From the Science Student Council

The APA Science Student Council — Representing science-oriented psychology graduate students

How young psychological scientists make their opinions heard within APA.

By Elizabeth Necka

The mission of APA is “to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people’s lives.” APA represents thousands of psychologists: clinicians, consultants, educators and, of greatest relevance to the present article, research scientists. I’d like to draw your attention to the first part of that mission statement: “the creation… of psychological knowledge.” Psychological scientists, the creators of psychological knowledge, are essential to the mission of APA, so much so that there is a Science Directorate within the APA dedicated to representing researchers and dealing with issues that are relevant to them and their work.

Acknowledging that young psychological scientists — that is, science-oriented graduate students — may have different experiences from their more senior colleagues, the Science Directorate created the APA Student Science Council in 1993 to give science students a voice within the APA governance structure. Composed of nine psychology doctoral students, each representing different areas of psychological research (biopsychology, clinical psychology, cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, health psychology, I/O psychology, behavioral neuroscience, psychological methods, social/personality psychology), the APA Science Student Council advises the Board of Scientific Affairs on issues that face science-oriented graduate students.

The APA Science Student Council (APASSC) serves a number of functions within the Science Directorate. Here, we outline the APASSC agenda, detailing our tasks and responsibilities, the resources we make available to science-oriented graduate students and how students can get involved.

  • Convention Programming — The APA Annual Convention offers a number of interesting sessions and symposia, but the number of appealing options can sometimes be overwhelming. APASSC helps science-oriented graduate students zone in on symposium that are most relevant to them in order to maximize their time at convention. This year, APASSC is sponsoring three symposium sessions on issues relevant to those students who plan to pursue a science-oriented career: one on Team Science and Interdisciplinary Collaborations, one on Research Funding and one on Non-Academic Research Careers. In addition, the APASSC has teamed up with the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students (APAGS) and the APAGS Science Committee to host a poster session highlighting late-breaking research. At the convention in Honolulu, an award will be given for the best poster in this session. In the past, APASSC has also hosted convention workshops on advanced statistical methods.

  • Early Graduate Student Research Award — The APASSC recognizes that research requires funding, and that funding opportunities are scarce, especially for early graduate students. Each fall, the APASSC offers an award to graduate students early in their career (i.e., first- or second-year graduate students) who have demonstrated an ability to conduct outstanding research. Up to three $1000 awards are available annually. The award can be used for direct research expenses, as well as travel to conferences. Past recipients have conducted or proposed novel lines of research and have provided impressive discussion of the broader implications of their work. More information about past recipients and how to apply is available online. Applications are typically due by early September.

  • Attending Governance Meetings — Members of the APASSC regularly attend the APA’s semi-annual consolidated governance meetings to sit in on meetings of the Board of Scientific Affairs (BSA). In addition, the APASSC advises members of the BSA on the perspectives of science students. Past discussions with the BSA have included ideas of how to get high-school students involved in psychology, concerns over the future of scientific funding and support, and discussions of the meaning of the term “team science” and how student affiliates of the APA can more effectively pursue team science initiatives.

  • Psychological Science Agenda Articles — Psychological Science Agenda is an e-newsletter published by the Science Directorate on a monthly basis. The newsletter focuses on matters relevant to researchers, including issues of federal research policy and funding, information about awards and grants for which psychological scientists are eligible, and APA programs and opportunities for science-oriented psychologists. The APASSC contributes an article to this newsletter (like this one) each month intended to assist graduate students with various issues as they navigate the process of becoming a professional psychological scientist. Topics include those that are relevant to science-oriented graduate students, such as navigating the publishing process and making the most of the advisor-mentee relationship.

  • Government Advocacy — APASSC works with members of the APA Science Government Relations Office to stay informed about legislative decisions that affect how national budget monies are allocated toward funding scientific research. To provide a voice to science students all over the country, APASSC members have lobbied on Capitol Hill to discuss the influence that budget cuts have on the careers of young scientists and the future of scientific progress in the United States. More information on how you can get involved with government advocacy will be included in an upcoming Psychological Science Agenda article. 

Get involved. For graduate students interested in making their voice heard and taking advantage of the resources made available by the APASSC, there are many options available. By joining the APASSC list-serve, you’ll receive email updates with information about grant opportunities, student awards and more. Students can always contact the APASSC to let us know how we can better represent you, or can join the APASSC themselves. The APASSC is currently accepting applications for new members in the areas of biopsychology, cognitive psychology, developmental Psychology, I/O psychology and psychological methods. APASSC members serve a three-year term, attending meetings for two of those years. To find out more, visit the APASSC website
Applications are due June 3.

APA recognizes that the scientific pursuit of psychological knowledge is essential to its mission to improve society and people’s lives. Graduate students who are only beginning their careers are the future of that scientific pursuit, and the APA Science Student Council ensures that such science-oriented students are heard, supported and involved throughout APA.

Elizabeth (Liz) Necka is the social psychology representative on the APA Student Science Council. She is a doctoral student at the University of Chicago.