BSA: Springing ahead

Report from the spring 2011 meeting of the APA Board of Scientific Affairs.

By Robyn Fivush

The Board of Scientific Affairs had an exciting agenda for its spring meeting, which was held on March 25-27 in Washington, DC, as part of the consolidated meetings of the American Psychological Association’s governance groups.  The board members met for a retreat before the actual meetings began in order to have more intensive time to discuss critical issues in working with the Science Directorate and the rest of APA governance in advocating for psychological science.  Issues arising from the retreat reverberated throughout the three days of meetings. 

he members of the board were particularly enthusiastic about the response generated by the APA task force report on Psychology as a Core STEM Discipline (PDF, 113 KB), which was highlighted at the 2010 Convention in San Diego and was the focus of the 2010 Science Leadership Conference held last November.   The Science Leadership Conference, in particular, was enormously productive in setting specific action items for advocacy.  A summary of these proposed initiatives was published in Psychological Science Agenda in March 2011, and members of BSA were pleased to see that many of these action items are already in process. 

Perhaps most important, the members of BSA applauded the extension of APA’s public education campaign to include public education about psychological science.   This was among the main action items generated at the Science Leadership Conference.  We were excited to hear from APA staff about plans to begin more targeted messages about the role of basic psychological science.  This program is part of APA’s strategic plan as well as one of BSA’s major areas of interest.   BSA will also be working more closely with the Board of Educational Affairs on this initiative.  It seems that many constituencies are converging on this important public messaging campaign, and BSA is committed to educational outreach as one of our essential projects.  

A second emergent theme concerned increasing membership in APA, especially among scientists.  The members of BSA discussed at length how to communicate to scientists the critical role that APA plays in maintaining and extending psychology’s role in the science community.  As part of these discussions, BSA had conversations with the Membership Board and with representatives of the early career psychologist and graduate student APA members.  We believe it is imperative to understand why young psychological scientists may or may not be joining APA in order to communicate more effectively why APA membership is so important. 

Much of the discussion about membership, not surprisingly, focused on the strengths of APA as an advocate for psychological science, including research opportunities and funding.  This led into discussions of changes and challenges in the current funding situation, and the increasingly central role that interdisciplinary research teams will play in future funding opportunities.  The members of BSA agree that APA can play an important role in facilitating this transition for psychological scientists, by providing training, resources and opportunities for psychologists to participate in interdisciplinary research teams.  Several specific action items relevant to this initiative were discussed, and we are optimistic that APA will provide the necessary support for BSA to continue to develop these ideas and make them into realties. 

Robyn Fivush (Emory University) is a member of the Board of Scientific Affairs, the primary APA governance body concerned with the advancement of psychology as a science.