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Advocacy Summit: Stand for Science to Advance Psychology

Participants at the May 17 APASI Advocacy Summit advocated for advances in legislation related to psychological science.

Cite this
American Psychological Association. (2021, May 25). Advocacy Summit: Stand for Science to Advance Psychology. http://www.apaservices.org/advocacy/news/stand-for-science

view of Capitol building

On May 17, more than 120 psychologists from 33 states met with their congressional delegations during the APA Services Inc.’s Advocacy Summit: Stand for Science to Advance Psychology.

APA’s vision for science

screen shot of online Advocacy summit meeting APA President Jennifer F. Kelly, PhD, ABPP, and APA Chief Science Officer Mitch Prinstein, PhD, welcomed advocates to the summit. Kelly emphasized that events such as the summit, where participants are trained to advocate for psychological science and meet with congressional representatives and staff, are “critical” for the goals APA aims to accomplish. She reminded participants that “we as constituents have the most powerful voice to remind our elected officials about why psychological science is so important. And it needs to be supported.”

Prinstein thanked the summit participants for attending, noting that it was a “great opportunity to teach people how important it is that we invest in psychological science and protect the integrity of the work we do, using it to inform policy.” He gave a special welcome to members of state psychological associations and advocacy coordinators participating in the summit, noting that they “deeply understand the importance of science advocacy.”

Prinstein also highlighted his five priorities for APA Science

First, in a world where science is changing rapidly, APA will focus on ensuring that psychological science is in “front of the cycle of scientific innovations.” Second, addressing racial and ethnic disparities in the way we conduct our science is more than overdue. “It’s time to eliminate White supremacy and serve as a model for all scientific disciplines,” said Prinstein. By doing so, he said, the work of all scholars is elevated, and psychological science will be broadly applicable to the theories, methods, approaches, and dissemination tactics that are best to help everybody. 

Third, APA science will facilitate ways to cut across subdisciplines, methodologies, and voices within psychological science to permit psychology to serve as a hub science that can speak with one voice. This effort will allow psychological science to have the most significant impact for other types of scientists who could benefit from knowing what psychology offers. Fourth, “psychology is the only scientific discipline that has something to say about every thought and feeling and behavior that every human has every hour.” Science will consider ways psychology can help the public recognize that. This effort includes training scientists to think about public dissemination of their work. 

Fifth, at this stage, APA Science will work to convince thought leaders outside of the scientific circles in corporate and workplace contexts and education and health settings, as well as policymakers, to recognize that they need psychological science to guide them in their work. Prinstein concluded by encouraging participants to sign up for APA’s new science newsletter Science Spotlight to keep abreast of Science’s progress in achieving these goals.

APA’s Chief Advocacy Officer Katherine McGuire, MS, emphasized that it was critical that participants attended the summit to “represent the voice of psychology and psychological science with Congress and find ways to keep engaging in advocacy and standing for science after the summit is over.” McGuire echoed Prinstein, noting the breadth of psychological science represented at the summit, which included research on AI, jury decision-making, new technology to preserve independence among older adults, building resilience in children, and the future of the workplace.

“Your work is critical to so many of our nation’s challenges,” said McGuire. APA Advocacy wants to ensure that psychological science is part of any new investments in research agencies. APA’s broad advocacy agenda “is only as strong as the science that it rests upon, and APA is committed to expanding opportunities for all psychologists to keep expanding the frontiers of research,” McGuire said.

Issues briefing on requests to congressional offices

To prepare for their congressional visits, APA advocacy staff and other experts briefed advocates on how they should approach the three requests they would be discussing with their congressional delegations the following day.

APA’s Deputy Chief for Scientific Affairs Advocacy Pat Kobor, MA, and Advocacy Coordinating Committee member William Stoops, PhD, provided an overview of the RISE Act (Research Investment to Spark the Economy Act of 2021) (PDF, 87KB). The bipartisan bills led by Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass), would authorize $25 billion to federal agencies, including the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Department of Defense, and the Institute of Education Sciences, to offset costs resulting from reductions in research productivity in connection with the COVID-19 global pandemic.

stand-for-science-briefing APA’s Senior Science Policy Officer Joseph Keller, PhD, and House Science Committee staffer Sarah Barber, PhD, conversed regarding the Supporting Early-Career Researchers Act (PDF, 100KB) (H.R. 144/S.37) to establish early career fellowships at NSF. The bills, introduced by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, (D-Conn.), authorize $250 million for the creation of a new two-year fellowship program at NSF for early career researchers. The bills are designed to help mitigate the adverse effects from COVID-19 on the U.S. research workforce. The Hill visits occurred just before H.R. 144 came up for a vote. The bill passed the House by a vote of 350-75 as part of a block of bills considered under the House suspension calendar.

NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) Director William Riley, PhD, provided an Update on the NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (PDF, 2.82MB). In a session moderated by APA’s Senior Director of Federal and Congressional Relations Scientific Affairs Advocacy Angela Sharpe, MG, Riley provided an overview of OBSSR’s history, functions, recent work on COVID, and future directions. Congress created OBSSR to coordinate social and behavioral research across NIH. Despite not receiving COVID-19 relief resources, OBSSR has provided critical leadership in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. OBSSR has shown how essential the office’s coordination is in supporting research designed to understand the mitigation efforts instituted to combat COVID-19.

Advocacy advice from scientists

screen shot of online Advocacy summit meeting Participants also heard from three prominent psychologists who have successfully integrated advocacy into their everyday work. They shared their experiences and the strategies used to inform policy through basic and applied psychology. The panel, moderated by doctoral student in clinical psychology Erin Kaseda, included: Vickie Mays, PhD, UCLA; Jeff McHenry, PhD, Rainier Leadership Solutions; and Margaret Bull Kovera, PhD, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York.

Interactive advocacy training and skills building

In the afternoon, advocates participated in a series of interactive breakout sessions. The sessions addressed areas such as: 

  • inviting your Member of Congress to tour your lab,
  • Q&A about congressional visits for new advocates,
  • participating in science advocacy and the Psychology PAC, and
  • using social media to communicate and advance science. 

Prinstein and McGuire also hosted a Science Advocacy Town Hall to hear participants’ ideas and answer questions about how APA supports scientists.

Honoring a congressional champion for psychology

screen shot of online Advocacy summit meeting Kelly presented Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) with APA’s Congressional Champion Award. Johnson, the first African American and woman to chair the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, has been a stalwart champion of psychology. As chair and the committee’s ranking member, she has advanced STEM education, particularly for women and underrepresented minority students. Rep. Johnson also stepped up to protect the system of NSF merit review when it came under partisan attack and defended the NSF’s Social Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate from budget cuts and misguided attacks on “wasteful” science.

APA Presidential Citations presented to Snowden and Mays

Kelly also presented APA Presidential Citations to Lonnie Snowden, PhD, of University of California, Berkeley, and Vickie Mays, PhD, of UCLA.

Kelly highlighted Snowden’s history of research-based policy development efforts focusing on mental health care access, quality, and equity. Snowden has served on several APA advisory committees and received numerous awards for his exemplary service to the discipline of psychological science.

Kelly cited Mays’ history of research and policy development in health disparities that impact communities of color, particularly the contextual factors surrounding HIV/AIDS. Mays has made vital contributions to mental health research and reporting, receiving numerous awards for her contributions.

Allyson J. Bennett, PhD, receives inaugural Leadership in Science Advocacy Award

Allyson J. Bennett, PhD McGuire presented Allyson J. Bennett, PhD, with the inaugural Leadership in Science Advocacy Award. Bennett received the award for her strong support and advocacy through the Board of Scientific Affairs and the Committee on Animal Research Ethics. Her reasoned arguments through the Speaking of Research forum, her collaborative efforts to establish the Supporting Truth About Animal Research coalition, and her leadership of animal research advocacy at the University of Wisconsin–Madison all speak to her leadership. McGuire noted no one has worked harder to advance and defend psychological science in multiple venues.

Hill visits

screen shot of online Advocacy summit meeting On May 17, 132 advocates from 35 states held 176 meetings with congressional leaders via Zoom.

Reflecting on the two-day summit, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Dorothy L. Espelage, Ph.D., noted the “APA Stand for Science advocacy on May 17, 2021 was an excellent demonstration of how psychological scientists can inform federal policy. It is clear that APA values science, advocates for funds to promote a diverse psychological science workforce and provides advocacy opportunities for all psychological scientists at all ranks. Graduate students and early to late career scientists came together on this Science Advocacy day as teams to ensure that psychological science receives the funding necessary to overcome COVID-related impacts but also to educate policymakers as to the critical research that psychological scientists conduct and this research is creating a better society.”

Advocacy Coordinating Committee chair Sharon Berry, PhD, similarly shared, “the APA Stand for Science Summit was a declaration of the importance of psychological science in every role played by psychologists, and the impact of our science on important issues facing our world (e.g., COVID pandemic, racial injustice, substance abuse, psychological/physical health).”

Following the visits, summit attendees took to Twitter (#APAAdvocacy) to thank their members of Congress for their time and reflect on their research and the legislative requests.

Amanda Zelechoski, PhD, tweeted about her conversation with Rep. Frank Mrvan (D-Ind.), and noted her appreciation of his “support for the RISE Act, the Supporting Early Career Researchers Act, and the NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research funding.”

Erin Kaseda said she felt “fortunate to have had a chance to meeting with [Senator Tammy Duckworth’s] staff about how COVID-19 impacted researchers and communities, … and how federal support of psychological science can help APA Advocacy stand for science.”

“We were grateful for our time with the staff of [Senator Tim Kaine, (D-Va.)] today and learning of his support for psychological science, including OBSSR, and addressing barriers and inequities in the science workforce,” tweeted Mary Ann McCabe, PhD, ABPP.

Siara Rouzer, PhD, tweeted “fantastic meeting with Rep. Pete Sessions’ (R-Texas) office.” She thanked Rep. Sessions for “being a cosponsor of both the RISE Act and the Early Career Researcher’s Act. I am very fortunate to have moved to a district with such strong legislative endorsement of scientific research.”

For more information, contact Angela Sharpe.

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