On Your Behalf

  • APA supports greater public access to research in a way that promotes scientific scholarship

    The American public should have easier access to the results of federally funded research, but accomplishing that goal must be done in a way that does not impede scientific progress, said APA’s science chief, Steven J. Breckler, PhD, at a July 29 hearing.

    Breckler was invited to testify at the hearing — held by the Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census and National Archives of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Oversight and Government Reform — to discuss APA’s viewpoint on the impact of increasing public access to scientific research.

    Several legislative efforts have sought to extend public access and to establish a six-month embargo between the dates of publication and public availability through free federal government databases. The current federal public access policy requires that all National Institutes of Health grantees file an electronic version of their final, peer-reviewed manuscripts upon acceptance for publication. The manuscripts are then made publicly available through the National Library of Medicine’s PubMed Central database within a year of the official date of publication.

    But, said Breckler, among the possible unintended risks of such a policy is that it could reduce the number of peer-reviewed journals by decreasing their economic viability. Breckler pointed out that although the NIH public access policy assumes that 12 months is a sufficient embargo period to allow publishers time to recoup their investment, the data show that it’s “too short a time for many publishers — especially those in the social and behavioral sciences — to recover even a fraction of their investments.”

    Breckler explained that there is no practical one-size-fits-all model for a federal public access policy. Instead, policymakers should consider the variability among scientific disciplines in the nature of research, types of data and dissemination models, including publication schedules. Breckler emphasized that the social and behavioral sciences would be most adversely affected by a one-year or shorter embargo period because research articles in these fields have the longest shelf life. He noted that electronic access to APA journal articles in the first year after publication accounts for only 16 percent of the eventual lifetime use of those articles in a downloaded form.

    Breckler called for further research on the best methods to increase access to federally funded research. In particular, he supported the establishment of an interagency working group, which is called for in legislation currently before Congress to reauthorize the National Science Foundation and other research agencies. He also suggested that federal research agencies be mandated to educate the public about the results of federally supported research.

—Christine Jamieson

  • APA supports more research on autism, particularly among underserved populations

APA responded to a call for comment from the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee on its 2010 Strategic Plan for Autism Spectrum Disorder Research. The group is the federal advisory committee that coordinates all efforts within the Department of Health and Human Services concerning autism spectrum disorder. APA supports the comprehensive and ambitious plan for research, particularly its recognition of underserved rural and ethnic-minority populations and the need to increase research with adolescent and adult populations to further examine autism spectrum disorders across the lifespan.

  • Psychology is essential to K–12 science education, says APA

APA is urging the National Research Council’s Board on Science Education to include the behavioral and social sciences in its Draft Framework for Science Education Standards. As currently written, the NRC’s framework would keep psychology and the broader social and behavioral sciences out of future K–12 science curricula.

APA sent a letter to NRC encouraging it to include core ideas from the behavioral and social sciences. In addition, APA urged the group to revise the core ideas in the life sciences to include psychological science where appropriate and to emphasize that students learn core scientific concepts in all STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematic) disciplines through strategies developed by researchers in the social and behavioral sciences.

Following up on the letter, APA Executive Director for Science Steven J. Breckler, PhD, and representatives from across the social and behavioral science community met with NRC officials to discuss the need for revising the framework.

  • Legislation would treat psychologists as physicians in Medicare

The American Psychological Association Practice Organization (APAPO) is urging Congress to support H.R. 6147, a bill introduced by Rep. Janice Schakowsky (D-Ill.) to treat clinical psychologists as physicians when they provide clinical psychologist services under the Medicare program. The bill would accomplish this by including clinical psychologists in the Medicare “physician” definition, which already includes a number of other non-physician health-care professionals. Inclusion would allow psychologists to fully provide services to Medicare patients within the scope of their state licensure.

Clinical psychologists are key Medicare mental and behavioral health providers, delivering 40 percent of the outpatient and 70 percent of the inpatient hospital mental health services to beneficiaries. They provide the vast majority of mental health testing services, many of which are unique to their training and licensure, APAPO asserts. Clinical psychologists are addressing the ever greater need for Medicare mental health services as the beneficiary population rapidly grows, and increasingly, they are integrated with physicians and other health care providers to treat beneficiaries who have chronic or co-morbid mental and physical health conditions.

  • Psychology continues its push for technology bill that would benefit practitioners

APAPO continues to advocate for the Health Information Technology Extension for Behavioral Health Services Act of 2010, H.R. 5040. This legislation would extend health information technology funding eligibility to behavioral health, mental health and substance abuse professionals and facilities and would create a $15 million grant program for those professionals.

The bill was introduced earlier this year by Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.). As a direct result of the APAPO’s advocacy with a coalition of like-minded supporters, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) introduced the Senate companion, S. 3709, with six Democratic co-sponsors.

  • APAPO seeks to reverse proposed cuts for Medicare services

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services proposed rule on the 2011 Medicare fee schedule calls for a cut to all services as a result of the sustainable growth rate formula and changes to a measure of health-care productivity known as the medical economic index (MEI). In response, APAPO delivered a strong comment letter to CMS and reached out to other affected providers and our allies on Capitol Hill for assistance. Thanks to grassroots efforts by psychologists, the U.S. House of Representatives also delivered a bipartisan letter to CMS, urging a careful consideration of the harm that the MEI revision in the proposed rule would have on Medicare mental health services.