FEATURE COLUMN

From the President’s Desk

Mark discusses the current number of division memberships, compares them to those from 2009 and 2010 and proposes new objectives to increase and retain future membership numbers

By Mark Greenwald

Mark Greenwald, PhDGreetings everyone! We're midway through 2011 and I'm pleased to report lots of exciting progress in Division 28. It is a privilege and blessing to serve with such talented and dedicated Executive Committee members this year. They're doing fantastic things to keep our business humming along, and I will refer to many of them below. We owe them a great debt of thanks!

Convention Update

We're one month away from the APA convention in Washington DC, and things are set for a really great meeting. Hats off and thumbs up to Larry Carter, who has done a really marvelous job as Program Chair. Please read his column in this newsletter about the latest convention-related news. If you have Division 28 program-related questions, please contact Larry Carter.

This Year's Objectives

Here's a status report on how we're meeting this year's objectives.

Objective 1:
Enhancing Membership And Early Career Psychologist (ECP) Recruitment, Engagement And Retention

To offset the historical decline in divisional membership, we're focusing on three behaviors: joining, engagement, and retention. To promote these behaviors, we're coupling incentives with persuasive messages that Division 28 offers excellent opportunities to develop one's professional identity in psychopharmacology.

Recruitment

Our plan emphasizes (1) free first-year membership to all incoming members and (2) reinforcing current members' recruiting behavior. Everyone should be invested in the health of the division. In particular, I exhort members to please "get the word out" among your trainees and colleagues about free first-year membership. This information is posted through all our electronic communication channels (see Objective 2, below) but current members are more likely to view this content than non-members. Therefore, our current members remain best positioned to inform their associates who are potential new members. If you know individuals who seem like a good fit with Division 28, please tell them about this incentive and have them contact our Membership Officer Ryan Vandrey or our ECP Representatives Kelly Dunn and Sarah Tragesser. We had a successful mixer at the CPDD conference, at which 30 new membership applications were completed.

My sincere thanks to all current members who helped bring our "newbies" into the fold, and a hearty welcome to all our new colleagues. We're delighted to have you connected with us!

Also, we're trying to recruit and engage ECPs and under-represented populations using a combination of methods. "Top-down" methods include highlighting relevant advocacy efforts (see social media links on our division website) and convention programming. We are also using "bottom-up" approaches. For instance, we are thankful for the diligent efforts of Yukiko Washio, Kelly Dunn and Sarah Tragesser, who designed and conducted a survey related to attitudes of members for addressing concerns of underrepresented populations. This information was forwarded to the APA President (Melba Vasquez), President-Elect (Suzanne Bennett Johnson) and other divisions. As a result, there is now increased cooperation at a broader level, consistent with our vision that these concerns are not unique to Division 28. We will continue to engage in personal outreach to these individuals. Please contact Yukiko for more information. [Editor's note: see Yukiko Washio's discussion of these efforts.]

Engagement

We've been increasing ECP engagement in at least two ways. First, at this year's APA convention, a full session will be dedicated to ECP scientific presentations to highlight the work of our young scientists. I encourage you to attend that quite promising session. Second, our Executive Committee—many of whom are ECPs—carries out very important work that keeps our division thriving. Importantly, we're eager to engage more ECPs to assist with specific tasks. So, if you're interested in helping with recruitment—e.g., being a liaison to under-represented individuals, or providing creative ideas for engaging those individuals—please contact Kelly, Sarah, Ryan, or me.

Another engagement-related item: at the convention, please attend the Division 28 business meeting. We will be voting on revisions of the By-Laws and Standard Operating Procedures at that meeting (it has been several years since substantive revisions have been made). Those documents and the proposed changes will be circulated prior to the business meeting. All members have the right to vote, so please attend and exercise your right.

Retention

We're justifiably proud of our members who, in several cases, have provided extended and highly valued service to the division. The dedication of these individuals serves as an encouraging reminder of stewardship and being good role models for our ECPs. We understand that the present economic climate is a barrier to retaining membership in APA and its division, and to attending the annual convention. One reason for reaching out to lapsed members with free first-year division dues (at the same time that APA is offering discounted member dues) is to hopefully attenuate that problem.

At my request, Ryan Vandrey obtained APA quarterly data on Division 28 attrition since 2009. As illustrated in the table below, overall attrition decreased markedly (> 50%) from 2009 to 2010. Member deaths accounted for 48% of attrition in 2009, but only 32% of attrition in 2010. Automatic resignation from APA (which occurs when the member has not paid organizational dues for two consecutive years) accounted for 21% of division attrition in 2009 but did not account for any attrition in 2010. Resignation from the division (but not APA) accounted for 24% of attrition in 2009 but increased to 68% (of the smaller overall number) in 2010. Voluntary resignation from APA (which also includes the division) was minimal. During the first quarter of 2011 (data not shown in the table), we lost 8 total members (6 to death and 2 to resignation). If the present trend continues, we may be witnessing a temporary slowing (or at least a leveling) of attrition. If that loss can be offset with gains in membership, then this would be a very positive trend.

Absolute numbers of Division 28 membership attrition during 2009 and 2010

Year Division
resignation
Automatic
resignation
Voluntary
resignation
Death Total attrition
2009 16 14 4 32 66
2010 19 0 0 9 28

Objective 2:
Improving Communication

We've been working hard to improve information resources for the division. Our electronic communication and social media outlets are intended to foster a more interactive community of scientists, and to make our scientific contributions and accomplishments visible to our members, prospective members, and the public at large. Thanks to Dana Wakefield (Assistant Director of APA Web Services), our divisional experts Ron Wood and Vic Laties, and plenty of useful feedback from the Executive Committee, we have successfully upgraded our Division 28 website to an information-rich, navigable, and useful platform.

Please visit the web site often, and submit your ideas on the quality, quantity and ease of access to the content. You will see on the right-hand side of the home page that we have multiple streams on Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, and Ning. These features should help attract and engage our members. One virtue of these various social media outlets is that they are very democratic—any member can post professionally appropriate messages on our email Listserv® or any social media channel. We encourage our members to use the outlet(s) they find most suitable; however, for convenience, these messages are automatically cross-posted on the different channels. If you have questions or suggestions about our electronic communication tools, please contact Ron Wood or myself.

Objective 3:
Advocacy For Psychopharmacology And Substance Abuse Science

Unfortunately, we are in the midst of reduced science budgets at NIH and NSF (and there has been political turmoil in the NSF Social, Behavioral and Economic Directorate). Details on the Congressional Justifications for FY 2012 proposed budgets are available for NIDA and NIAAA. So far, NIDA has experienced a 1% reduction in its budget (which, including a 3% cost of living adjustment, amounts to an effective 4% reduction). Depending upon the outcome of current congressional debate related to the federal debt ceiling, further cuts in the yet-to-be-determined FY 2012 budget could be forthcoming (perhaps to FY 2008 levels). It was recently brought to my attention that a 3% decrease in the NIDA budget would be expected to lead to a 25-30% decrease in ability to fund new and competing renewal grants, due to NIDA's continuing obligations (i.e. funding for non-competing renewals). It has also been brought to my attention that competing renewal applications are being administratively evaluated with greater scrutiny than in the past, given that such applications (despite peer-reviewed judgments of innovative scientific content) may be burdened by their history as not offering sufficiently fresh ideas.

In these challenging times, it is becoming increasingly clear that the traditional "pay line" (corresponding to a priority score cut-point) is in serious jeopardy or may, in fact, already be a relic. In FY 2011, NIDA grant success rates were only 15% (compared to FY 2003 success rate of 35%); however, this does not mean that applications are being funded in order of their percentile scores. Several investigators with whom I've spoken have recently found themselves in the position of having applications with single-digit percentile scores that have not (yet) been funded.

What's Going On Here

Very tight federal budgets translate into more discretion at the institute level, which includes balancing not just priority scores but also the institute's overall portfolio, budget amounts associated with different applications (some of which can be large, like longitudinal studies and clinical trials), and money designated to requests for applications (RFAs). This new calculus means that extramural investigators have a less predictable chance of funding even when they have written a well-scored application. Furthermore, budgets of funded investigators are being subjected to substantial (e.g. > 20%) across-the-board cuts. There is a real risk that a lack of diligent and clear communications by institutes to extramural investigators could lead to significantly less trust in the process (including scientists serving on review committees who feel their efforts are being overridden) and demoralization (for senior and junior investigators).

What Can We Do

First, we need to be acutely aware of these developments. We must talk with and support one another—we are a community. I hope we can have honest and open discussions of these issues at the convention. Second, there is persuasive evidence on our side: substance abuse costs US taxpayers $600 billion yearly, 9% of the US population has a substance abuse problem, and each $1 invested in treatment yields 4-7 fold cost savings for society. However, as former Massachusetts congressman Patrick Kennedy made clear in his solemn and inspiring address at the College on Problems of Drug Dependence, we must move beyond facts and work to change the hearts and souls of our representatives. In a very tangible sense, substance abuse is a national security issue. In addition to security problems related to drug trafficking (supplyside threats), the economic, social and health fabric of our country is eroded by substance abuse (demand-side threats). Yet, we have effective (and, as just noted, cost-effective) treatments that can also reduce the enormous and growing criminal justice burden of substance abuse. Patrick Kennedy emphasized starting to address legislators by shining the spotlight on substance abuse problems among our veterans (which is the most obvious and convincing symbol of a national security threat), but let me suggest that we already need to be thinking ahead more broadly in these terms. Finally, our voices need to be heard loud and clear: we need to present a unified front, and persist in our advocacy efforts to maintain funding levels, as well as transparency and principled approach to funding.

The timeline for the new National Institute of Substance Use and Addiction Disorders (final name to be determined) has experienced a delay. Although the original deadline for presenting the task force's detailed reorganization plan was to be this summer, that deadline has been pushed back. Furthermore, the revised expected date of implementation for the new Institute/Center has now been delayed until October 2013 (FY 2014). Work is now beginning to analyze the scientific portfolios of NIDA and NIAAA and, with comments from stakeholders, to develop a consensus plan for a unified portfolio. APA continues to work closely with other substance abuse-related science organizations (including plenty of psychopharmacologists) to promote consensus on principles and specific methods for an effective reorganization. To keep abreast of the latest developments on this issue, see the NIH Feedback site.

Importantly, this October the APA Science Leadership Conference (SciLC) theme will be "Call to Advocacy: Psychological Science and Substance Abuse". Several members of the Division 28 leadership will be among the 100 scientists attending this conference, which will have formal presentations, panel discussions, and breakout groups. There will be advocacy goal development, training, and appointments with congressional staff members. Steven Breckler, APA Executive Director for Science, explains:

"The goal [of this meeting] is to advocate for increased federal funding for basic and translational psychological research and training in substance use and related behaviors. It is only through sustained federal funding that we can continue to support the development and evaluation of empirically-based interventions for substance abuse … Research related to volitional behaviors has always been particularly vulnerable, even though understanding those behaviors and others related to lifestyle are critical to advancing US public health, public safety, and economic productivity … Although the Administration budget request for 2012 provided a solid endorsement for scientific research, there will be enormous pressure on Congress to roll funding back to 2008 levels or below."

The Future

As noted elsewhere in this newsletter, we can now report the election results for our latest round of Division 28 officers. Congratulations to Tony Liguori (President for 2013), John Grabowski (APA Council Representation for 2012-2014), and Matt Johnson (Member at Large for 2012-2014). I'm also grateful that Steve Heishman has generously agreed to renew yet another 3- year term as our Fellows officer (2012-2014). If you have nominations for Fellow, please contact Steve directly.

Division 28 remains strong due to the creativity and energy of its members, and their contributions to scientific leadership. Once again, I encourage you to remain aware of, and to engage in, division activities throughout the year using our electronic resources, and to enjoy the convention. I look forward to assisting our work on your behalf, but we also need you to advocate for our research.  Please let me know how you think Division 28 can best serve your needs and those of our members generally. Thanks!