From the APA Science Student Council

Becoming a Grad-Advocate: A Graduate Guide to Advocating for the Psychological Sciences

Although getting involved in advocacy may seem daunting if you are new to the process, the APA has tools available for everything from looking up your representative’s contact information to guidelines on how to be a successful advocate

The Science Student Council is a group of nine graduate students who spend a couple of weekends a year with the Science staff, advising us on programs and activities that would benefit graduate students in psychological science. This month, and every month for the next year or so, the students will present useful information that other graduate students need to know! Visit the Science Student Council to learn more about the activities of the SSC.

Becoming a Grad-Advocate: A Graduate Guide to Advocating for the Psychological Sciences
by Suzanne Dean
 

AAs graduate students, we are so consumed by classes and research that we often lose sight of the big picture: our common goal to address societal and global challenges through advances in the psychological sciences. Although many of the grants supporting our research and work study programs are federally funded, it’s easy to take for granted the source of those funds and forget that progress in the psychological sciences is greatly dependent upon federal and state funding. Because government support is essential for the continued advancement of the psychological sciences, we as students need to play an active role in advocating for our science. Not only can advocacy be rewarding and empowering, it is a crucial activity to ensure the future of psychology and our future as psychologists. Although getting involved in advocacy may seem daunting if you are new to the process, the American Psychological Association (APA) has tools available for everything from looking up your representative’s contact information to guidelines on how to be a successful advocate.  The APA’s numerous advocacy-related resources have never made it easier to get involved.

The APA understands the importance of government support for psychological science and has a Government Relations Office (GRO) that works closely with legislators on Capitol Hill to advance the interests of psychology in federal legislation. In addition to informing legislators about psychology’s relevance to policy, advocating for increased funding for psychological research, and enhancing opportunities for educating and training psychologists, the GRO offers various resources for anyone interested in becoming an advocate:

  • APA’s “action alert” networks, which send e-mail updates to subscribers on key issues and prompt them to act when needed (e.g., calling congressional representatives when research is threatened). Sign up on APA's Government Relations page.

  • SPIN (Science Policy Insider News) [now APA Science Policy News]: A monthly e-mail newsletter to keep you current on science policy.

  • Congressional Fellowship opportunities and internships, which are listed online at APA's Government Relations page. Presently, there are four different fellowship programs with up to eight potential awardees.

  • Legislative updates, briefing sheets, testimony and other resources pertaining to a variety of issues supported by the APA, which are available online at APA's Government Relations page.

There are numerous ways in which we as graduate students can be advocates for psychology, and there is an abundance of tools and resources to help us along the way. Some students are already playing an active role advocating for the psychological sciences by serving on the Advocacy Coordinating Team of APA’s graduate student group, APAGS. Others are doing their part by emailing or calling their representatives in response to action alerts. In fact, graduate students are some of the most active respondents to the action alerts sent by the GRO. Further, graduate students have gone to Capitol Hill to voice their concerns. Recently, students from APA’s Science Student Council (APASSC) along with professionals and academics from various areas of psychology stormed Capitol Hill and successfully advocated for increases in funding for NIH (National Institutes of Health) and NSF (National Science Foundation).

Graduate student efforts to advocate for psychology have not gone unnoticed. Rather, they have helped to inform policymakers on a wide array of issues, influence policy decisions, and obtain federal funding for the psychological sciences. As the next generation of psychological scientists, it is our civic duty to advocate for psychology to ensure that legislators continue to support the psychological sciences.