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BSA tackles undergraduate education, international research & science advocacy

Highlights of the spring 2013 meeting of the APA Board of Scientific Affairs.

By Leah L. Light

The Board of Scientific Affairs (BSA) met in Washington on March 15-17, 2013, as part of APA’s semi-annual consolidated meetings of governance groups. 

Among the highlights of BSA’s meeting was a discussion of the draft revision of the APA Guidelines for the Undergraduate Psychology Major, which was recently produced by a task force of the Board of Educational Affairs. The previous version (PDF, 165KB) of these guidelines was released in 2007. BSA strongly supports the task force’s approach of making explicit the distinction between needs of students who major in psychology and those who take one or a few psychology courses as part of their undergraduate studies. BSA also supports condensing the number of goals for the major from the current 10 to five. 

One of the new goals addresses the knowledge base in psychology with the remaining goals focusing on scientific inquiry and critical thinking, ethical and social responsibility, communication and professional development. BSA applauds the decision of the task force to make explicit the career possibilities afforded by an undergraduate degree in psychology. BSA also expressed support for having diversity diffused throughout the guidelines or being a major goal of its own. 

In a joint session, BSA and the Committee on International Relations considered possible projects for collaboration. Discussion focused on two topics: ethical issues encountered in carrying out international research and practice, and the challenges of increasing international research collaboration. The two groups decided to work together on a survey of scientists about ethical issues in international research and will form a committee to begin to design the survey and develop questions for it.

BSA endorsed the plans of the Science Directorate’s Government Relations Office to develop video and other online materials for training psychologists in advocating for science to their senators and representatives. The office is devoting its resources this year to this project instead of conducting a regular Science Leadership Conference. The idea is to enable a larger number of psychologists to become involved in advocacy than can be accommodated at a single conference. Another goal of the office this year is to identify officials who play important roles in science funding and policy and to help psychologists establish stronger ties with them both in Washington and at the local district level.

BSA also met with two representatives from the Membership Board to continue previous discussions about collaborative activities with the Society for Neuroscience (SfN). In fact, the Committee on Animal Research and Ethics (CARE), which reports to BSA, has worked effectively for several years with SfN on issues related to research with animals. BSA and the Membership Board encouraged CARE to continue fostering this joint effort. The discussion also encompassed the broader question of how to nurture the relationship between APA and SfN. One suggestion was that APA create communications outlets that specifically address the needs of different sectors of its membership, such as the science constituency and those interested in neuroscience, and which could be subscribed to selectively on an opt-in basis. 

On a related note, BSA explored with the representatives of the Membership Board how APA might improve upon its extant data on science members, including questions about how psychologists create their professional identities. These are also questions that might be taken up by the APA’s recently reorganized Center for Workforce Studies, which collects, analyzes and shares data on the educational pipeline and labor force of psychology and which is housed in the Science Directorate.  

BSA will continue to work on and track these topics throughout the year. Its next formal meeting will be at the consolidated meetings in November.

Leah Light, PhD (Pitzer College) is a member of the Board of Scientific Affairs, the primary APA governance body concerned with the advancement of psychology as a science.