There is an inaccurate perception among many APA members that other organizations associated with psychological science engage in significantly more advocacy for science and scientific research than APA does. Fortunately, this perception is false. Among the Science Directorate staff are five experienced and assertive government relations professionals who devote their time solely to science advocacy. The psychological science community benefits from their hard work advocating both in Congress and the executive branch.
A top goal of the Science Government Relations Office (GRO) is to educate Congress about the importance of appropriations for federal agencies that support psychological research. The office also develops and delivers testimony to congressional committees in support of their policy priorities and in favor of enhanced funding for psychological science. Recent testimony addressed funding at the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Defense and the National Science Foundation. Space considerations do not allow me to describe the full panorama of APA's advocacy on behalf of science, but what follows will give members a taste.
Of particular interest to me is advocacy for research funding within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Late last year, staff of Science GRO, along with colleagues from the Friends of VA Medical Care and Health Research coalition, met with staff of the White House Office of Management and Budget. In particular, APA urged the White House to maintain its investment in the VA's intramural research program. In February, Science GRO staff organized a Capitol Hill lobby day for the executive committee of the Association of VA Psychologist Leaders (AVAPL). This prepared AVAPL executive committee members to be more sophisticated advocates as they, along with GRO representatives, met with congressional staff with jurisdiction over VA research programs.
APA is intimately involved in and supports three major scientific coalitions: The Council of Professional Associations on Federal Statistics, the Consortium of Social Science Associations, and the Federation of Associations in Behavioral and Brain Sciences. Last fall, APA collaborated with the federation to host a scientific advocacy training webinar to prepare psychologists to meet with their congressional representatives about threats to diminish support for scientific research funding. To enhance their advocacy, participants learned about these threats and how to effectively communicate the importance of their research within their local districts and states.
The Science GRO also advocates on behalf of research with animals. In 2012, members of APA's Committee on Animal Research and Ethics made 14 visits to Capitol Hill to express concerns about budget cuts and the negative impact on human diseases and disorders of an almost complete ban on any kind of funding and research with primates.
Advocacy on behalf of science also includes work that affects the public interest. APA works with the association's Public Interest Directorate staff on several initiatives, such as increasing the diversity of the scientific workforce. A 2011 study commissioned by the National Institutes of Health found different funding success rates between black and white applicants for RO1 grants. APA participated in the exploration of causes and solutions. In addition, APA has had a long history of urging a more visible commitment by NIH to research related to the health of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning patients. APA has testified before the Institute of Medicine on the need for more research on the nature and development of gender identity and sexual orientation and their interactions with other biological, psychological, social and cultural factors.
What I have described is but a sampling of the Science Directorate's efforts to advocate for science and scientists.
To find out more about our future (and past) science advocacy, read the APA Science Policy News.
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