Presidential Message

Six reasons to support the Div. 6 name change

A note from David Washburn.

By David Washburn, PhD

As announced in the previous Div. 6 newsletter, your executive committee is recommending a name change, from “Division of Behavioral Neuroscience and Comparative Psychology” to the “Society for Behavioral Neuroscience and Comparative Psychology.” There are many reasons why I believe this change is important — indeed, critical — for our division, and why I'm asking for your support. Here are six reasons:

  1. We need the change.
    In the last newsletter, I described the crisis that our division faces. Although we have many loyal members who have made profound contributions to our discipline and our organization, Div. 6 is rapidly dying. Our membership is declining and aging — already, the vast majority of our members are in or nearing retirement, and many are already enjoying the well-earned reward of lifetime-member status, in which APA dues payments are no longer required (although voluntary contributions to support the division are still welcome). Few early career behavioral neuroscientists and comparative psychologists are joining our division, or APA more broadly. In recent years, your executive committee has worked very strategically, diligently and creatively to address these issues, but without much impact. For whatever reasons (and there may be many), increasing numbers of behavioral neuroscientists and comparative psychologists identify professionally and affiliate with organizations other than APA and Div. 6. A name change alone will not correct this trend, but I believe that it is a necessary and essential next step.
  2. The new name describes who we are.
    In considering what name to recommend to Div. 6 members, your executive committee considered many options. Although our division is relatively small, its members reflect a wide range of backgrounds, research interests and professional identities. More radical name changes were certainly considered. However, each of us identified with “behavioral neuroscience and comparative psychology” sufficiently to join Div. 6 in the first place, and it is seems clear that no name better captures who we are than the union of those two specializations. The Society for Behavioral Neuroscience and Comparative Psychology is the ideal name for who we are, and links us to the long and proud history of Div. 6.
  3. The new name makes clear what we are for.
    We all know what it means to be a division. Div. 6 is one of the parts of the APA. I am a member of the APA and also of those parts of the association most closely identified with my specialty areas. But “division” also implies separation, differences, disunity and fractionation. That is not who we are, or what we are about. We are scientists with diverse interests, bound together by our commonalities. We are in fact a scholarly society (a group with a common purpose, interest or activity) that is for — in favor and support of — behavioral neuroscience and comparative psychology. This is what we say in our organization's mission statement. It should be what we say in our name. And any scientist who is for behavioral neuroscience and comparative psychology should see our society as a professional “home” — whether or not they want to join the APA.
  4. Other divisions have reported growth following similar name changes.
    According to our current membership rules, a properly trained scholar can already affiliate with Div. 6 without joining APA. But why would they? Although a person who has decided, for whatever reason, not to pay APA dues at this time could choose instead just to affiliate with Div. 6, it seems more likely that they would invest their limited time and professional-association funds into an organization called the Society for Behavioral Neuroscience and Comparative Psychology. And this is exactly what I've heard from officers of the other divisions that have adopted “Society …” names, as more than 60 percent of the current APA divisions — including the Society for General Psychology (Div. 1), Society for the Teaching of Psychology (Div. 2), Society for Personality and Social Psychology (Div. 8), Society of Clinical Psychology (D12), Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (Div. 14), Society for the History of Psychology (Div. 26), Society for the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality (Dive. 36) — have done. It is my understanding that divisions that have adopted “Society …” names have experienced growth in membership (particularly affiliates who are not APA members) and resources. Behavioral neuroscientists and comparative psychologists who are flocking to other organizations will also join our society if our name is something with which they can identify.
  5. We will remain APA Div. 6 whether or not “division” is part of our name.
    These divisions that have adopted “Society …” names still participate fully in APA governance, advocacy and other activities. The same will be true of Div. 6. The proposed name change is not a defection, an effort that undermines the APA, or a way to discourage behavioral neuroscientists and comparative psychologists from joining APA. Indeed, the Division Services Office within APA is quite supportive of these name changes. Becoming the Society for Behavioral Neuroscience and Comparative Psychology will allow us to continue our role in the valuable services provided by APA, while concurrently enjoying the benefits of an organization that attracts members both within and beyond the APA.
  6. As our society grows, so will the benefits of membership.
    If Div. 6 members endorse the name change, the issue will go to the APA for approval. This should not be a controversial decision at all. Subsequently, our rebranded division will engage in an aggressive marketing and recruiting campaign to attract new members, including any behavioral neuroscientists and comparative psychologists who have chosen not to join APA at this time. Your executive committee will also continue to consider ways of expanding the perks of membership, including options for division programming in association with other professional meetings. Many APA divisions with “Society …” names hold annual or biannual spring conferences so that their members can enjoy division programming that augments the APA convention — typically at greatly reduced costs relative to APA's fall meeting. I am confident that as our numbers grow, so will our impact and value — and viability — for the future of behavioral neuroscience and comparative psychology.

Your support for the name change is needed. Look for the electronic ballot to be distributed in the next few weeks. Please contact David Washburn if you have questions or concerns about this proposal. Hope to see you in Toronto!

David Washburn