Science Brief

Can psychological science serve the public good?

See video of Nancy Cantor’s keynote address at the APA Science Leadership Conference.

Nancy CantorVideo link: Nancy Cantor’s address

A highlight of the American Psychological Association’s 2012 Science Leadership Conference was the Sept. 29 keynote address by Nancy Cantor, chancellor and president of Syracuse University. Cantor’s speech, titled “Can Psychological Science Serve the Public Good?,” presented a vision of “scholarship in action” in which university faculty and students engage in work that is both scholarly and responsive to the needs of their surrounding communities.  

Cantor discussed how universities can enable such work by building partnerships with community groups, by allowing greater flexibility in the organization and scheduling of academic work and by broadening criteria for tenure and promotion.

Psychological scientists are well suited, Cantor said, to engage in socially meaningful research and action, in such domains as education, health, economic development and intergroup relations. She called for psychological science and other disciplines to contribute to the solution of social problems rather than “living off” these problems by only studying them. 

Cantor received a standing ovation from the conference audience of more than 110 psychological scientists. APA has posted a video of her presentation and of the questions and answers that followed. The video, which can be watched or just listened to, is appropriate for psychologists and students interested in all areas of science, practice and policy. 

Before coming to Syracuse University in 2004, Nancy Cantor served as provost of the University of Michigan and chancellor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She received her doctorate in psychology from Stanford University and served on the faculty and as chair of the psychology department at Princeton University. She has published influential research on how people perceive their social worlds and form and act on personal goals, and played a major role in the development of social-cognitive approaches to the study of personality and its development. Cantor recently announced that she would step down from her position at Syracuse in 2014.

The theme of APA’s 2012 Science Leadership Conference was "Act Locally: Promoting Psychological Science in Our Academic Institutions and Local Communities." The conference, which was held on Sept. 27-29 in Washington, brought psychologists together to develop recommendations for strengthening research and education in psychological science and for increasing the understanding and application of psychological science in local communities.

The January 2013 issue of APA’s Monitor on Psychology includes several articles reporting on the conference:

  • Think globally, act locally
    This year's APA Science Leadership Conference explored new ways to promote psychological science within academia and the broader community.

  • Rising to the occasion
    Syracuse University Chancellor Nancy Cantor described a vision for putting psychological science to work in the community.

  • Make every dollar count
    Science Leadership Conference speakers discussed ways to promote psychological science in today’s financially lean times.

  • Culture of Service award winners
    Jacqueline S. Eccles, Bates College and UC Santa Cruz are honored.

The Monitor also appears in a digital edition.

Questions and comments about the APA Science Leadership Conference can be directed to the APA Science Directorate’s email box. Additional information about Nancy Cantor can be found at her chancellor’s website.