Executive Director's Column

The Power of Partnership

Effective scientific advocacy requires significant resources, and it depends on effective partnerships.

By Steven Breckler, PhD

The APA Science Directorate takes great pride in the work of its Government Relations Office (GRO). No other professional association in the world provides the breadth or depth of advocacy on behalf of psychological science.

The Science GRO is represented by a staff of six highly experienced professionals. Among them, they cover most of the federal agencies from which psychologists get funding: NIH, NSF, NASA, DOD, Education, DHS, and others. They know their business, and they do it extremely well. I encourage everyone to set up a subscription to the monthly newsletter, SPIN Science Policy Insider News [now APA Science Policy News]. Month after month, you can read about their efforts on your behalf.

One secret to their success is recognizing the power of partnership. The Science GRO staff are perfectly capable of working on their own, but they get much farther by working with others. Indeed, it is a deliberate strategy for effective advocacy.

When it comes to federal advocacy, we share common interests and goals with many other organizations. And nearly all of those organizations (including APA) recognize the value of working together. Scientific advocacy is about achieving desired outcomes. It is not about taking credit for those outcomes. The strategy of partnership means that we invest just as much in our relationships with other organizations as we do in ourselves.

That’s why the APA belongs to the Federation of Behavioral, Psychological, and Cognitive Sciences. It allows partnership with such groups as the Cognitive Science Society, the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, the Society for Mathematical Psychology, and 16 others.

It is also why the APA belongs to the Consortium of Social Science Associations. It brings us into partnership with the American Sociological Association, the American Economic Association, the Society for Research in Child Development, and dozens of others. There is indeed strength in numbers, and we all recognize the folly of going it alone.

Many of our partnerships are organized around more narrowly defined goals. Thus, APA belongs to the Friends of NIDA, the Friends of NICHD, the Friends of the VA, and the Coalition for National Science Funding. Not only do the Science GRO staff participate in each of these coalitions, they play leadership roles in them.

Effective scientific advocacy requires significant resources, and it depends on effective partnerships. Organizations the size of APA can afford to support their own large, professional staffs of advocacy experts. Yet it is the wise organization that invests its resources in working with others. The members of APA should take pride in knowing that we follow the course of partnership.