Report to the General Assembly 2009 in OSLO

Report to the General Assembly, EFPA, Oslo, July 11-12, 2009 from the Standing Committee on Scientific Affairs

Members of the Committee are: 

Nigel Foreman (UK), Convenor

Ivo Cermak (Czech Republic)

Lars-Goran Nilsson (Sweden)

Jose M. Prieto (Spain)

Nebi Sumer (Turkey)

Mojca Vizjak Pavsic (Slovenia)

Odd Havik (Norway)

Remo Job (Italy)

Rita Zukauskiene (Lithuania)

Vladimir Taksic (Croatia)

Knud-Erik Sabroe (Denmark)

Edward van Rossen (Belgium)

Jan Henk Kamphuis (Netherlands)

Michele Carlier (France)

Roger Lecuyer (EC Liaison Officer)

The Committee on Scientific Affairs has had three meetings since the July 2007 report, all well attended with most members present (detailed below).

Each meeting consisted of a pre-agenda meeting and meal, followed by a meeting throughout the following day. Edward van Rossen has taken minutes and circulated a draft copy for all of the meetings except the Ankara meeting where Seniz Celimli (Turkish Psychological Association) did so.

What the EC expects of the committee: The responsibilities of the CSA remain unchanged from previous years, with the addition of the following items from EC added following the 2007 GA: 

1. With Publications and Communications WG, influence funding priorities of European bodies by issuing expert statements on achievements of psychology and policy programming applications.

2. Identify grant opportunities and facilitate contacts between potential partners for other SCs and WGs including funding for training workshops as well as for research, particularly applied and translational research […], promoting European research collaborations with EFPA as a participant. (Aims and Tasks 2007-9).

 (1) The first meeting was held in Ankara, Turkey, 25th-26th January 2008 at the invitation of Nebi Sumer and the Turkish Psychological Association. Present were NF, OEH, VT, MC, KES, JHK, JMP, NS. Choice of venues for future meetings of the committee was discussed since it was felt that members from less affluent MAs might be prevented from attending northern European venues. This is still a concern (see below)  

(2) The second meeting was held in Berlin, Germany, 24th July 2008 to coincide with the International Congress of Psychology, 2008 [in the conference venue, the International Congress Centre] at the invitation of the conference organisers. Present were NF, EvR, JMP, KES, LGN, MC, MVP, NS, OEH, RL, RZ, VT. At this meeting, it was decided, following a suggestion from the Chair, that six sub-committees would be established to continue the CSA’s work between meetings, liaising via e-mail and reporting to subsequent meetings.

The sub-committees are (convenors underlined):

EFPA Website (EvR, LGN, NF)

Communications (KES, MP, RJ, JHK)

Ethics (EvR, JMP, VT, NF)

Euro-PhD (NS, JMP, MC, RZ, NF)

ECP Evaluation protocol (NS, MC, OH, IC, JHK, NF)

Funding Opportunities (NF, LGN, JHK) 

(3) The third meeting was held in Vilnius, Lithuania, 13th/14th March 2009 at the invitation of Rita Zukauskiene, Mykolas Romeris University, and the Lithuanian Psychological Association. Present were all members of the committee with the exception of IC. The committee had a formal meeting with representatives of the steering committee of the Lithuanian Psychological Association, Robertas Pouilaitis, Evaldas Kazlauskas and Albinas Bagdonas.

Nine main topics have been discussed in these three meetings. Progress on each across the 3 meetings is described below, and areas in which the Committee hopes to make progress in 2009-2011:

1. Selection of venues

It was felt that the cost of attending CSA meetings might deter delegates from the less affluent MAs. The committee contacted the President, expressing concern and asking about the possibility of funding support.

In a reply from the EC, the concerns were noted and it was suggested that CSA might consider its choice of venues according to flight and accommodation costs. Since then one meeting was held in Vilnius, Lithuania and one in Ankara, Turkey, although it is not easy to identify a venue as especially cost-effective.

2. Minimal standards for PhD programmes in Europe and the concept of a Euro-PhD qualification

Discussions took place on the various forms that the PhD could take, national differences, new routes, the need for masters training prior to embarking on a PhD, suggestions regarding the need for publication of theses in English, minimum numbers on supervisory panels.

It was decided that the essential issue, related to European mobility, is to know what skills a PhD graduate will have minimally acquired. A list of criteria has been developed, which is due for discussion in an invited symposium at ECP Oslo.

3. Research Ethics

Work on this topic is, pro tem, completed. The committee discovered a wide range of practices regarding ethical approval procedures across MAs, some asking approval for all data collection, some none, and others requiring approval only for “medical” psychological work.

NF produced a comprehensive document based upon British Psychological Society ethical requirements. This was embellished by EvR, and circulated for discussion. Contact was made with EFPA’s ethics committee. This topic will be debated at ECP Oslo. The committee feels that there is an urgent need to have such a document on the EFPA website, which can be improved in due course.

4. Guidelines for ECP meetings and criteria for their evaluation

As a result of the diligence of NS, a document has been produced and discussed extensively at all of the committee’s meetings. EFPA needs a list of criteria against which the success of each ECP can be gauged. However, there was discussion as to whether this should comprise a list of bipolar criteria, or whether a list of items to be considered.

For example, paper and abstract rejection rates: running an ECP is not like running a journal. High rejection rates might benefit a journal as evidence of the maintenance of prestige and standards. Rejection of papers and abstracts from an ECP would result in potential delegates becoming ineligible, within their own country, for financial support, may result in a selective disadvantage for potential delegates for reasons of language, and would limit the benefits of the ECP as an academic community.

Therefore, it was felt that while contributions must have merit for acceptance, an initial stage might involve advice to contributors to improve abstract quality prior to rejection. Nevertheless, a document has been circulated to the organisers of the ECP Oslo, and the committee expects to return to the criteria when data from Oslo have been analysed.

5. Monitor progress on ECPs

The committee has received reports from the organising committees of the 11th ECP meeting in Oslo, July 2009 and the 12th in Istanbul, July 2011. Issues have been raised with organisers. Gerd Kvale, chair of the Scientific Committee for the Oslo meeting, gave a presentation to the Committee at its Berlin meeting. Recently, there was concern about the small proportion of women invited as keynote speakers to the Oslo meeting.

6. Funding issues for Psychology in Europe

This topic has been the subject of much discussion but the Committee’s progress in this area has been slow. There were differing opinions on how to achieve the set goals. We have been in contact with the EFPA communications group, also with MEPs with psychology qualifications.

Members of our committee pointed out that it would be useful (but time consuming, and too time consuming for the CSA to volunteer to undertake it) to discover such things as how many FP applications are made from psychology compared with other disciplines, how much is typically requested and what proportion are successful by comparison with other disciplines.

It was agreed that the modus operandi was something which should be returned to the GA for comment. The Committee feels that more use could be made of Subaltern and secretarial duties to fulfil this, in conjunction with the committee on communications. The Committee will in future develop links with the European Research Council in order to monitor the level of funding and research activity undertaken by Psychologists within the EU.

7. bImproving the dissemination of psychological knowledge throughout Europe

The Committee was asked to attempt to find ways of drawing major research findings in psychology to the attention of the European community. We intend to work in future with Hrvoje Gligora, Publications and Communications Working Group of EFPA, to achieve this end. The Committee has been unclear as to how this can be achieved given the limited resources available. All of the Committee are busy researchers and it would be foolish form the Committee alone to take on responsibility for identifying and making widely available important pieces of research.

Individual MAs might be encouraged to provide such information; indeed, in July 2008, delegates to a Presidents’ Council meeting of EFPA “…agreed to play an active role in sending articles to News Editor (Hrvoje Gligora)”; we look forward to discussing with the Publications and Communications staff how well this system is currently working and implement an alternative system if necessary. The Committee has contacted one MEP who is a psychologist, in an attempt to discover what would be most useful for MEPs to be appraised of new developments in psychology.

8. Correspondence with the Editor-in-Chief of the European Psychologist

The committee has been pleased to fulfil its responsibility to oversee the publication and development of the European Psychologist. We have liaised with the Editor in Chief (Rainer Silbereisen) and the publishers (Hochgrefe), commenting in detail on the last letter sent by the Editor in Chief to up-date the Committee on developments with the journal.

A call was put out for an additional Associate Editor, and although several applications were received, no candidate was deemed suitable and no appointment was made. The Editor in Chief pointed out that strictly, there was already a full quota of Associate Editors who could cope with current activities.

As a consequence of his becoming President of IUPsyS, the Editor in Chief made it known that he would retire from office. A call was issued for a successor. Few applications have been received. Rainer is perceived as a hard act to follow; the Impact Factor for the journal has increased dramatically from 0.81 to 1.18 in recent years, which is a credit to the Editor in Chief in particular. At the time of writing, a search for a new Editor in Chief is being undertaken.

9. EFPA website

The Committee discussed what materials relating to its activities should appear on the EFPA website. In order to encourage coverage of all psychology sub-disciplines, it was suggested that cv’s be included, to give MAs an indication of the areas not currently covered by committee members. This need became clear when we were approached by Marianne Kant-Schaps (NEPES) on 14 Feb 2008, asking whether the Committee could assist with a project n Schools Psychology.

We had to admit that no current member of the committee was an expert in that area. It was decided to include brief cv’s of all members who are willing to do this. Having such cv’s available might also be helpful to MAs when deciding on nominations, since they are able to see the typical profile of current committee members.

10. Awards

RL suggested that the CSA should have a more prominent role in proposing possible recipients of awards made at ECPs (Comenius, Aristotle). The Committee was reluctant to adopt this role since it does not have representatives from all MAs. However, it is concerned that some potential recipients may be overlooked because they have not been “sampled”.

The Committee suggested that all MAs should have at least a corresponding member of the CSA even if they do not attend meetings. Searching for recipients tends to occur rather late in the day. Each MA might be encouraged to keep a list of possible recipients. All MAs might submit one name. In that case, CSA would be happy to act in an advisory capacity (indicating, for example, whether no candidate reaches the necessary standard, or whether particular candidates show special strength).

Concensus conference in Psychology 2008-9: Psychological Assessment and the Uses of Measurements in Child Psychology: The Committee was asked at its Berlin meeting to approve and support this meeting, in France, on Psychological Assessment. The Committee gave its full approval and support to the meeting.

 In addition to any changes that might occur to the reconstructed committee after the 2009 GA, Michele Carlier has indicated at the Vilnius meeting that her colleague, Jean Yves Baudoin would replace her as the French representative on this committee in future. The Committee is very grateful for MC’s past contributions to its work. 

The Committee is extremely grateful to all those who have facilitated our meetings, including the organisers of the International Congress of Psychology in Berlin, 2008 and the European Congress, 2009, also the Turkish and Lithuanian Associations who have generously hosted our visits and provided meeting rooms.