Executive Director's Column

APA Governance 101: Science

Steven Breckler focuses on APA governance: Boards and Committees, with specific reference to those that serve the science community.

By Steven Breckler, PhD

Last month, I discussed the organization of APA governance at the broadest level of the association. I described the APA Council of Representatives, and the Board of Directors (technically, the Executive Committee of the Council). This month, I will focus on another facet of APA governance: Boards and Committees, with specific reference to those that serve the science community.

The APA bylaws establish a system of Boards, one set of which aligns with the central office organization of Directorates. The Board of Scientific Affairs (BSA) is the one designated with responsibility for the APA science community, and it provides oversight for the APA Science Directorate. Similar Boards are aligned with the Education Directorate (Board of Educational Affairs, BEA), the Practice Directorate (Board of Professional Affairs, BPA), and the Public Interest Directorate (Board for the Advancement of Psychology in the Public Interest, BAPPI). Other Boards provide oversight for convention, publications, and policy and planning.

The Board of Scientific Affairs (BSA) is responsible for liaison with agencies giving financial support to scientific projects, for awards and honors in recognition of scientific achievement, and for seeking new ways in which the Association can assist scientific activities. BSA oversees scientific programming at the APA Annual Convention and psychology's relations with other scientific bodies (APA Board of Scientific Affairs). Nine members serve terms of three years each.

The Boards also provide oversight for Committees, which tend to focus on specific aspects of association business such as finance, membership, ethics, and elections. Falling within the scope of BSA are five committees:

  • Committee on Animal Research and Ethics (CARE)

  • Committee on Scientific Awards (COSA)

  • Committee on Psychological Tests and Assessment (CPTA)

  • Ad Hoc Committee to Advance Research (CAR)

  • APA Student Science Council (APASSC)

The organization is not quite as simple as it may seem. For example, three of the science-oriented committees are continuing committees (CARE, COSA, and CPTA), which means that they are specifically mandated as part of the Association Rules (view the rules online), and they have an indefinite duration. In contrast, the Committee to Advance Research (CAR) is an ad hoc committee - it was created to address a specific set of issues, and for limited duration. Although CPTA is formally designated to report through BSA, three other Boards (BPA, BEA, and BAPPI) also provide oversight.

Participation in APA governance can take many forms, and the many Boards and Committees provide some of the best ways to get involved. Most of these groups add new members every year, as old ones rotate off. Typically, a slate of candidates is formed for vacant positions, and the Board(s) that provide oversight make the selection (with ultimate approval by the APA Board of Directors).

If you have an interest in participating on one of the science-oriented Boards or Committees, you should express that interest to the chair of BSA and also to the chair of the specific committee. There is a strong desire to ensure a diversity of participation on APA Boards and Committees, and they all welcome expressions of interest.

To get a better sense of what the science-oriented committees do, here is a brief description. Much more information is available at the Science Directorate website.

Committee on Animal Research and Ethics (CARE): The charge is to (a) safeguard responsible research with animals, other than humans, and establish and maintain cooperative relations with organizations sharing common interests, (b) disseminate in cooperation with other organizations accurate information about such research, (c) review the ethics of such research and recommend guidelines for its ethical conduct, and (d) disseminate, in cooperation with other organizations, guidelines for protecting the welfare of animals, other than humans, that are used in research, teaching, and practical applications, and to consult on the implementation of these guidelines. Six members serve terms of three years each. See the CARE website for more.

Committee on Scientific Awards (COSA): The charge is to recommend to the APA Board of Directors the winners of the APA Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions and the APA Distinguished Scientific Award for the Applications of Psychology. Six members serve terms of three years each. See the COSA website for more.

Committee on Psychological Tests and Assessment (CPTA): The charge is to (a) address problems regarding sound psychological testing and assessment practices, and initiate discussions with specific agencies and institutions outside APA concerning sound testing and assessment practices; (b) review regularly the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing and recommend revision, when necessary; (c) serve as technical advisors to other APA boards and committees on all issues affecting testing and assessment as it involves policy, practice, and science; (d) monitor actions of government and other organizations concerning regulation and control of assessment and testing practices and make appropriate recommendations; (e) maintain a knowledge of and concern regarding current policy issues on the use of tests and assessment in clinical, counseling, educational, and employment settings, and (f) promote the appropriate use of tests and sound assessment practices. Nine members serve terms of three years each. See the CPTA website for more.

Ad Hoc Committee to Advance Research (CAR): The newest, limited duration committee, CAR provides expertise and oversight on research issues, particularly as they pertain to the full range of responsible conduct of research issues. The ad hoc committee will assist in the development of materials and training, provide expert advice to staff who monitor and respond to proposed legislation and regulations that affect the conduct of research, and will position APA and BSA (and its committees) to provide psychological scientists with the advice, information, and tools important to sustaining research in the evolving regulatory climate. See the CAR website for more.

APA Student Science Council (APASSC): This group represents the needs and interests of science graduate students, and advises the Science Directorate from the student perspective. The APASSC manages an annual competition for early researcher awards. The APASSC meets twice a year with the other science governance groups, and maintains connections with the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students (APAGS). Nine students, from diverse areas of psychology, serve terms of two years each. See the APASSC website for more.

Whether your interests lie at the association-wide level (Council, Board of Directors), or the domain-specific areas (BSA, CARE, COSA, CPTA, CAR, or APASSC), please consider getting involved. It is a great way for your voice to be heard and your influence to be felt.