From the Executive Director

Answering the call, again

A major new opportunity at the National Science Foundation.

I have used this space in the past to call upon the scientific community of psychology to seize opportunities to take leadership positions in the federal funding agencies. The last time I brought this up was when a new director for the NIH Office for Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) was sought.

At the time, David Abrams was just finishing his tenure there. He did a fantastic job in representing the interests and values of behavioral and social sciences at NIH. His predecessors, including the American Psychological Association’s (APA) CEO Norman Anderson, helped to establish the Office and build a strong foundation.

Psychology – indeed all of social and behavioral science – was extremely fortunate that the call for service was answered by Robert Kaplan. He has been an extremely strong and effective leader of OBSSR.

The opportunity then was at NIH. Today, another opportunity presents itself at the National Science Foundation (NSF). NSF is recruiting for a new assistant director for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE). 

Within the organizational structure of NSF, the assistant directors serve as heads of the major directorates. These are very important and influential positions. Most of the psychology programs at NSF are housed within the SBE Directorate, and they provide much of the federal funding for basic research in psychology.

If we sit passively by, grumbling about a federal agency’s failures, then we have nobody to blame but ourselves.  It is our responsibility, as citizens, as scientists, and collectively as a discipline, to make sure that effective leadership steps forward. That means you, or somebody you know.

Yesterday, the opportunity was at OBSSR. Today it is at NSF. Tomorrow it may be at the National Institute for Mental Health or the Department of Education. We should thank the scientists who have done their duty and done it well. Yet, we must not assume that others will follow in their footsteps. We must not fall victim to a tragedy of the federal commons.

It is up to you to step forward now. Answer that call.