Science Directions

Lest you forget, we are now more than one month into the Decade of Behavior (2000-10). One month down, 119 to go. A decade is a long time and there is much to do. Permit me to give you a brief update on two of our major projects for the first year and beyond.

Two years ago this month, the APA Council of Representatives endorsed with enthusiasm the concept of the Decade of Behavior. It seems like such a long time ago. Since then, my colleagues and I have been approaching behavioral and social science organizations and federal agencies to build up a base of support for this exciting initiative. In addition, we have worked with Senate supporters, federal agency heads and the Executive Office of the President to make our case for a presidential proclamation establishing the years 2000-10 as the Decade of Behavior. I hope that our efforts will be successful early in the New Year. While we have been working diligently to interest President Clinton in our initiative, we have also been working on several fronts to develop major projects that are linked to the Decade of Behavior. Two of these projects are described below.

A landmark series for television

No, I'm not talking about "Sports Night," even though it is my personal favorite. I am referring to a prime time series linked to Decade of Behavior themes that will air on PBS stations nationwide early in the decade. We have the good fortune of working with WETA, the PBS affiliate in Northern Virginia, and Richard Thomas, a talented executive producer, together with the Educational Film Center and its president, Steve Rabin. Our plan is to produce a NOVA-style, five-part video series on topics in the behavioral and social sciences that will have broad appeal and significant educational impact. Tentative topics for the series include: The Self; Relationships; Risk, Danger and Violence; Learning; and Human Dimensions of Technology. A National Science Foundation (NSF) grant will be submitted in the spring, and additional support will be solicited from corporations, foundations and federal agencies.

Television stations in Europe and Asia have expressed interest in acquiring broadcast rights even at this early stage. Our plan is to include two additional episodes that will address issues in health and behavior, an area not supported by NSF.

This video project was initiated at the suggestion of National Advisory Committee member Bob Bjork of UCLA. Thanks to Bob's previous involvement with the CPB-Annenberg Project, I was introduced to one of his colleagues, Michael Strait. Michael was kind enough to introduce our Decade of Behavior concept to Richard Thomas at WETA and has given generously of his time to nurture this project along. I will keep you informed of our progress on this important public education effort.

One-stop shopping

Imagine a place where faculty, postdocs and graduate students in the behavioral and social sciences could go to access a comprehensive and searchable database on funding opportunities. Late last summer, Bennett Bertenthal and his colleagues at the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE) Directorate at NSF convened a workshop for officials at foundations and other federal agencies to discuss the landscape of funding initiatives in the behavioral and social sciences.

One outcome of that workshop was an effort by Bennett and his colleague, John Gawalt, to develop a prototype web site providing information about funding opportunities in a searchable format. We approached NSF about the possibility of developing this valuable resource further and hosting it on our Decade of Behavior web site. Our offer was generously supported by Bennett and was discussed by the SBE Advisory Committee at its November meeting.

It has also received the approval of NSF Director Rita Colwell. Our plan is to expand the funding information on the web site with the assistance of John and his colleagues at NSF and unveil this new Decade of Behavior resource by June 1. None of this would be possible without the support and cooperation of our colleagues in MIS, Internet Services and the Science Directorate at APA.

There are many other exciting initiatives planned around the Decade of Behavior. The only way to keep up with the activities is to visit our web site frequently at www.decadeofbehavior.org. This is our decade, so let's make the most of it!

Our plan is to produce a NOVA-style, five-part video series on topics in the behavioral and social sciences that will have broad appeal and significant educational impact.