The Society for the
Study of Social Issues


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President's Column

   Daniel Perlman, President

Whence and Whither SPSSI: Your Input Wanted!

The past few months have been a good time for SPSSI.  A few of the highlights are as follows:

• The SPSSI Central Office is functioning efficiently

• SPSSI’s new journal, Social Issues and Policy Review (SIPR), has commenced publication

• SPSSI completed the redesign and enhancement of the SPSSI web site (
• As manifest in this issue of the Forward, SPSSI is increasing its international orientation and relevance to members living outside of North America. 

• Upon the recommendation of SPSSI’s UN Committee, SPSSI endorsed statements on “Promotion of Full Employment and Decent Work for All” and a “World Fit for Children.”

• SPSSI is moving forward with hiring a Policy Coordinator, and

• SPSSI received funds bequeathed by former University of Michigan professor Anna Elonen.

One might argue all is well for SPSSI, so let’s just savor the successes and keep doing what we are already doing well.  Undoubtedly, we should do some of that but I am hesitant for SPSSI to simply rest on its past laurels.  The circumstances in which SPSSI as a psychological association operate are continually changing.  Take three examples: the status of psychology as a field, publishing in psychological science, and the nature of psychological associations themselves. 

• Despite calls by Sternberg (2005) and others for greater unity, psychology became more fragmented in the latter part of the 20th century.  Concurrently, practice groups rose in importance within key professional associations and the field became more closely aligned with the provision of health care.  In the 21st century, we recognize psychology as a hub science, one of the central disciplines among scientific fields with numerous interdisciplinary links and strong impact on neighboring fields (Cacioppo, 2007).

• Apropos of publishing, print subscriptions are becoming less important and electronic access is becoming more crucial.  To contain costs and expand the number of libraries with access to journals, consortiums of schools have evolved.  With electronic access, librarians and others have better data on usage to assist their decisions on which subscriptions to retain and which to drop.  Another more subtle trend in publishing is the more toward more reader, policy or practice oriented materials.  For example Association for Psychological Science’s (APS’s) Current Directions in Psychological Science and the Clinical Psychology Review both publish articles designed to help psychologists keep up-to-date on relevant issues outside of their immediate areas of expertise. 

• The constellation of the professional associations around SPSSI and the functions they play are also evolving.  The American Psychological Association’s (APA’s) 2004 Policy and Planning Board expressed this issue as follows:

A serious challenge to APA as a large umbrella organization involves the increasing attractiveness of specialty organizations in psychology.  As the field moves toward a stance of increasing specialization, APA members will be challenged to maintain their loyalty to APA while at the same time obtaining specific professional benefits that accrue from membership in specialty organizations.

Academic psychologists take notice that these smaller organizations often have much lower membership fees and, although they may provide fewer services than larger omnibus associations, the services that smaller groups do provide are often considered key to their members’ interests.  Intertwined with these changes, there is a proliferation of smaller professional meetings. This may have resulted in the APA’s membership and convention attendance growth slowing, fewer new APA members joining APA divisions than did so in the past (ergo APA’s division members tend to be older than APA members who do not belong to a division), and APA’s conventions are less oriented to the needs of academic psychologists. 

What do these trends mean for SPSSI?  In many ways, SPSSI seems to be well positioned.  For example, SPSSI’s tradition of valuing the contribution that other perspectives can offer to the analysis of social issues is consistent with psychology’s nature as a hub science.  Similarly, SPSSI’s new journal, SIPR, has the broader, more integrative quality that is becoming more prevalent.  In other ways, these trends perhaps require a shift in SPSSI emphases.  For example, the digitalization, which is taking place in publishing leads to some uncertainty giving SPSSI new opportunities but also underscoring, once again, the value for SPSSI of reducing its heavy reliance on royalties as an income source.  The downward trend for APA members joining divisions suggests SPSSI should increase its attention to seeking new members who are not affiliated with APA.  The proliferation of more specialized conferences implies that SPSSI needs to innovate to insure that SPSSI conventions are worthwhile for SPSSI members to attend both in an absolute sense and in comparison to the other meetings trying to attract SPSSI members. 

Given several factors including the changing nature of SPSSI’s context, the opportunities and challenges before us, the time since last doing so, and being more settled in Washington, DC, SPSSI has embarked on a strategic planning exercise.  SPSSI Council will be devoting a day during its mid-winter meeting to further developing the strategic plan.  We hope to have a draft of the strategic plan prepared and posted on SPSSI’s web site in conjunction with the June 27-29 SPSSI Convention.  In the early steps of the planning process, we identified nine goals (five having to do with organizational development and four pertaining to SPSSI’s impact (see below). 

I invite all SPSSI members to comment on the directions that these goals might be taking SPSSI.  Are these goals the ones you believe SPSSI should pursue?  Are there any goals that you feel to be of especially high priority or that you believe SPSSI should abandon? Have we ignored objectives you consider important?  What factors (positive or negative) does SPSSI need to take into account in order to make additional progress on various goals? What are the most important things that SPSSI is currently doing to advance various goals?  What additional strategies might SPSSI use to achieve these objectives?  We welcome your input: Contact any SPSSI governance member or me (, telephone 336-256-0134) with your opinions.

Draft Goals for SPSSI

Organizational Development

1. Expand and “diversify” SPSSI’s membership by being more responsive to the needs of members and potential members, while still drawing on SPSSI’s unique strengths
a) “Diversify” is defined broadly (e.g., age, race, ethnicity, disciplines, ideology)
b) Especially expand membership among young researchers (21st century members)
c) Ensure that the membership benefits provides real value to members.

2. Strengthen SPSSI’s fiscal position by diversifying revenue streams, which in turn means identifying & investigating new opportunities.

3. Upgrade the organizational infrastructure without losing the special culture that defines SPSSI – by focusing on efficiency, responsiveness, communication, committee structure, policies, and procedures.

4. Increase SPSSI’s responsiveness to policy issues, especially identifying opportunities for SPSSI members to exert influence.

5. Diversify leadership within SPSSI, especially ethnic/racial diversity and other marginalized groups.


1. Provide a strong community (a “couch”) for professionals who are interested in social issues (including those who are just starting their careers).

2. Building on SPSSI’s past success, promote the generation of new knowledge on critical social issues.

3. Increase the utilization and uptake of social science research by enhancing the dissemination and translation of key findings
a) “Enhancing” can be achieved by increasing both quantity and quality.

4. Increase SPSSI’s influence on policy issues/social issues by forming stronger connections between SPSSI members and those who create and influence policy
a) Build the capacity of researchers to translate their research into impact
b) Impact the institutions that influence policy
c) Educate the larger society (i.e., set a receptive backdrop against which policy and practice can be improved). 

 American Psychological Association 2004 Policy and Planning Board (2005). APA 2020: A perfect vision for psychology. American Psychologist, 60, 512-522.

Cacioppo, J. T. (2007, September).  Psychology is a hub science.  APS Observer, 20(8). Retrieved from

Sternberg, R. J. (Ed.). (2005). Unity in psychology: Possibility or pipedream? Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

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Research that produces nothing but books will not suffice.
                                                                                                                    - Kurt Lewin