I find the Psychological Science Accelerator one of the more exciting initiatives in psychological science. The PSA can potentially solve many known complicated challenges within our discipline. From complex problems pertaining to replicability, generalizability, strategy selection, inferential reproducibility, and computational reproducibility, PSA’s Big Team Science approach has the potential to tackle them all. And yet, despite the many obvious strengths and its promise, I fear for the PSA’s future if the next few years will not be dedicated to the development of an organization that has long-term relevance and sustainability. Below I outline what I think should be the PSA’s main priorities, but please read my final paragraph.
The PSA should become more globally diverse
It is my firm belief that without better representation from across the globe, the PSA has little of value to contribute. We know that a skewed representation in our field is a problem; the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, hands ~80% of its awards to US-based researchers. In the top 5 developmental psychology journals published between 2006 and 2010, less than 3% of the authors came from countries outside North America and Europe. In the PSA’s first published report, most contributing labs were from North America and Europe (e.g., only three African countries participated). Our recent study capacity report (Paris, Forscher, IJzerman, 2020) showed that North Americans were overrepresented in leadership (12/19), while Western Europeans were overrepresented in terms of membership (41.44%). By building better PSA infrastructure across the globe, the PSA will be better positioned to generate theories that more accurately reflect the human psyche.
The PSA should focus on financial sustainability
Organizations with lofty goals like the PSA’s can run on volunteerism only for so long. In Chris Chartier’s 2020-2022 strategic plan, he estimated that the PSA currently runs on 26,930 hours of volunteer time. Relying on so many volunteer hours, on top of our normal jobs, is unsustainable. What’s more, needing to rely on volunteer hours means that only researchers in more luxurious positions (i.e., those in richer countries, with a lower teaching load, and in situations where they don’t have to worry about their immediate physical safety) can be a candidate for leadership roles.
Without financial compensation of key positions, we run the risk of imploding the PSA. We run the risk of burning out our contributors, we run the risk of mismanaging the research process, we run the risks of running into major interpersonal conflicts, and we run the risk of making major mistakes in the research we conduct. Of particular import is that we also cannot attain the diversity goals from the previous section.
In order to meaningfully contribute to societal questions, financial sustainability should be a second key priority. As Patrick Forscher and I have outlined in a recent blog, various strategies to obtain funding exist, each with different balances of risk versus reward (e.g., grant writing, membership fees, support from industry). The upcoming year should be dedicated to finding an optimal balance of the winning strategies. Which strategies we favor should be discussed through surveys and panel discussions with our membership, so as to not to estrange those we serve.
The PSA should reflect on its research priorities
If I honestly reflect on the PSA’s abilities to solve problems, I am pessimistic. For a crisis like the one we are in at the moment, do we have the ability to develop an equivalent to a vaccine? My answer is probably no. When I reviewed the past research projects of the PSA, I found us conservative in terms of content (albeit not in methodology), only modestly invested into theoretical development, and quite US-focused. I personally have come to favor quantitative exploratory research methods to help develop formal theories. Other PSA members favor problem-focused research. Yet other PSA members focus on qualitative research. Still other PSA members have suggested that the PSA should have regional priorities, rather than research priorities determined by a single proposer from a single country. How can we ensure that the PSA delivers on its promise to help psychology develop formal theories as should be the norm within a mature science? I believe we should engage in a period of reflection to determine these priorities, driven again by a discussion between members through surveys and panel discussions.
Such a period of reflection can let us ask important questions about how the PSA should function, such as:
- Should we have various quotas for different types of research (e.g., exploratory, confirmatory, replication) and/or for research that is currently underserved (e.g., qualitative or domains other than social psychology)?
- Should we focus on regional initiatives (as we could have) or have a centralized system (like we have now)?
- Should our research primarily be problem- as opposed to theory-focused?
These are but a few questions we can ask ourselves. I believe asking these questions is necessary to fulfill the PSA’s problems to solve major societal problems and/or theoretical questions and will ultimately also be determinant for the PSA’s chances for receiving funding.
Why should you vote for me?
I believe you shouldn’t and I endorse Sandy Onie in my stead. When I nominated myself for associate director, I did so with the goal to lift up researchers outside of North America and Europe to become part of PSA leadership. In the days following my nomination, I reflected on what I would do if a capable researcher had been nominated for the same position from outside NA/EU. When I learnt that Sandy decided to run for the position, it wasn’t difficult; as a European researcher with strong North American ties, the relevance behind my self-nomination disappeared. While his expertise in research and outside EU/NA are extremely important for the PSA, I also believe his general skill and his expertise in clinical psychology make him an excellent candidate to further develop the PSA.
I hope that if you had considered voting for me, you will give Sandy your vote.