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   Public Policy Report
   Alex Ingrams, Policy Coordinator

In presenting "Horizon 2020", the European Commission’s vision for investing in science, Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said that the 80 billion Euro package was a step towards “promising a smarter, more sustainable and more inclusive society”. And in the U.S. the first of the 2012 omnibus spending bills saw the Science Appropriations Act give the National Science Foundation a boost of $155 million o 2011 levels. In the middle of economic recession, these are promising signs. However, there is a further challenge despite these encouraging dollar numbers. This challenge is specifically how scientific research can advance applied knowledge and understanding of human rights and social justice. Issues such as prejudice, discrimination, poverty, and conflict seem to be brought into sharper relief in times of economic uncertainty. In coordinating SPSSI policy over the last few months I have been very excited to learn about all the ways that social psychologists are addressing social issues and bringing research expertise to bear on policy-making in a number of different ways.

On the human rights front, SPSSI held a focus group of social psychologists with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for the United Nations’ review of Article 15 of the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Article 15 enshrines the right of humans to the benefits of scientific progress, and AAAS has partnered with organizations like ours to convene focus groups from a range of scientific disciplines to ensure that the UN’s review is informed by the perspective of academic researchers and teachers. The focus group, which was chaired by SPSSI fellow Paul Kimmel, addressed questions relating to topics such as the current areas of social psychology research that have most application for social justice and human rights, and the ways that government action or inaction gets in the way of the people enjoying the benefits of scientific progress. The UN will report on the review process in 2012.

The human rights of science, academic freedom, and scientific integrity have been high on the list of SPSSI priorities in 2011 which has been reflected in SPSSI’s focused collaboration with coalitions such as AAAS, the Consortium of Social Science Associations (COSSA), and the Coalition to Promote Research (CPR). However, there are a wide range of current social issues which have developed over the last few months and which SPSSI members have been well placed to address with new research data or science-based policy recommendations. To name but a few of the most significant:

  • Immigration reform, which in the United States has been a frequent topic of my conversation with policy-makers in the U.S. Congress and experts of inter-group relations and individual bias.
  • Lesbian and gay marriage and adoption, which are prohibited by many state jurisdictions in the U.S., and which are based on policies that neglect important psychological evidence about family relationships and child rearing.
  • Climate change adaptation, which is slowly becoming a part of international government agendas and which SPSSI members have offered research and communications material about to guide policymakers on promoting environmentally sustainable behavior.
  • Unemployment, which is a growing problem in the current global economy and an issue in which social psychologists have an important voice for shaping economic and mental healthcare interventions.

In addition to working on specific social issues, I have taken great interest and enthusiasm in developing the policy tools and capacities of the SPSSI website and of SPSSI members to address social issues. I want to tell you about three notable changes: the online advocacy centeronline policy forums, and policy news emails.

Firstly, the SPSSI online advocacy center is an all new feature on the website. It is integrated with the policy pages of the website to provide a comprehensive set of informational resources for psychologists that wish to use tools such as writing a letter to the government or speaking with the media. It has guidance, templates, case studies and links to other online resources that might be helpful, and it is hoped that it will become a first-stop for SPSSI members and others to find what they need.

Secondly, online policy forums are a second new feature of the website. They are integrated with the SPSSI Member Forum that can be found at A policy forum is a type of social media platform that allows members to post announcements, resources, and discussions under a specific topic listing. So far there are two forums (an Immigration Policy group and a Washington DC Area group) and I encourage SPSSI members who are interested in starting other forums to get in touch with me to find out if the technology can assist their policy projects.

Thirdly, policy news emails which were launched in the winter are proving to be a big success. Subscriptions now number over 700 SPSSI members. In response to suggestions from readers, a new section specifically for international policy news has been added. If you would like to subscribe to these emails, please email me directly. A listing of previous policy news emails can be found on the Policy Hub at

We also continue to operate a full range of social media sites. Please get in touch if you would like to find out more about these or any of the other projects mentioned above. It would be great to hear from any interested readers on how these projects can be improved in future. I would like to finish with a big THANK YOU! to all the SPSSI members who have helped advance these policy projects by providing expert research information and advice over the last few months. More please!

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