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Ashley Votruba


Continuing SPSSI'S Mission:  Connecting Research with Policy

Ashley M. Votruba, Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska - Lincoln

At the time this newsletter is published, our world is heavy with the disruption, loss, and uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many aspects of our lives—both professional and personal—have changed and many people are unsure of what the future holds. Needless to say, current events have had an impact on the SPSSI community. Organizational impacts include having to cancel the annual in-person conference, among others. As I sit at my home desk, working on this issue of the newsletter, I am heartened to know that despite these challenging times, SPSSI’s mission continues. Throughout this issue, there are wonderful examples of how SPSSI’s membership routinely uses social psychological research to both inform and better a wide array of societal problems. In this uncertain time, it strikes me that SPSSI’s mission is as important as ever.  

In this issue of The Forward, we hear from SPSSI leadership. Stephanie Fryberg, SPSSI President, discusses the impact of these unprecedented times on SPSSI. Richard Wiener, SPSSI Secretary Treasurer, offers his comments with a focus the future of SPSSI and his position. We also have a letter from the SPSSI 2020 Conference Co-Chairs, Laura Brady and Arianne Eason.  

In addition to the updates from SPSSI leadership, this issue focuses on the policy relevant work happening at SPSSI. We are taking this issue as an opportunity to highlight SPSSI work connecting research with policy. This issue includes a column by Sarah Mancoll, SPSSI Policy Director, who shares a webinar on the topic of policy writing. We also include a number of contributions from SPSSI members.  

Jamie Yellowtail and Julisa Lopez reflect on their experiences at the SPSSI 2020 Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill advocating for the Violence Against Women Act, specifically focusing on the provisions that addresses the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. As an organization, SPSSI has been hosting yearly Advocacy Days to raise awareness of and advocate for policy issues rooted in social science research. 

We hear from two of the Local- and State-Level Policy Work Award grant recipients. Patrick R. Grzanka describes his proposed project using “Deep values canvassing” as an intervention method to shift East Tennessee voters’ attitudes toward comprehensive sex education. The research team has partnered with Tennessee Advocates for Planned Parenthood to have canvassers engage with voters by going door-to-door and having one-on-one conversations around each other’s values. 

Jessica Smith, Hayley Cleary, and Sarah Raskin discuss their proposal to examine Virginia’s school threat assessment policy and the influence of that policy on school safety. This project uses applied research with the goal of influencing state and local educational policy through written and oral briefings.  

In this issue, we also highlight the Gordon Allport Intergroup Relationship Prize winners Jay Van Bavel and Andrea Pereira for their paper titled, The Partisan Brain: A Value-Based Model of Political Belief. The Prize honors the memory of the late Dr. Gordon W. Allport—a founder and past president of SPSSI— by acknowledging the best paper or article of the year on intergroup relations. 

We conclude by highlight two articles from SPSSI’s Social Issues and Policy Review journal. The first column by Alexander S. Browman and Kevin R. Binning discusses their article titled Theoretical, Ethical, and Policy Considerations for Conducting Social–Psychological Interventions to Close Educational Achievement Gaps. They highlight the need for guidelines for using social psychological interventions to address educational achievement gaps with diverse educational settings and students. 

The Second column by Tessa L. Dover discusses the need for an evidence based approach to diversity initiatives within work environments. Dover and colleagues’ article, Mixed Signals: The Unintended Effects of Diversity Initiatives reviews the ways in which diversity initiatives may actually perpetuate inequalities within organizations through the signals they send.  

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