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An Update from the Board of Scientific Affairs (BSA)

BSA and the Science Directorate are beginning a dialog at several levels - with division leaders, department chairs, university administrators, other psychological science organizations, and individual scientists at all levels of seniority.

By Suzanne Bennett Johnson, PhD

The Board of Scientific Affairs (BSA) consists of nine scientists, representing nine different areas of psychological science, elected by APA's Council of Representatives. BSA meets twice a year, in the spring and the fall, for two and a half days in Washington, DC. These meetings are called "consolidated meetings" because all of the major APA boards and committees meet at the same time.

At these meetings, BSA is updated on APA Science Directorate activities but also has an opportunity to provide consultation and commentary on issues, documents, and resolutions coming from practice, education, public interest and other areas of the association. In addition, BSA is briefed about what's happening in the federal agencies and in Congress and provides suggestions and information to public policy staff about advocacy activities and trends and issues in research funding. BSA also regularly sets aside time to discuss opportunities and challenges to psychological science and to provide input on how APA and the Science Directorate can assist, educate, or inform our colleagues and the public.

BSA is excited about several new projects. First, we developed a Culture of Service Initiative because BSA is well aware that service of all kinds - grant and manuscript review, policy and funding advocacy, communicating scientific findings to policy makers and the public, committee work at the local institutional level as well as in organized academic associations - is rarely valued or rewarded. Worse, it is often discouraged as a time-wasting activity that interferes with productivity in other areas deemed far more worthy - publications and grant-funding. BSA believes we need to change this rigid reward structure. BSA believes that the future of our science and discipline depends not only on producing good science but also on producing good leaders in our professional organizations and funding agencies. We need scientists who are willing to advocate for strong psychological science. We need scientists who are willing to take leadership roles in the institutions that regulate us, organize us and fund us. We need scientists who are willing to bring their expertise and perspectives to organizations like APA.

BSA and the Science Directorate are beginning a dialog at several levels - with division leaders, department chairs, university administrators, other psychological science organizations, and individual scientists at all levels of seniority. We hope this dialogue will identify opportunities for and barriers to service as well as strategies to create a culture in which service is more highly valued and encouraged. We feel it is especially important to model a culture of service for graduate students and to mentor new faculty to become science leaders.

Responsible conduct of research (RCR) is a second BSA initiative. There are a broad range of issues needing our attention including research ethics, data sharing, publication and authorship, peer review, conflicts of interest, navigating IRB and HIPAA issues, to name a few. These issues are important to multiple APA constituencies and require policy and education activities. Consequently, BSA is recommending that a comprehensive initiative be put into place to position APA to serve as a resource and clearinghouse for RCR issues. Products of this initiative include excellent articles produced by the Advisory Group on the Conduct of Research on the Internet, titled "Psychological Research Online," American Psychologist, 59(2), and the IRB Project Working Group titled IRBs and Psychological Science: Ensuring a Collaborative Relationship. A Task Force on Research Regulation has been established; it met in 2003 and will meet again in 2004 to develop a set of recommendations for BSA and the Science Directorate that will provide guidance for future activities. Currently the Science Directorate staff is also collaborating with the DHHS Office of Research Integrity (ORI) to put on workshops focusing on research integrity and RCR issues.

BSA's Academic Enhancement Initiative started a few years ago and includes the Advanced Training Institutes (ATI), Summer Science Institute and other programs. The ATIs are designed to provide psychologists in-depth training in the use of a variety of scientific methods such as fMRI, structural equation modeling in longitudinal research, accessing and using large scale data bases, and meta-analytic procedures. New ATIs are always under development to respond to the needs of the scientific community and the availability of new methods, tools, and approaches.

BSA also oversees the activities of its standing committees - the Committee on Psychological Tests and Assessment, the Committee on Animal Research and Ethics, and the Committee on Scientific Awards, and receives reports from collaborative groups such as the Joint Committee on Testing Practices. BSA's Task Force on Psychological Testing on the Internet recently published a shorten version of its report, "Psychological Testing on the Internet: New Problems, Old Issues" in the American Psychologist, 59(3). Among the many other topics that BSA discussed were definitional issues of evidence-based practice; threats to the free circulation of scientists and scientific information; future opportunities for psychological scientists, and ideas for future APA activities.

BSA oversees APA's science-related activities with other organizations through the appointment of liaisons to these organizations. APA has liaisons to the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care; the American Association for the Advancement of Science; the College on Problems of Drug Dependence; the Council of Scientific Society Presidents; the Federation of Behavioral, Psychological, and Cognitive Sciences; the International Test Commission; the Social Science Research Council; and the Society for Neuroscience. Future issues of Psychological Science Agenda will highlight these organizations and APA 's relationships with them.

The BSA meeting agenda also includes the selection of people for lecture programs and a variety of awards. BSA members selected the recipients of the 2004 Meritorious Research Service Commendation (see article this issue) and the speakers for the Master Lecture Program, the Neal Miller Annual Lecture, and the Distinguished Scientist Lecturer Programs. You can read more about these programs on the APA Science web pages.  In addition to regularly scheduled agenda items, BSA members also met with APA's past president, current president, and president-elect, to share information regarding BSA/Science Directorate initiatives and presidential initiatives, and met with APA'S CEO, Norman Anderson, to discuss his points of emphasis. And of course, BSA members found time to bring each other up to date on their research, professional, and private lives!

In November, we will all return to Washington for the fall consolidated meetings. In the meantime, we meet regularly by conference call to make sure BSA's varied and important agenda stays on track.