Running Commentary

APA began as a scientific organization, and its expansion to include professional practice and public interest in its mission has not diminished its commitment to psychological science. When I came to APA as chief executive officer in 1989, a concern I heard most often was that the rapid growth of professional practice had led to a reduction in APA's concern for psychology as a science. If that was ever true, it is certainly not true today. APA's support for professional practice has continued to grow, and support for science has made rapid strides as well.

The myth that practice concerns absorb most of APA dues to the detriment of science is not supported by the facts. But since myths die hard, I thought it might be useful to review APA's support for psychological science and the ways APA supports the work of more than 15,000 science/academic members and promotes the scientific foundations of psychological practice as well.

The primary responsibility for APA's science initiatives rests with the Science Directorate, although significant interactions and joint projects occur with the other directorates: Education, Practice and Public Interest. APA's annual revenue from dues is more than $11 million a year, and all of that and more goes to support the programs and staff of the directorates (dues represent less than 20 percent of APA's expenditures). The base budgets of the four directorates are approximately equal. For 2001, the Science Directorate budget is $4,280,900 and there are 29 full-time positions. Over the past decade, the directorate has developed a set of initiatives that promotes psychological science among college students, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and faculty members. In addition, there are outreach programs that bring the best of psychological science to policy-makers and the public. Consider the following examples.

Research ethics. Even the casual observer is aware of the increasing oversight of psychological research projects involving humans as well as other animals. The Science Directorate is actively involved in tracking these developments and in representing the interests of APA members who are active researchers. A full-time research ethics officer within the directorate devotes considerable energy to this area and is engaged in drawing clear distinctions between the risks and benefits of behavioral and social science research versus biomedical research for those who are developing regulations.

Advocacy for science. Another strength of the Science Directorate is the Science Policy Office, which includes a staff of five. This talented group tracks federal legislation relating to research funding for psychologists, promotes investments in psychological research within many different federal agencies and represents the interests of APA members in a host of science-based coalitions. This is the largest advocacy group of any behavioral and social science organization in Washington, and may I say that it is also the most effective.

Advanced training institutes. A recent addition to Science Directorate programs is the Advanced Training Institute (ATI). The first ATI in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was held in June for 40 participants, including graduate students, postdocs and junior and senior faculty, and a second will be held this coming June at the University of Virginia. fMRI has emerged over the past several years as a powerful tool to explore brain-behavior relationships in humans.

Looking to the future. To encourage the most talented undergraduates to consider a career in psychology, the Science Directorate developed the Summer Science Institute (SSI). Now entering its sixth year, SSI brings together 32 of the finest first-and second-year college students in the nation for an intense eight days of lectures and laboratory work. Two Science Directorate programs provide support for graduate students in psychology: a dissertation fellowship program (50 at $1,000) and a travel grant program for graduate students to attend APA's Annual Convention (100 at $300).

There are many other ongoing Science Directorate programs that I can only mention. These include a scientific conference program; two small grants programs, one for regional psychological associations and one for state associations; and an outstanding newsletter (Psychological Science Agenda) that is published six times a year. Last but not least, the directorate has taken the lead in the "Decade of Behavior" initiative (see December Monitor cover story). The latest development in this regard is FundSource, a searchable database of funding opportunities in the behavioral and social sciences.

Psychological science is at the heart of everything APA does as an organization. It serves as the foundation of our training programs, our clinical interventions and our public policy positions. I am proud that APA's investments in the science of psychology have solidified APA's standing as a leading scientific and professional association.