Science Directions

Was there anything important I forgot to tell you or didn't say often enough in my preceding columns? This is my last chance to speak to you. As of Jan.1, I will be back in civilian life at Hofstra University, where I will be working again with students, doing research and writing about it.

When I first accepted this job, I received many congratulatory letters, notes and e-mails, some with an addendum asking, "How could a nice guy like you want to give up the academic life and research for administration and policy work?" One colleague sent me condolences after congratulating me. Now, as word has gotten around that I am leaving, phone calls are coming in hesitatingly inquiring whether I was mistreated, abused or pushed into moving traffic, and whether that is why I am leaving. In fact, I have had a very exciting time at APA and found the staff here to be marvelous in every way.

So why am I leaving? The answer is at least as complex as the answer to the question of why I came. Some parts of the answer are personal: My wife lives in New York, while I work in Washington, D.C. As a result, we see one another only on weekends. I'm a slow learner, but I have discovered that other couples manage to live together seven days a week.

Other parts of the answer are professional: I love to do research, and my job in D.C. does not allow that, even though it does allow me to influence policy (at least it promotes my thinking that I influence policy) and to have the opportunity to fight for the science of, and the scientists in, psychology. It was not an easy decision for me to come, and it has not been an easy decision for me to leave. But I have resolved this conflict in favor of leaving.

So what do I have left to tell you?

It is that, as scientists, we cannot remain in the laboratory all of the time; we must come out periodically to deal with issues indirectly related to research. Thus, in a time of terrorism, we must think about how our basic science can be used to help.

We don't all have to become applied researchers, but we've been able to connect the relevant experts with the right government agencies to show how psychology can help. We also need to work to maintain the support to do our basic research; we must concern ourselves with convincing the government of the importance of our work. And, in order to accomplish that, we must persuade the public at large that psychology is a significant science that society needs in order to survive and to thrive.

That means that all of us must contribute to the cause of promoting research support. In some cases, we can do that by working on that full time for a while; in others, we can do it by devoting our careers to such activity. Some of us can help by simply visiting our senators and representatives, convincing them that research awards are important; others of us must write about our work so that laypeople will appreciate what we do. We must educate our fellow educators and fellow scientists about the science of psychology. We must all take turns to help.

But now that I've done a lot of that, I want to come back to join those of you that I have been working for. See you in the journals.

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