President's Column

I had planned on using this issue's column to urge you one last time to attend our August convention. However, in recent weeks, concerns have been expressed about the integrity of the peer-review process, and, by extension, the integrity of APA's editorial policies. These issues are of paramount importance, and I feel compelled to respond to them immediately.

Integrity of the scientific process

Preserving academic freedom, protecting the integrity of the scientific review process and promoting psychology's role in the formulation of public policy is vitally important. Today, psychology steps ever more directly into the public limelight. Our research is covered by the media--and in some cases misunderstood. Our therapeutic approaches are popularized on TV and in the movies--and in some cases distorted. Politicians use our data to strengthen public policy programs--and sometimes misuse it to support their own partisan positions. Because of all of this, we have a responsibility to protect the intent and integrity of our science and our practice while accepting the responsibility of translating our findings in a way that is useful to the public and to public policy. A credible, respected scholarly publishing program must be the bedrock of our efforts within the public communications arena.

Our strong commitment to the free exchange of ideas and the peer-review process was clearly reflected in our August 2000 Council of Representatives resolution. It is a powerful statement, and one we all support. Equally important are our Association Rules and the APA Ethics Code. Association Rule 170- 72 states "Editors are solely responsible for the content of their journals." The integrity of scientific publishing hinges on the autonomy and final authority of each journal editor in editorial decision-making. We must zealously guard this for the benefit of the field and all future editors of our scientific and professional journals.

Internet debates

The recent controversy relates to a manuscript submitted to the American Psychologist. The article described the firestorm that resulted from the 1998 Psychological Bulletin article by Rind et al on child sexual abuse. This most recent debate was in large part reported and debated on the Internet--and, in ways that, at times, I believe, were problematic. The Internet is an open forum with no rules of conduct. Therefore, as psychologists, I propose that we use our knowledge of cognition, emotion and human relations to evaluate for ourselves how we view Internet postings about controversial issues; how we gather information about the "other" side of an issue; and how we consider the entire issue in context.

I am strongly supportive of open and active debate at APA, regardless of the volume or intensity of the debate. Debate is healthy. Disagreement is healthy. Discourse is necessary for advancing knowledge. I don't always agree with you, and you don't always agree with me. What is important is not if we agree or disagree, but whether we protect the right to disagreement, while establishing some guides for how we conduct our professional disagreements.

The strength of psychology can be seen both in its support of colleagues, appreciation of their work, and the intensity of some of our debates. Assimilation of knowledge and disagreement with currently accepted knowledge have been the paths that scientists and practitioners have traveled for ages. It is how we grow, and it is how we change.