Executive Director's Column

The Second APA Science Leadership Conference

The theme of this year's meeting was Supporting and Advancing the Careers of Scientists. BSA considered a variety of themes on which to focus the second SciLC.

By Steven Breckler, PhD

The APA Board of Scientific Affairs (BSA) and the Science Directorate have been working for several years to create an annual conference for science leaders, as a companion to APA's Education- and State- Leadership conferences. The Science Leadership Conference creates a venue for the science community of psychology to gather, to identify and set priorities, and to discuss future trends and opportunities.

As a community of scientists, we face many challenges and we have so much to accomplish. We depend on our professional societies to support us and to provide the infrastructure we need to accomplish our goals. APA has always been there for us as a publisher, as an advocate, and as a place where all of psychology can come together. The Science Leadership Conference (SciLC for short) is one more way in which APA supports psychological science and the scientific tradition that we share.

SciLC 2006

The theme of this year's meeting, held earlier this month, was Supporting and Advancing the Careers of Scientists. BSA considered a variety of themes on which to focus the second SciLC. Last year's conference was focused outward, organized around the theme of The Public Face of Psychological Science. One feature of last year's meeting was the live broadcast of NPR's Science Friday, straight from the SciLC, and featuring two panels of psychologists.

This year, BSA made the decision to focus more inwardly, on ourselves as individuals and as a community. Most of the conference was focused on how we can nurture, support, shape, and advance the goals of people who pursue careers in psychological science. Participants considered threats and obstacles that stand in our way, and they developed recommendations to help APA prioritize its own efforts and programs in support of science and the careers of scientists.

A Different Kind of Meeting

Typically, when scientists meet they focus on science - telling each other about their latest experiments, theoretical insights, and methodological developments. Rarely do we meet to focus on ourselves as a community - learning how to support and facilitate our careers, addressing the need to attract new generations of students, or attending to our own diversity.

The APA Science Leadership Conference fills the void, providing a forum for the community of psychological science. Over time, I am confident that we will become a much stronger and focused community, with a shared sense of our priorities, and a collective will to achieve them. One important goal is to mobilize the psychological science community to better utilize the resources of APA.

Who Gets Invited?

People often ask who gets invited, and how they themselves can get invited to the next SciLC. For now, the conference is relatively small (about 120 participants). This is mainly because of hard constraints on the budget and the limits of what APA staff can do. Over time, the size of the meeting will hopefully grow.

In selecting participants each year, BSA developed several important principles. First, a high priority for BSA is to include scientists who are not necessarily active in APA governance. As a result, participation is not limited solely to those who currently serve or have served on the APA Council of Representatives, the APA Boards and Committees, or APA Division Executive Committees. It is important that those groups have good representation, but they are not the only groups who need to be represented.

Second, because of the constraints on conference size, participation is rotated over many years. This year's conference participants included about half who had attended the first year, and about half who attended for the first time. The same sampling will occur next year. Over time, this strategy will allow the participation of a very broad and diverse sampling of the science community.

Third, it is very important to BSA to include a good representation of early-career scientists. Most members of the APA Science Student Council (SSC) attend. This year, a large group of early-career scientists was included and a special poster session and reception was organized to help make their work known. This part of the SciLC is described elsewhere in this issue of Psychological Science Agenda.

Looking Forward

Although SciLC attendance may be small, its impact will be large. The work products of the first conference have already had a big influence on Science Directorate programs, and they have created new science-based efforts throughout APA governance. The second conference produced more ideas, and reinforced important priorities that will be developed over the next year.

In this issue of the Psychological Science Agenda, we provide brief coverage of the conference. Look for additional details to be posted on the Science Directorate website, and covered in a future issue of the APA Monitor.