Daunting challenges - Annual Conference reports

Associate Editor for Conference reports Fiona Jones introduces our coverage of the 1999 Annual Conference.
FOR the first time in 30 years, the Society’s Annual Conference, together with the Division of Clinical Psychology Annual Conference, was held in Northern Ireland. Belfast’s Waterfront Hall and the Hilton Hotel formed an impressive setting for the talks and social activities. With around 750 delegates, the attendance was a little down on some previous years but the sessions nevertheless seemed well attended. The first evening’s social event was a memorable start to the conference with a reception held at Stormont, seat of the new Northern Ireland Assembly. Addresses were given by Clive Gowdy, a Permanent Secretary in the Northern Ireland Office, and Lord Alderdice, leader of the Alliance Party (and a psychiatrist to boot!). There was also an opportunity to be shown round the Assembly rooms by staff who gave fascinating accounts of its history. Subsequent social events seemed equally successful, including a ceilidh and a traditional conference dinner with band, held at the Hilton on the last evening. As usual, the conference had been organised around three themes: ‘difference and diversity’, ‘brain and behaviour’ and ‘language and communication’. A wide range of talks can clearly be incorporated within such broad areas, and probably few of the delegates spotted the little-publicised themes — but what mattered was that they successfully attracted a high standard of papers. The overall impression I gained from attending the conference was that psychology is faced with a multitude of rather daunting challenges. Hannah McGee suggests ‘quality of life’ is the challenge, for Ed Cairns it is tackling world peace. Ingrid Lunt advocated a more modest, though perhaps equally elusive, goal of achieving both unity and diversity in the Society. For me, the challenge of understanding a symposium on structural equation modelling was more than enough. More reports follow in next month’s issue.

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