Science Directions

When APA asks its members what they value most in our programs and activities, the answer is invariably advocacy — the work we do on behalf of psychological science to promote awareness, understanding and funding for our research. APA's Science Government Relations Office is key to our success. Organized around a professional staff of five, this office develops congressional briefings, arranges meetings with members of Congress and their staffs, networks with senior officials in all of the federal funding agencies, trains researchers to be their own advocates and mobilizes psychology's grassroots to take action. Their work is reported monthly in APA's Science Policy News.

Another key to APA's effectiveness is our participation in broader coalitions and consortia dedicated to behavioral and social sciences advocacy. APA was a founding member of the Federation of Associations in Behavioral and Brain Sciences and of the Consortium of Social Science Associations, and we participate in many other broad collective advocacy efforts.

When it comes to advocacy, there is great strength in numbers. Mobilizing our members to take action engages tens of thousands of you. Working in broader coalitions engages hundreds of thousands. Effective public education extends our reach to millions.

Recognizing that our greatest strength is in our numbers, the APA Science Government Relations Office has been developing new tools and resources designed to engage more psychologists in advocacy on behalf of the discipline. Our Stand for Science campaign encouraged individual scientists to contact their members of Congress. The campaign is now being extended to help everyone better connect with congressional representatives in their local districts.

We've developed these efforts in response to increasingly successful attacks on federal funding for social and behavioral sciences research. Members of both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate have been moving to eliminate funding for our sciences at the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. Although sequestration is often cited as the reason (see article on page 28), these attacks are really driven by political ideology.

Those who seek to eliminate federal funding for social and behavioral sciences research utilize two basic strategies. One is to deride currently funded projects on the basis of poorly understood titles and abstracts. The other is to drive a wedge between scientific disciplines, by suggesting that some are more important than others.

It is the latter strategy that requires collective advocacy in defense. In previous years, federal grants in areas of psychology were targeted for rescission. Over the past year, the targets have shifted to political science and economics. By next year, sights will be set on other disciplines within the social and behavioral sciences. The goal is to spark divisiveness and competition within closely related fields, and in the process weaken their standing in the eyes of lawmakers, funding agencies and the public.

APA stands up for psychological science. Yet, in many respects, our advocacy challenges are much bigger than psychology. We need to stand together with all of the disciplines that represent the social and behavioral sciences, and with whom we share many common goals and threats. An attack on psychology is an attack on economics; an attack on political science is an attack on psychology.

As a hub science, psychology plays a very special role. Our discipline connects as much to neuroscience as it does to sociology, as much to statistics as it does to public health, and as much to linguistics as it does to psychiatry. An effort to diminish the value of any one of these fields is an effort to diminish the value of them all. In the end, all of society loses. As Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) notes, these sciences are critical for a safer and stronger America (see article on page 11).

Now, more than ever, we need our collective resources to support behavioral and social sciences advocacy. The threats to social and behavioral sciences funding continue to grow. Driven by diminishing federal research dollars and by divisive political ideology, the future of social and behavioral research funding depends on strong and effective advocacy. We must all stand together for science.