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Presidential Blog

A European focus for the year ahead

10 May 2017 | by Nicola Gale

Please welcome our new President, Nicola Gale, with her first article for the new BPS blog.

For this month’s Presidential blog it seems apt to focus on Europe, with a pro-EU outcome of the French Presidential election, and the UK elections around the corner, with significant Brexit implications for the result.

Last week I attended the Presidents' Council of the European Federation of Psychologists' Associations (EFPA) in Zurich. The main news for the UK was that we have been successful in our bid to host the European Semester for January to June 2018. The Semester comprises a series of scientific and practitioner conferences, events, meetings of task forces, and policy initiatives across Europe on matters of psychological concern that builds on and expands the reach of our own work and priorities. Our conferences and events and communications and policy teams will now start working with our member networks and boards to make the Semester an unparalleled opportunity to showcase our science and practice across the discipline, building the connections in our work across the discipline in Europe.

EFPA is an interesting organisation. Based in a small office in Brussels, and managed by Director Sabine Steyaert and her two staff, it is coordinated by an executive of seven members, and its overall strategic direction is given by a general assembly of all 36 member countries representing more than 300,000 psychologists. It is focused on external influence for psychology and over recent years has developed in influence with psychological expertise very much in demand. EFPA develops cross discipline standards (the EuroPsy which all UK psychologists are entitled to free on qualification), lobbies across Europe on policy matters, shares guidance and practice across Europe, and puts on a biannual European Congress of Psychology.

Among the initiatives we discussed in Zurich was a joint statement on mental health for the EU Health Policy Platform. It calls for parity of esteem; supporting all age groups especially at times of transition e.g. perinatal, children and young people, ageing; greater occupational health support for mental health in the workplace; and improved primary care. These objectives mirror our own, and our underpinning call for psychology to be mainstreamed in all public policy, which currently includes all those at EU level. EFPA is among other organisations working with the World Health Organisation Regional Office for Europe to develop the influence and effectiveness of the mental health workforce in Europe. This year’s World Health Day was used to promote the work of psychologists. 

The German member association for psychologists has just produced guidelines on data management in psychological science, and how this needs to be considered from the outset of a research proposal and ethics application, this is of relevance across the discipline including professional doctorate projects. 

An EFPA task force on neuropsychology is looking to form a standing committee to consider issues of training and professional standing, their recent survey achieved a 94% response rate and they were grateful to the UK for our input. 

We know that in our Society maintaining close links with Europe is important especially to colleagues in our universities. There are concerns about the potential impact of Brexit on EU students coming to the UK to study psychology, whether at undergraduate or postgraduate level. There are potential adverse consequences on the pattern of recruitment into academic (both teaching and research) positions from psychologists qualified in Europe. There are also worries about the extent to which there will be an impact on research collaborations with our European colleagues both within and beyond the discipline. Recent multidisciplinary advances have been possible due to the fostering of strong multinational research networks and appropriate mechanisms are needed, including for grants and visiting posts, for this to continue. We’ll continue to monitor this as the Brexit negotiations continue.

The European Congress of Psychology is from 11-14 July in Amsterdam. Themed around psychology addressing society's greatest challenges, there are tracks on mental and physical health, children and young people, work and organisations, intercultural psychology, and a debate on how to organise and fund psychological services in healthcare systems. These are all important areas for our discipline and it would be good to see substantial UK representation there. Currently though UK registrations make up only 4% of the total, yet UK psychologists are something of the order of 20% of the represented membership. The early bird rate is available till 15 May. Do take advantage of the lower rate too due to our Society's membership of EFPA, this is one of our individual membership benefits, both savings together amount to €175 or nearly 30%.

There is much potential benefit in mutual cooperation in our fields. What might it be important for your area of research or practice to share as part of the European Semester? Our teams will be contacting members over the coming months to get your ideas as we develop our plans. 


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