is an excellent opportunity to collaborate with other APA divisions, such as divisions 35 (Women), 45 (Ethnic Minorities Issues) and 52 (International), and to focus in greater detail on the intersection of diversity and internationalization.

CIRP will also be active at the 2013 APA Annual Convention in Honolulu. Due to the wonderful attendance and success of CIRP’s previous roundtables on internationalizing psychology, held in collaboration with the graduate student organization APAGS, this program will be repeated again in Honolulu. A second program will be a symposium by APA’s U.N. representatives, who have been active and successful in their outreach efforts. As usual, CIRP will also be involved in a number of social programs that promote the internationalization of psychology, including the annual “Reception for International Visitors” and the breakfast meeting for CIRP’s division liaisons.

CIRP continued its collaborative focus outside U.S. borders and has been in close communication with leaders from the International Association of Applied Psychology and the International Union of Psychological Science. In addition, CIRP invited Dr. Ava Thompson from the College of the Bahamas to attend its fall consolidated meeting and to formally speak about psychology in the Caribbean. Her presentation was attended by CIRP members, APA’s Board of Directors and other members of APA’s boards and committees. She gave an insightful depiction of the utility and challenges of developing a psychological science based on the cultural context within the Caribbean and was extremely well-received by the attendees. This approach may provide a useful model for many other countries around the world.

The 2012 CIRP committee members included Drs. Barbara Byrne, Jean Lau Chin, Virginia Kwan, Chandra Mehrotra, Bonnie Nastasi, Susan Opotow, Chris Stout and co-chairs, Puncky Heppner and Tina Q. Richardson. This group worked hard at realizing the goals of promoting psychology and the development of psychological science at home and abroad.