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New APA Task Force on Psychology as a STEM Discipline

The group will explore why psychology isn't always considered a science, technology, engineering and mathematics discipline and what to do in response.

By Howard S. Kurtzman, PhD

APA President James Bray has established a Task Force on the Future of Psychological Science as a STEM Discipline. STEM - which stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics - is a term that is frequently used in discussions and efforts aimed at improving science funding and education in the United States. Psychology faces the challenge that it is not consistently categorized as a STEM discipline and thus is often excluded from federal and private initiatives to advance STEM research and training.

The aim of the task force is to examine why psychology is not always considered to be a STEM discipline, articulate the arguments for inclusion of psychology among STEM disciplines, and develop an advocacy strategy for putting forward those arguments to relevant leaders and institutions.

The members of the task force, appointed by President Bray, are: John Dovidio (Yale University), chair; Frank Durso (Georgia Tech); David Francis (University of Houston); David Klahr (Carnegie Mellon University); Jennifer Manly (Columbia University); and Valerie Reyna (Cornell University). The APA Science Directorate and Education Directorate are jointly supporting the task force's work. A report and recommendations from the task force are expected in early 2010.

A session at the APA Convention in August, led by Dovidio, served as a forum for initial discussion between the task force and the broader psychological community. Attendees of the session, who included researchers, teachers, and academic and government administrators, talked about the need for research and graduate training in psychology to become more fully interdisciplinary and for psychological practice to become more evidence-based. They went on to discuss the merits of such ideas as labeling departments "psychological science," locating them within colleges of science, and offering the option of B.S. and B.A. tracks to undergraduate psychology majors. Also addressed were the goals of making high school and undergraduate psychology curricula more rigorous and of enhancing the scientific expertise of high school teachers of psychology.

The task force invites further comments and suggestions. Please send your thoughts to Howard Kurtzman of the Science Directorate.