From the President
A Message from Division 6 President Gordon Burghardt
By Gordon M. Burghardt
As incoming president of Division 6 I was not totally aware of what would be entailed. Now that I am in the thick of helping plan the APA convention program, facilitating the operation of our various committees such as Membership, Fellows, Awards, Students, and others, I see that I, along with many other Div. 6 members, take for granted the gift we have as one of the oldest APA divisions and the support and resources available to us from APA. Nonetheless, there are problems that we need to discuss both within and across the many APA Divisions. In this and future newsletter essays I want to raise issues, present proposals, and try to elicit some feedback and dialogue that can be discussed within our division listserv DIV6@LISTS.APA.ORG or through personal exchanges by email. In any event, vigorous conversations seem to be needed.
Membership Crisis & the Scientific Imperative
The Division Services office of APA is concerned about the health of all divisions, as many APA members are not affiliating with any division and those remaining in divisions are rapidly aging and membership numbers are shrinking. The data are quite striking. About two thirds of Division 6 members are 60 or older! Also, membership has declined 13% in the last five years. Thus, it is important for Division 6 that new members be recruited to both extend and enrich our field and to enhance our role and influence in APA councils and policy. Todd Shackelford, Membership Committee chair, is working hard on recruitment of new members and Division Services is planning a major membership drive across all divisions early in 2011.
Division 6 is one of the oldest divisions of APA, in spite of name changes along the way. We represent the basic science area of psychology in two important areas: behavioral neuroscience and comparative psychology. Each of these areas has major subdivisions and have historically been wellsupported by federal research. Two major journals are associated with the Division: Behavioral Neuroscience and Journal of Comparative Psychology. Both journals are, significantly, APA journals and not divisional journals, which have lower status and receive less support than the frontline APA journals. We have representation on APA council, but only one seat due to our small membership. Still, our impact on the field, as shown by articles and research blurbs in the APA Monitor and the flagship American Psychologist, belie our small numbers. We need to make sure our colleagues realize that our work is at the core of material on diverse topics covered in numerous chapters' in basic psychology courses. This is not true of the topics covered by many other divisions. In fact, the future health of psychology as a science and practice is, I assert, dependent on the health of our research areas. While often recognized as such outside of psychology, it is often not so recognized within psychology. This was made crystal clear to me when I attended, as editor of the JCP, a meet the editors' session for the graduate student or ganization within APA at the San Francisco APA convention in 2009.
It is also clear that rigorous and innovative science is being stressed more and more by grant ing agencies, insurance companies, etc. and that therapies and social statements need to be supple mented by rigorous research and scholarship. It is telling that the American Anthropological Association just removed science from its mission statement, so as, apparently, not to offend those who see their role in anthropology as nonscientific humanists or social activists for which science' is an obstacle. I view such proposals as warning signs that antagonism to science comes from the left as well as the right. While such antiscience rhetoric has not been enshrined in APA yet, I have heard intimations to the effect that you scientists have APS and APA needs to be a more inclusive umbrella.'
Such fears may not be unfounded even in Division 6 areas as not many years ago there were movements to censor scientific studies of behavior with the Science for the People at tacks on E. O. Wilson and sociobiology in gen eral that were supported, if not instigated, by leading biologists at Harvard and elsewhere. Neuroscience research is still being still at tacked by animal rights activists, whose outra geous acts at leading psychology research insti tutions, such as the University of Iowa, have largely gone unsolved and unpunished. Parent and lay mental health groups have attacked the science behind immunizations and behavioral interventions. Industry groups have vilified research and researchers studying the possible toxicity and behavioral/hormonal consequences of common chemicals used in animal caging and human plastic products. Studies of habitats and space requirements to prevent more species from going extinct or saving those already en dangered are often questioned. Hunting and fishing impact behavior, reproduction, and selection in many ways that certain quarters, including within government agencies, too often refudiate.' It is not only creationists, intelligent design proponents, and climate change deniers who are out to manipulate science, attack researchers, or, if necessary, deny the relevance of science to understanding and resolving problems that we face.
All this means that research in our fields often confronts public policy and politics in ways few of us ever thought would concern us when we entered the field. By bringing in more young people into the Division we will be able to be more effective in dealing with such issues. Members should encourage not only their young colleagues, but also graduate students, to become involved in division activities and membership. So here are some proposals for discussion.
American Psychological Foundation
For us to really work well as an organization fostering research, supporting colleagues, and rewarding excellence it is clear that resources are needed. Such resources are not going to come from our division dues or the APA central office. We need to be proactive. One way is to obtain foundation and other support outside the APA. This may eventually be worthwhile, but I have a challenge for my colleagues. As mentioned above, our membership is aging. This is certainly not a good thing in the long run, but it does mean that our membership has many experienced senior faculty and researchers. Many of us also may have the time and resources to promote the division and help fund a legacy that will allow us to jumpstart renewed growth by making member ship in the division more rewarding and valu able for younger people, who are often enticed and channeled into more narrowly focused professional societies.
At the APA meeting in San Diego I met with a representatives of the APA Foundation on the process for establishing an endowment fund, which can be used for all kinds of Division 6 activities including student support, providing grants and awards to members, subsidizing travel expenses, and so forth. The APF handles all investments, tax filings, charitable registrations, accounting, etc. This saves divisions not only lots of hassles but also lots of money. Several divisions have already established funds with the APF. The funds have averaged a 12% return, though did suffer a loss in 2008. Basically, our money will be well managed and safe.
The bad news is that we have to make some rather steep financial commitments. In brief, the process is as follows. In order to set us up the APF needs us to commit to obtaining from members $100,000. This is to come from current members who are committed enough to the organization to donate funds. The good news is that only 20% or $20,000 is necessary to get the fund established. Then we have a full five subsequent years to reach the 100K amount. Elizabeth Straus, Executive Director of the APF, suggested that if we had several peo ple commit to contributing $10,000 over 5 years ($2000/yr) we could reach the goal.
All contributions are tax deductible. If we do not reach the 20K needed to establish the fund we will not proceed, of course. If we reach the threshold, I will then contact the APF and start the process with them. So no money changes hands until that time.
The question now is how many of us are willing to commit to this endeavor? I will commit $5000 im- mediately to get things rolling on the way to the first 20K. All donors receive information from the APF, including invest- ment principles, before executing an agreement with them. We negotiate an agreement with the APF as to what happens to the funds if we establish a fund, but do not reach the 100K goal in 5 years. So please, think about what you can do to help us get started with the initial 20K and down the line as well.
You can contact me privately or make comments on our listserve about this initiative. I would consider it a signal accomplishment of my presidency if we can get this started, if not completed, during my term in office. With your support I am willing to devote time to make it happen. But, I especially need help from those of you nearing or entering retirement and looking for ways to make a difference with your re- sources accumulated from a lifetime in psychology doing what you love. Helping a small organization in which even a modest donation will have a great and more individualized impact than donations to a larger entity should be considered a plus. I will certainly encourage our Division website to keep posted in perpetuity a list of all donors, highlighting Charter Donors' to our fund, if we can get the fund established. Thoughts please!
The APA Convention
There may be other ways of revitalizing our division. Other divisions, such as Division 3, have generated proposals including about the annual APA convention that merit atten- tion as well. Having started to attend the convention again recently, after a long hiatus, I have been very impressed with the great depth and diversity of presentations and increased ease of navigating to sessions, especially those sponsored by other divisions, but highly relevant to our members. Obvi- ously we all have diverse interests, but I have usually found more sessions that I want to attend than it is possible to go to! I also have met leaders in research areas that I would not run into at typical society conferences.
Scheduling overlap has been somewhat of a problem, however, as APA puts together the programs submitted by the divisions, as well as the central office, and intelligent coor- dination has not always prevailed. APA is aware of these concerns, and Jess Purdy, Program Chair, and I are striving to make sure that these problems will be minimized this year.
Last August we had symposia on Machine Learning in the Brain; Comparative Psychology of Learning; Sugar, Sex, and Stress (hormones and memory); Spatial Memory of Fear and Reward; Hippocampus Research; and Recent Advances in the Neurobiology of Associative Memory as well as the Hebb Award Address by Michela Gallagher, Mark Bouton's Presidential Address, and a poster session among other events. This year the program is shaping up to have a somewhat more behavior and comparative focus, and we are planning to have a special comparative cognition ape research event for Division 6 members at the National Zoo. Symposia are planned on recent technological advances in studying behavior, especially in the field, comparative evolutionary psychology, and progress in captive studies of nontraditional species (in conjunction with the National Zoo). In addition to the Hebb Award address there will be a senior Fellow's lecture and research program talks by authors of the 2009 best paper awards for both Behavioral Neuroscience and the Journal of Comparative Psychology.
Many thanks for reading this and being attentive to Division 6 activities. I hope many of you will attend the APA meeting in Washington, DC next August, even if you are not on our program, and attend our sessions, including the event at the National Zoo. We have fine social events as well.
I hope the holidays go well for everyone and that 2011 will be a fine one for each of us personally and also our field. Although the coming political winds may be disruptive and destructive, our firm foundation should weather any storms.