In this issue

Genealogy tree

How to create your academic genealogy.

By David Chiriboga, PhD

For over a year, the Membership Committee (Lynn Snow, PhD; Allison Jahn, PhD; and I abetted by Yaritza Carmona), with consultation from other members of the Div. 20 Executive Committee have been working on a project designed to create a genealogy tree for Div. 20 members. This project was inspired by a 1992 booklet created as part of the celebration of APA's centennial meeting. The authors were Elizabeth A. L. Stine, Jennifer Ruh and Jennifer Hindman. While these authors noted that intellectual genealogies often have problems due to the complex nature of the mentoring process, they hoped that the booklet would help readers understand something of how geropsychology has developed. They commented that “the psychology of aging tends to be less compartmentalized in its approach to research problems, having avoided the intellectual bias in mainstream psychology of a separation between social and biological influences on behavior.” The academic genealogy approach was thus felt to help in clarifying the development of ideas.

The present project represents an effort to update the 1992 booklet, and, in doing so, make use of new software explicitly designed to capture the complexities of an individual's intellectual heritage. For example, the software allows one to include details concerning the institution where you received your doctoral degree and list your academic appointments since obtaining that degree. It allows you to list your academic mentors, who may not necessarily have held appointments at your doctoral institution, as well as those whom you yourself have trained (you can even list examples of your own publications, if you so desire).

The procedure for making entries is relatively simple:

The first step is to register (create username and password).

The next step is to search for your name. The easiest way is probably to look at the top of the form, where there is a search bar. Just type in your name. You may already exist in the database, or there might even be someone who has your name who has already been entered (note that lots of groups are entering data at the academic tree site, not just those of us in Div. 20).

If the search engine does not find a matching name, you can click to add your information. You will have the option of adding not only past and present positions (with dates), but information on research areas, home page, even link to a photograph.

Note that if the computer informs you that the person already exists (yourself or the name of a mentor or mentee), you can add information or edit. Click on “Yes, I meant this person.” Otherwise, if person does not exist in the software program, you add the person: Click on “Add Person.”

Keep in mind that, at this stage, you can add a number of details, such as various positions not only you but your mentor/mentee has held or currently holds. If you or a mentor or mentee already exists, you can click on “options” under the person's name to add details on parents and children [look at the left side of the screen after clicking the options icon]. You can also come back at some later point and add details.

Note that the genealogy program refers to mentors as “parents” (e.g., chair of your doctoral thesis, colleagues who have mentored you; in a pull-down screen you are asked to identify the type of relationship), and “children” (people you have mentored, especially doctoral students).

When entering mentors, you may find that some already-listed mentors may not have information concerning who their own mentors are, and you yourself may not know. And actually the existing information can be misleading. For example, Bernice Neugarten was my mentor at the University of Chicago, but at present, the genealogy tree lists her as being at Northwestern (where she went after she was forced to retire from Chicago), since someone from the NeuroTree group had already entered her into the system. At some point, we may try to do a bit of research on this, to clean up timelines, etc. If you have time to review other folks listed on the tree and can fill in missing information, it would be much appreciated. Also note that you can edit information, just in case you make a mistake. But, take care the first time to avoid mistakes.

In conclusion, all of us on your executive committee hope that this is not only a fun exercise but something that could be useful as well. For example, the program can compute “distance” (number of steps separating) any two individuals listed in the tree. The tree could also be used to trace the development of ideas in geropsychology, etc. If you run into difficulties, you can contact me.