Presidential Column

A Decade Down, A Millennium To Go

It’s hard to believe that my year as president of APS has come to a close. It was a very good year! Although the nature of APS operations means that my travel schedule was not much fuller than usual (I was in Washington only once, for example, between the two conventions), the virtual reality of APS activity meant that the goals and the activities of APS were always on my agenda. Modern technology (email and FAX) and not so modern technology (old fashioned mail and telephone calls) allow APS to be vibrant and active as well as remarkably cost effective.

APS is now 10 years old, and it is remarkable to see how far we have come. In this first decade, our membership has grown to more than 15,000 members; we have successfully launched two journals that are already among the most influential in our field; and we have accomplished many projects on the Washington funding scene.

The day to day activities of an organization inevitably take up much of the time and attention of the officers and especially the staff of APS. Other activities occur with less regularity but are crucial to the organization-selecting journal editors, negotiating contracts with publishers of our journals, renewing the contract of our incredibly talented Executive Director, appointing a new and skilled Deputy Director, and developing an investment policy that allows us to increase our reserves while still maintaining a relatively low risk portfolio. Each of these activities is an important contribution to the future health and vitality of APS.

Beyond these actions of the past year, two other events allowed us to engage in more forward thinking about APS as an organization and psychology as a field. The first occasion was the annual retreat meeting of the APS Board, held in December. The second was a summit meeting of psychological organizations, convened by APS in Santa Barbara at the end of April. Each of these meetings provided an important opportunity to go beyond “business as usual” and to think what we can do and what we can become in decades to come.

At the retreat, I urged members of the Board to think beyond our successes, to what APS might uniquely contribute in the coming years, and to begin to develop some new directions that would be consistent with our mission (and our budget!). One promising initiative that emerged was the creation of a task force, chaired by Mahzarin Banaji, to explore ways in which psychological knowledge can be disseminated effectively to audiences who can use it.

A related idea concerned a possible new journal, tentatively titled Psychological Science in the Public Interest. As envisioned by the Board, and articulated in a preliminary proposal by Steve Ceci, this journal would publish reports (some of them commissioned) analyzing topics of high interest and relevance to policy makers and consumers, such as the effectiveness of particular interventions or the evidence for popular policies.

Many other issues were raised by the Board in the course of their discussions, including consideration of technology transfer, with special interest in clinical research; undergraduate education, graduate training, and post-doctoral possibilities in psychology; and targets for additional research funding in psychology.

Many of these same issues were topics of discussion at the Santa Barbara Summit. As noted elsewhere in this issue, the Summit was an occasion for more than 90 organizations to discuss common ground and goals that could advance the cause of research in the behavioral and social sciences for years to come. An important characteristic of this meeting is that it was not a contest for resources between psychological organizations; rather it was an occasion to form a “superordinate identity” and develop an agenda that could benefit us all.

Many, many ideas came out of this meeting-certainly too many to develop in the three days that we were there. Proposals that emerged from the discussions will be considered more fully by a Steering Committee; that committee in turn will solicit members for a series of task forces that will develop action plans. Some of the ideas generated at the summit include extensions of the successful Human Capital Initiative, development of position papers on procedures for evaluating the effectiveness of psychological interventions and on the procedures for Institutional Review Boards, identification of large-scale initiatives that would build the infrastructure of behavioral and social science, and a move to encourage the creation of a Council of Behavior Science Advisors to the President, on a parallel with the Council of Economic Advisors.

Implicit in all of these discussions, I believe, was a recognition that significant advances in the knowledge base of psychological science have occurred. We are far better prepared, compared to 20 or 30 years ago, both to define and to answer important questions about human behavior. Advancing the research base of psychology even further is important; so is communicating what we already know. These are goals that both the APS Board and the larger Summit group share.

I look forward to continuing to work with APS, most immediately in my impending role as past-president, and subsequently in whatever capacity I might be useful. I also want to thank all the staff and a great many members of APS for their help and energy over the past year, and to wish Beth Loftus, our new president, a very successful move into the second decade of APS.

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