When APA asks its members what they value most in our programs and
Their work is reported monthly in APA’s Science Policy News.
activities, the answer is invariably advocacy — the work we do on behalf of
psychological science to promote awareness, understanding and funding
for our research. APA’s Science Government Relations Office is key to our
success. Organized around a professional staff of five, this office develops
congressional briefings, arranges meetings with members of
Congress and their staffs, networks with senior officials in all of
the federal funding agencies, trains researchers to be their own
advocates and mobilizes psychology’s grassroots to take action.
Another key to APA’s effectiveness is our participation in
broader coalitions and consortia dedicated to behavioral and
social sciences advocacy. APA was a founding member of the
Federation of Associations in Behavioral and Brain Sciences
and of the Consortium of Social Science Associations, and we
participate in many other broad collective advocacy efforts.
When it comes to advocacy, there is great strength in numbers.
Mobilizing our members to take action engages tens of thousands
of you. Working in broader coalitions engages hundreds of thou-
sands. Effective public education extends our reach to millions.
Recognizing that our greatest strength is in our numbers, the
APA Science Government Relations Office has been developing
new tools and resources designed to engage more psychologists
in advocacy on behalf of the discipline. Our Stand for Science
campaign encouraged individual scientists to contact their
members of Congress. The campaign is now being extended to
help everyone better connect with congressional representatives
in their local districts.
We’ve developed these efforts in response to increasingly
successful attacks on federal funding for social and behavioral
sciences research. Members of both the U.S. House of
Representatives and the U.S. Senate have been moving to
eliminate funding for our sciences at the National Science
Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. Although
sequestration is often cited as the reason (see article on page
28), these attacks are really driven by political ideology.
Those who seek to eliminate federal funding for social and
behavioral sciences research utilize two basic strategies. One
is to deride currently funded projects on the basis of poorly
understood titles and abstracts. The other is to drive a wedge
between scientific disciplines, by suggesting that some are more
important than others.
It is the latter strategy that requires collective advocacy in
defense. In previous years, federal grants in areas of psychology
were targeted for rescission. Over the past year, the targets have
shifted to political science and economics. By next year, sights
will be set on other disciplines within the social and behavioral
sciences. The goal is to spark divisiveness and competition
within closely related fields, and in the process weaken their
standing in the eyes of lawmakers, funding agencies and the
APA stands up for psychological science. Yet, in many
respects, our advocacy challenges are much bigger than
psychology. We need to stand together with all of the disciplines
that represent the social and behavioral sciences, and with
whom we share many common goals and threats. An attack on
psychology is an attack on economics; an attack on political
science is an attack on psychology.
As a hub science, psychology plays a very special role.
Our discipline connects as much to neuroscience as it does
to sociology, as much to statistics as it does to public health,
and as much to linguistics as it does to psychiatry. An effort
to diminish the value of any one of these fields is an effort to
diminish the value of them all. In the end, all of society loses.
As Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) notes, these sciences are
critical for a safer and stronger America (see article on page 11).
Now, more than ever, we need our collective resources to
support behavioral and social sciences advocacy. The threats to
social and behavioral sciences funding continue to grow. Driven
by diminishing federal research dollars and by divisive political
ideology, the future of social and behavioral research funding
depends on strong and effective advocacy. We must all stand
together for science. n
Standing together for science
BY DR. STEVEN J. BRECKLER • APA EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR FOR SCIENCE