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   SPSSI Policy Update
   By Alex Ingrams, Policy Coordinator

At the APA Convention in Orlando this August, keynote speaker Chris Mooney said that “we are in the age of empowerment for aspiring science communicators.” His message had special relevance to psychologists who he said worked in a field that deserves to have high policy impact for its insights into human behavior, cooperation, and social well-being. The comments resonated with me after several months of policy work that have involved coordinating SPSSI’s efforts to communicate with policy members and the public on several critical areas of social policy in the United States.

The first of these, LGBT rights, was remarkable in that it placed SPSSI in close proximity to a grassroots campaign that it could react to speedily with a science-based advocacy program during the Biennial Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. The program was in response to the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage that had been put to the voters in North Carolina just days before the Convention was due to start. We responded with a letter to the North Carolina Governor that was signed by 280 Convention attendees. During the Convention, attendees wore pins supporting marriage equality and there was a special handout highlighting events on LGBT issues on one side, and providing advocacy resources and ideas on the other.

Communication with legislators at various levels of government is a key part of SPSSI’s policy efforts and a large part of the work that I do in Washington. Last week, SPSSI joined 99 other academic institutions and scientific associations in co-signing a letter from the Consortium of Social Science Associations (COSSA). The letter decried wording in the U.S. House of Representatives bill—the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Act for 2013—that would strip the National Institutes of Health (NIH) of its funding for economic research programs. The letter highlighted that such funding has historically been vital for “research on the linkages between socioeconomic status and health outcomes in the elderly and achievement and health outcomes in children.”

In other work at the APA Convention in August, I chaired a symposium as part of a series of LGBT sessions organized by the APA LGBT Concerns Office. The panel “Dimensions of LGBT Parenting in Florida and Beyond” aimed to address the role of psychological research in the landmark case that struck down Florida’s ban on adoption by Gay and Lesbian parents. The event brought together researcher Henny Bos of the University of Amsterdam, clinical psychologist Shara Sand, and ACLU senior staff attorney Leslie Cooper to discuss Gill vs. Florida and the current issues impacting LGBT parents and their children.

It has been immensely exciting to be part of these policy and communication efforts with SPSSI members and I look forward to continuing these efforts to amplify the findings of SPSSI research for public policymakers. In his talk at the APA Convention, Chris Mooney reminded the audience repeatedly of the potential for psychologists to communicate using all kinds of media tools that are available to us today. There has never been a better time for psychologists to step into the public sphere and find a platform that shares their research in exciting and engaging ways.

—Alex Ingrams

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