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Presidential Blog

Psychology: a global reach

21 June 2018 | by Nicola Gale

There has been much activity of late, building and cementing our European and international connections. This is an important part of what we do as a Society: learning from others; sharing our strengths; exploring common issues and differences and finding solutions.

As a Society, these connections and relationships allow us to draw upon a global community of professionals in championing the contribution that Psychology can make. Demonstrating this value add is a key focus for BPS.

The end of April saw our Society hosting two key meetings of the European Federation of Psychologists' Associations (EFPA) in London, namely the Executive Council Meeting and the Presidents' Council Meeting. 

The Presidents’ Council is an opportunity for all 37 country-members of EFPA to meet, every six months, to consider strategy, direction, ways to collaborate, share news across European psychology, and provide support, resources and ideas to solve problems.

As part of the European Semester it is traditional for the host country to present a short history of psychology in their country, an overview of how the psychology society association is organised, and what it is focused on. My presentation was supplemented by an excellent small exhibition by our Archivist Claire Jackson, featuring original photographs and publications.

Images from this event can be viewed by clicking here.

Appropriately for 2018 being the centenary of the start of women's suffrage, those highlighted included Sophie Bryant, a headteacher and one of the Society's founders.

Of course first Society President Charles Myers featured, along with a copy of the first British Journal of Psychology from 1904. The Society acquired the journal in 1914 and CS Myers had become editor (with James Watts) succeeding WHR Rivers in 1911.

Fitting to the event were photographs from our archives of European colleagues of the time including Austrian social psychologist Marie Jahoda, German developmental psychologist Charlotte Bühler, French psychologist Alfred Binet, Swiss developmental psychologist Jean Piaget, and Russians Lev Vygotsky and neuropsychologist Alexander Luria.

Particularly appreciated by EFPA was our original minute on joining EFPA in 1981. 

Much of EFPA's focus is on the bigger picture of Psychology and psychologists influencing society for good. Telmo Mourinho Baptista, EFPA President, addressed our Annual Conference in Nottingham on this theme, on our international focus day on 3 May.

EFPA has many opportunities to influence the European Commission and Parliament, and, since 2017, has special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the UN.

Using the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a strategic framework, especially those related to poverty and hunger/ nutrition, education, gender equality, and SDG3 on health and wellbeing for people of all ages, Telmo highlighted the contribution that Psychology can make to achieving these strategic goals. The challenge for us, as a global community of professionals, is how we can forge strategic alliances and partnerships that demonstrate the role and value of Psychology. 

Now more than ever, we need to be talking to policy makers about what psychology offers, about prevention and early intervention, and cost effectiveness, to the benefit of the citizens of Europe. All this is core to our Society's objectives as set out in our impact statement, with the goal of ensuring that:

"People are equipped with the everyday psychological skills and knowledge to navigate a complex world, knowing themselves and others better. Everyone can access evidence-based psychology to enhance their lives, communities and wider society."

A highlight of our Annual Conference was the attendance of our many international guests, including Lyn Littlefield, the Executive Director of The Australian Psychological Society, Quentin Abraham, President of The New Zealand Psychological Society, and Amanda Clinton, Senior Director of International Affairs at The American Psychological Association.

We have Memoranda of Understanding with all of them, and both in our International Round Table at the conference and in bilateral meetings, led for the BPS by our Chief Executive Sarb Bajwa, we explored shared challenges and opportunities for member services, how we organise, policy and organisational influencing and opportunities to collaborate.

A particularly close relationship for us is with The Psychological Society of Ireland, and we were delighted that both Chief Executive Terri Morrissey and President Brendan O'Connell joined us.

The conference featured a reprise of what is planned as an annual 'Hands across the Water' lecture featuring a BPS and PSI speaker, this time Ashley Weinberg from the University of Salford and Liam Delaney from University College Dublin, talking about political influencing, and the ethics and evidence involved. PSI and BPS plan to meet regularly to develop closer collaboration and next year's Hands across the Water takes place first at PSI's conference in Wexford in November, on the subject of good science.

The UK's oldest ally Portugal and the Ordem Dos Psicólogos was represented at our conference by President Francisco Rodrigues and two board members, Teresa Espassandim and Sofia Ramalho. We jointly signed a Memorandum of Understanding designed to promote specific collaborations on research, learning, events, and other good practice in psychology.

Other European colleagues who joined us and contributed significantly to our discussions were EFPA Vice President and Secretary General Robertas Povilaitis, Koen Ringoot from Belgium,Conny Antoni from Germany, Neringa Grigutyte from Lithuania, Marko Vrtovec (who will lead ECP2021) from Slovenia, and Sébastien Simonet from Switzerland.

The international reach and collaboration of our discipline and profession was of course evident from the speakers at our conference. For just a flavour, consider Brian Nosek from the Center for Open Science in Charlottesville Virginia speaking on openness and reproducibility in science, Ulrike de Ponte from the University of Regensburg on intercultural challenges, and John Antonakis from the University of Lausanne on leadership, all global areas of interest.

Another key exhibitor was the European Congress of Psychology 2019, set to be held in Moscow, and lead organiser Anna Leybina reported much interest including registrations from our delegates. Do consider submitting.

Michael Smith, who chairs our conference standing committee, is the UK representative on the Scientific Committee, and the Society would like to see many more UK submissions to this ECP.

Coming up is the General Assembly of the International Union of Psychological Science (IUPsyS). Pam Maras, IUPsyS's incoming president, was a key guest at our conference and spoke at the international round table of the importance of collaboration for psychology and what the international union will be doing to foster this. 

Here in the BPS we will be playing our part, representing BPS members, in taking psychology forward and supporting psychologists as a profession, as citizens of Europe and globally.

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