Science Directions

Given the hectic pace and crowded schedule of APA's Annual Convention last month, you may have missed a very important celebration: the 25th anniversary of the APA Congressional Fellowship Program. The program, which is part of the larger Congressional Science Fellowship Program administered by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), has gained in prominence over the years. APA increased its sponsorship to two Fellows in 1982, then to three fellows in 1990. The 1999­-2000 class included four Congressional Fellows.

Since 1994, APA has offered a Science Policy Fellowship to provide psychologists with direct experience in federal science policy from the perspective of federal agencies. Past Science Policy Fellows include Karen Kovacs North, now at the University of California, Santa Cruz; Paul Scott, now at the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke at the National Institutes of Health; Margaret Huyck of the Illinois Institute of Technology; and Ken Whang, now at the National Science Foundation — more about Ken in a minute. As you are reading this, the newest Science Policy Fellow, developmental psychologist Marguerite Malakoff, will be beginning her year at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at NIH.

Through the 1999­2000 year, APA has supported 70 Congressional Fellows. It may surprise readers of this column to know that a significant portion of these fellows have come from, and returned to, academia, where the fellowship has strongly enriched their teaching and research interests. A few recent academic Fellows include Heather Bullock of the University of California, Santa Cruz; David Pittenger, chair of the Psychology Department at Marietta College in Ohio; Caryn Blitz of the University of Washington; and Michael Stevenson of Ball State University. The students of each of these talented professionals are no doubt reaping the benefits of the Congressional Fellowship program as well.

Making a difference

Current and former Fellows have made a difference by infusing their training in psychology into the formulation of legislation and the development of policies that impact our nation. Over the years, our Fellows have worked on legislation relating to disabilities, aging, education, child welfare, health care, mental health services and related issues. Their involvement at ground level in the office of a senator or representative is an essential component in the process of having psychological research inform public policy. While some former Fellows have returned to academic positions, others have worked in federal agencies or the private sector. Wherever they land, they have a wellspring of experiences to draw upon from their year as a Congressional Fellow.

As an example, let me provide you with a brief sketch of our most recent Science Policy Fellow. Ken Whang received his PhD in cognitive neuroscience from Washington University at St. Louis. He was selected as an APA Congressional Fellow in the 1997­-1998 class, where he accepted a decidedly nontraditional position (for a neuroscientist!) at the Congressional Joint Economic Committee. Ken spent much of that year working on ways to evaluate the effectiveness of the Research and Development Tax Credit, and earned significant praise for his performance. Next, accepting the APA Science Policy Fellowship, he worked at the National Science Foundation (NSF), first in the office of Director Rita Colwell and then in the Education and Human Resources Directorate where he spent time on K­-12 education issues. For several months, he was detailed to the White House to work in the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Toward the end of his fellowship, Ken returned to NSF and he was recruited to stay on in a permanent staff position. We look forward to following Ken's career in the years to come.

Continuing the tradition

APA will continue as an active partner in the AAAS Congressional Fellowship Program. No one has been a bigger booster of the Fellowship program than APA President Pat DeLeon. Over the years, at points when the budget was tight and the Congressional Fellowship program loomed as a tempting target, Pat has argued instead that APA should increase its commitment to the program. A personal mentor to many of the Fellows, part of Pat's lasting gift to psychology will be a cohort of psychologists who can explain what "cloture" means, and who know that psychology must continue to make its way in a political environment in order to secure the future of the science and the profession.

Please join me in wishing "Happy Birthday — and many more" to the APA Congressional Fellowship Program. As your personal birthday gift, why not encourage your students and colleagues to consider applying to be Fellows themselves? That's a gift that will benefit us all.