APA Council of Representatives report

Highlights of the February 2012 Council meeting

By Michael Domjan, PhD

I recently returned from my first meeting as Division 6 representative to the APA Council of Representatives. What an experience! I thought everything was big in Texas. I found out that everything is also big at APA. The Council of Representatives (COR) has 175 members, representing APA divisions and psychological associations in various states, U.S. territories, and Canadian provinces. Fortunately, very few of these representatives speak up on any given issue. Therefore, any member can be heard if s/he has a good point to make, even though some of the time is invariably taken by people who reiterate what others have already said. About 50 members of the Council were new this year. Some of the other representatives have managed to stay on the Council for many years by moving around from one organization to another as their terms of office expired. Having sat through one meeting of the Council, I am pretty sure I won't be doing that.

I learned a number of rather remarkable things about APA during this Council meeting. Talking about big, the 2012 budget of APA is $105 million. Of this total, only $11.7 million comes from member dues. Thus, unlike many other scholarly/professional organizations, APA does not rely primarily on member dues for its budget. The extra $93.3 million enables the association to do a great many things in support of the science and practice of psychology far beyond what members pay for. I knew that APA members get a lot more than what they pay for, but I did not know the magnitude of the additional benefits.

Where does the extra $93.3 million come from? Journal subscriptions provide $12.2 million. Other familiar sources of income are the sale of books ($16 million), advertising ($2.6 million), and the annual convention ($2.9 million). One very unusual source of income ($3.5 million) is real estate holdings. APA owns two office buildings in Washington, D.C. One of them is purely an investment property and is fully leased. The other is the APA headquarters building, 50% of which APA occupies, with the rest leased to other entities.

The greatest surprise for me in the budget was that $54.6 million of anticipated income in 2012 will come from licensing fees. APA charges a licensing fee for the use of various electronic products such as PsycInfo, PsycArticles, PsycBooks, PsycCritiques, PsycTests, PsycExtra, and PsycTherapy. I was amazed that these products generate such a large proportion of the APA budget. Because of the importance of this income for the operation of the association, APA is investing heavily in developing additional products in this category and in marketing these products to potential buyers. I found this to be a remarkably clever strategy. Income from journal subscriptions has been steadily declining for the past 20 years. Added to that decline is the challenge posed by people who advocate open source publication of scientific findings. Given these trends, there seems little hope of reversing the long-term decline in publication income. By shifting to electronic products and licensing fees, APA has found a way to remain a major player in the dissemination of science that is responsive to the massive technological changes that are challenging conventional science publications.

What is the $105 million spent on? As in most organizations, salaries eat up a big chunk of the budget. For 2012, APA plans to employ about 590 people. The largest group of employees (180) works on Publications & Databases. As scientists, we obviously benefit from that. Our journals cannot survive on subscription income. Behavioral Neuroscience has 140 member subscribers, as does the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes. The Journal of Comparative Psychology has 180 member subscribers. One might think that library subscriptions would pick up the slack. But, that is not true. The total number of subscriptions (individuals plus institutions) to each of our journals is under 400. That is clearly not enough to pay for those journals. Thus, APA is substantially subsidizing our publications.

Another way to measure what APA is doing for science is to look at how many staff members are employed in the Science Directorate. There are 25.3 staff members scheduled for the Science Directorate for 2012. I know of no other organization that employs so many people to deal with the science of psychology. By way of comparison, the APA Practice Directorate has 30.5 staff members and the Public Interest Directorate, which also advocates for science, has 37.3. So, we are not doing badly. This is another area in which we get a lot of bang for the buck.

The primary science-related item on the Council agenda was approval of the revised APA guidelines for Ethical Conduct in the Care and Use of Nonhuman Animals in Research. That motion was passed without a dissenting vote. Notice Nancy Dess's influence in the use of the expression "nonhuman animals" in the title of these guidelines. Nice going, Nancy.

Nancy Dess's influence was also evident in the Presidential initiatives for 2012. Suzanne Bennett Johnson took over as President of APA in January, 2012, and presided at the Council meeting. She announced three Presidential Initiatives for her term in office: 1) Engaging the next generation of psychologists, 2) Interdisciplinary Science and Practice, and 3) Tackling the Problem of Obesity. In describing her second initiative, Dr. Johnson discussed the cross-cutting interdisciplinary convention programming that Nancy Dess and Lynn Cooper organized for next summer's APA Convention in Orlando.

Among other actions, the Council approved a bylaws amendment barring individuals from running for President of APA if they served in the post during the previous 10 years. The Council also approved waiver of back dues for individuals returning to APA membership. Another item that is relevant to Division 6 is the approval of a plan to establish a new journal called Translational Issues in Psychological Science. This journal will be published in coordination with APAGS, the graduate student members of APA. The plan is to have a PhD level scientist as the Editor of the journal, but involve graduate students in the development of themes for special issues and use the journal to train graduate students to review and edit manuscripts.

The Council Agenda book was 729 pages long, and we received about another 1,500 pages (who is counting?) of related material. Obviously, I cannot summarize all of that material (nor would you be interested in reading my summary). However, one item that caught my eye was a statement of the goals and objectives of APA. These were adopted by the Council in 2009 and serve as the primary guideposts for future APA activities. There are three stated goals: 1) Maximize organizational effectiveness, 2) Expand psychology's role in advancing health, and 3) Increase recognition of psychology as a science. Clearly the third item is of greatest interest to members of Division 6. The objectives related to the third goal are to a) enhance psychology's prominence as a core STEM discipline, b) Improve public understanding of the scientific basis for psychology, c) Expand the translation of psychological science to evidence-based practice, d) Promote the applications of psychological science to daily living, and e) Expand educational resources and opportunities in psychological science. The Science Directorate is just getting started in working on these objectives. As you can imagine, I will be keenly interested in progress in this area.