President's Column

Psychology has always been a complex discipline, with its roots in basic science providing the necessary knowledge for applied research and the development of a wide range of applications. Recently this complexity has increased significantly. For example, the advent of neuroscience has fostered collaborations among psychologists in different areas of study as well as between psychologists and those in other scientific fields (such as biology and computer science). Other well-known examples of cross-area collaboration include the social/clinical interface, increasing connections between psychologists and political scientists, and overlapping interests among psychologists and economists.

Perhaps less apparent than the increase in interdisciplinary science, but clearly as important, is the increasing internationalization of psychology. The International Union of Psychological Science currently lists 71 countries with national members in the union. And, yet, I think it's fair to say that this enormous expansion of international interest in psychology has not (yet) had much effect on the teaching and practice of psychology in the United States and perhaps in other countries as well. There is, of course, significant international collaboration in research, but the vast majority of these joint endeavors involve psychological scientists from Australia, Canada, Europe, Great Britain, and the United States. If psychology is to prosper over the long run, it is crucial to expand its presence in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, the Middle East and South America in order to truly internationalize its research base and ground its teaching in a comprehensive cross-cultural perspective.

Both interdisciplinarity and internationalization have significant implications for the professional practice of psychology. For example, there has never been a greater recognition of the need for scientists and practitioners to work together on developing evidence-based applications, and, increasingly, the science that is to be applied will be interdisciplinary. More generally, as the impact of neuroscience on clinical practice expands, this will require more of an emphasis on biology in both undergraduate and graduate curricula. The expansion of prescription privileges will have a similar effect.

Although the international influence will be more subtle, it may have an even greater impact over the long run. If the practice of psychology is to be worldwide, practitioners need to be able to have the skills necessary to interact effectively with individuals from different cultures. Moreover, different cultures have different perspectives on what practices are effective and, indeed, specific practices will be more effective in some cultures than in others. In other words, one size will not fit all. Psychologists in the United States have been increasingly aware of the importance of being multiculturally competent within our own borders, but expanding to a global constituency will constitute an enormous challenge for all psychologists regardless of their own nationality and cultural heritage.

Because I view these two themes of interdisciplinarity and internationalization to be so crucial to psychology's future, I recently sent a letter to divisions and to the Council of Representatives asking them to consider increasing the interdisciplinary and international content of divisional programming at APA's 2007 Annual Convention in San Francisco. Judging from the positive response I received from a number of divisions, I believe that it is likely that there will be increased interdisciplinary programming that includes psychologists from differing areas of expertise, emphasizes topics in psychology that draw upon research by both psychologists and non-psychologists, and encourages interactions among educators, practitioners and/or scientists.

In keeping with the international perspective, I have invited every president of a national or regional psychological association throughout the world to attend the convention. Although APA cannot cover their expenses, they will be honored guests throughout the convention activities. Those who can attend will be asked to participate in a roundtable discussion of major issues in psychology, and there will be a reception to welcome them. The divisions can also play a major role in internationalizing the convention, and I have encouraged them to invite international colleagues to attend, to include these individuals in their programming and to develop programs that emphasize a cross-cultural perspective.

I have great confidence that APA will continue-and, hopefully, expand-its strong emphasis on highlighting interdisciplinary work and developing an international perspective. Psychology is a strong discipline and will benefit from collaboration with other scientific disciplines. Moreover, while psychology has a considerable worldwide presence, its full global reach has yet to be achieved. A century from now psychologists may look back and conclude that our ability to fully embrace interdisciplinarity and internationalization was the key factor in determining psychology's achievements and status in the 22nd Century.