Research Agencies Are a Conventional Presence

Eighth Annual Convention Highlights

As in past years, the 1996 APS convention was the place for representatives of federal research agencies to see and be seen. They gave invited addresses, they visited with the APS Board, and they dispensed valuable advice and information about research funding opportunities to psychologists across a wide range of research interests. But it was a two-way street, with the convention providing federal representatives a chance to learn about a broad array of psychological science.

One of the convention’s invited speakers was Anne Petersen, the highest-ranking psychologist in the federal government and an APS Charter Fellow. She spoke about the current scene in Washington from the perspective of her position as the presidentially appointed Deputy Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF). Among other things, Petersen described the crisis that was touched off at the agency last year by congressional attacks on NSF’s social and behavioral science programs. Noting that those attacks galvanized the entire scientific community, Petersen also said in that the process of defending against those attacks, the leadership of NSF acquired a new level of understanding and appreciation of these sciences.

Psychologist Norman Anderson was also an invited speaker at the APS convention. As Director of the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Anderson is responsible for coordinating and promoting these sciences throughout NIH. In his address, he talked about the connections between socioeconomic status and health, and more broadly, the need for researchers in all disciplines to recognize that health status is influenced by interacting social, behavioral, psychological, and physiological factors.

Anderson saw the convention as a “real educational experience. ] went to the meeting with plans to attend as many of the behavioral neuroscience presentations as I could, since this is an area about which I am trying to learn more,” he said. “I was pleased with both the quality and the quantity of those talks and the fact that their times usually did not overlap with each other on the schedule.”

Personal Contact

Federal agencies also made their institutional presence known via the special and ever-popular Federal Poster Session, a mainstay of the APS meeting.  It is a “one-stop shopping” event during which APS members can meet the folks-most of whom are psychologists-who oversee the review and funding of behavioral science research and training grants at various institutes within NIH as well as the NSF and other federal research agencies.

During the session, these agency representatives are available to talk one-on- one about their research initiatives as well as about the nuts and bolts of applying for grants at their institutions. The Federal Poster Session was organized by Jaylan Turkkan, a psychologist and chief of the Behavioral Science Research Branch at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). “Personal contact is very important,” said Turkkan, “because each applicant’s needs and situation are unique. Broad announcements from institutes aren’t tailored enough for these individual needs.”

In addition to NIDA, other agencies participating in the session included the following:

• THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE ON AGING-the Adult Psychological Development Branch

• THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE ON CHILD HEALTH AND HUMAN DEVELOPMENT-the Human Learning and Behavior Branch and the Demographic and Behavioral Sciences Branch

• THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE ON ALCOHOL ABUSE AND ALCOHOLISM-the Treatment Research Branch

• THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF’ NEUROLOGICAL DISORDERS AND STROKE-the Developmental Neurology Branch

• THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF MENTAL HEALTH- the Division of Clinical and Treatment Research; the Prevention Research Branch; and the Division of Neuroscience and Behavioral Science, including the Behavioral, Cognitive, and Social Sciences Research Branch

• THE NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION-the Social Psychology Program

Open for Business

In addition to the Federal Poster Session, two institutes that are among the largest federal funders of behavioral science research conducted grants workshops specifically targeted to young behavioral science investigators. Again, personal contact was a key element. “It’s a chance to meet and talk with the convention participants,” said Mary Ellen Oliveri, host of one of the workshops and chief of the Behavioral, Cognitive, and Social Sciences Research Branch in the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). “NIMH has been trying hard for the past few years to reach out to newer investigators, and we’ve found that having opportunities like the workshop at settings like the APS meeting is a great way to initiate contacts that often lead to more long-term individual consultations. “Ultimately,” said Oliveri, “we think there is research funded that might not have been otherwise,  which is a wonderful outcome.” NIDA conducted a similar workshop, titled “Cents and Sensibility: How to Support Your Career in Drug Abuse Research.” Geared toward younger investigators, the workshop was an opportunity for scientists to learn about NIDNs scientific priorities and to understand the variety of funding mechanisms that are available to them for every point in their research career. These mechanisms range from pre- and postdoctoral fellowships to small grants such as B/START, to mentored K awards all the way to mechanisms appropriate to senior scientists. Speaking during the workshop, cohost Turkkan emphasized the need for all investigators to follow the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts very closely so they don’t miss out on funding opportunities as they arise. Workshop co-host Tim Condon, NIDA’s newly named Associate Director for Science Policy, underscored NIDA’s commitment to training young investigators, noting that funding for training at NIDA has increased dramatically in recent years.

“As always, we were delighted to participate in this year’s APS convention,” said Condon. “Under the leadership of Alan Leshner [director of NIDA], we’re broadening the Institute’s portfolio in behavioral science, so we see the convention as a great opportunity to expand our efforts to recruit APS members as NIDA grantees in the field of drug abuse and addiction.”

“If nothing else, we want APS members to know about our expanded portfolio,” added Condon. “As I like to put it, NIDA is open for business,” he said.

Anderson and Condon were among the senior federal officials who met with the APS Board, which traditionally convenes just prior to the annual meeting. (See story on page 23.)

Both the Federal Poster Session and the grants workshops will be part of the 1997 APS Convention in Washington, DC. Watch upcoming issues of the Observer for further information .

Observer Vol.9, No.4 July/August, 1996

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