Science Directions

Among APA's most important activities is advocacy on behalf of scientific psychology. Advocacy takes many forms. It is educating the public to instill a better understanding of the discipline and its contributions to society. It is briefing members of Congress to reinforce the connection between research and policy goals. It is lobbying for budget appropriations that support social and behavioral science throughout the federal funding infrastructure.

APA has many tools to support its advocacy agenda. We have a large, professional staff with deep expertise. We organize congressional briefings, and we submit formal testimony on pending legislation. We work with congressional staff as they develop bills, often suggesting specific language that simultaneously supports their goals and ours. We communicate regularly with the funding agencies in pursuit of our shared interests. We nominate psychologists to serve on important boards and committees, and we place fellows in many executive branch departments.

When it comes to advocacy on behalf of scientific psychology, no other professional association in the world does more than APA.

What we do here in Washington is important. Yet it represents only a portion of the full advocacy power that we possess. Staff and briefings and social networking only get us so far. Our true advocacy strength lies in what we do as individuals and citizens.

Members of Congress and their staff hear from paid advocates every day. They hear far less frequently from their own constituents, especially when it comes to matters relating to psychological science and federal funding of research. Yet, it is the voice of constituents that is heard far more clearly by elected officials — their jobs depend on it.

This is why APA occasionally issues advocacy action alerts. When a critical piece of legislation is moving forward, and it is important for congressional leaders to hear from their constituents, we mobilize the membership. We provide instructions on how to contact congressional offices, background on the particular issue and suggestions on what to say. Your voices are heard far more clearly than ours.

It is important to respond in advocacy emergencies, and APA does what it can to make this easy and effective. It is even more important to be well prepared. Every research psychologist should learn the fundamentals of scientific advocacy. Each one of us should know the basics of communicating with our representatives in Congress.

APA created its leadership conferences with this goal in mind. In October, the Science Directorate and the Board of Scientific Affairs hosted their seventh annual Science Leadership Conference. Full coverage of the event will appear in next month's Monitor.

Nearly 100 research psychologists received training in advocacy. And then they descended on Capitol Hill. They visited the offices of their congressional representatives. They carried the messages of psychological science — support the National Institutes of Health budget, respect the peer review process and appreciate the contributions of psychological research in addressing the nation's most pressing needs.

Enabling ourselves to engage in these efforts is one of the best ways to support the discipline and to extend our contributions to society. And it defines APA's approach to effective scientific advocacy.