Psychology can take a leadership role in helping different
disciplines come together to address society’s top priorities,
including health care and environmental sustainability.
BY REBECCA A. CLAY
It’s well-accepted that no one discipline has the answer to difficult challenges in such areas as health care, education and the environment, said Cynthia D. Belar, PhD, executive
research,” said Belar, pointing to a 2005 Scientometrics study
by Kevin W. Boyack, PhD, and others. Using publication data
to see where articles were being cited, the study showed that
director of APA’s Education Directorate. Belar kicked off the
psychology was one of seven science hubs, along with such
association’s 2011 Education Leadership Conference on Sept. 10.
disciplines as physics, chemistry and medicine.
The annual meeting, during
which psychologists visit
policymakers on Capitol Hill
to advocate for psychology’s
educational priorities, focused
this year on interdisciplinary
teaching, research and practice.
“Interdisciplinarity,” Belar told
almost 150 representatives
of psychology education and
training groups, psychological
APA divisions and APA
refers to different disciplines
working independently to
address various aspects of
a problem, Belar explained,
“interdisciplinary” means two
or more disciplines coming
together to solve problems
beyond the scope of a single
discipline. “It’s working
is also becoming more
interdisciplinary, said Belar,
although in this realm,
“interprofessional” is the
term used more often. For
example, health-care reform
care in which psychologists
work as members of
primary-care teams to
Also on the rise is
in which students from two
or more disciplines learn
from and with each other to
improve collaboration and
health outcomes. Within
psychology, the Graduate
program, housed in the
Bureau of Health Professions
at the Health Resources and
Services Administration, has
together to create something
interdisciplinary training at
different, not just a parallel
“We don’t have to smash our silos, but we do need to foster
interconnectivity,” said APA’s Dr. Cynthia D. Belar.
process,” she said.
Interdisciplinarity is a growing trend in research, said Belar.
The percentage of government funding going into multi-
investigator projects has increased dramatically, for example.
At the National Science Foundation, the percentage of funding
going to single-investigator projects plummeted from 88
percent in 1988 to just 38 percent in 2010.
“Psychology really is a hub science for interdisciplinary
Belar concluded with
a call for a double agenda. “We must provide adequate
preparation for our own work force and advance
psychological science to teach teamwork in other disciplines
as well,” she said. “We don’t have to smash our silos, but we
do need to foster interconnectivity.” n