President's column

The Society’s Policy Support Unit (PSU) is now in full swing, set up in March 2005 to coordinate and enhance the Society’s formal responses to requests for consultation put out by government and other organisations. Since March the Policy Support Unit has handled over 50 responses, and their breadth is enormous; all the consultations in progress and completed are listed on the Society website (tinyurl.com/cg8l9).
The Society’s Policy Support Unit (PSU) is now in full swing, set up in March 2005 to coordinate and enhance the Society’s formal responses to requests for consultation put out by government and other organisations. Since March the Policy Support Unit has handled over 50 responses, and their breadth is enormous; all the consultations in progress and completed are listed on the Society website (tinyurl.com/cg8l9).

There is input to the NHS Emergency Planning Guidance 2005. The London bombings highlighted that any major incident involves many agencies and government departments. The Society applauded the shift in emphasis from disaster planning to resilience planning, but to avoid this becoming empty rhetoric it was hoped that attention would be paid to psychological needs within the new Local Resilience Forums. The Society also welcomed the plan to have clear information for the public, but advised caution regarding the content of television programmes and the use of leaflets – there was evidence after 9/11 in New York that children who watched most TV showing the planes had most elevated levels of distress, and that merely providing leaflets about anticipated reactions may not be helpful. Much of the planning document dealt with physical care of mass casualties, but the psychological impact was felt both by the victims, their families, first responders, and staff in emergency centres, so local mental health services needed to participate in planning.

We have also responded to the Department for Education and Skills’ Children’s Workforce Strategy Consultation. We commended the vision, putting children first, promoting inter- and multi-agency working and aiming to develop professional excellence, but elements of the strategy actually militated against the vision. For example, the single qualifications framework fails to recognise the level of qualifications and expertise of educational psychologists, so the new qualifications framework would have an adverse effect on recruitment and retention. The Society supported the extension of Sure Start Children’s Centres, stressing the importance of recognising that psychological theory and research underpinned effective practice with young children, so this would be an essential element in the training of new staff; educational, clinical and other applied psychologists would have a vital contribution in improving outcomes in the pre-school years.

A final example is the Research Board’s response to the Research Assessment Exercise consultation on Draft Criteria and Working Methods, seeking views about the key reforms for RAE 2008. We made a wide range of points (see p.692). For example, there are non-standard cases in which people have a major impact on research (e.g. as research managers) but do not accrue personal publications, and there are those whose work is not publishable (e.g. because of security issues) but is extremely impactful, say in defence or policing. Panels should develop indicators of research excellence that are not based solely on published output, and that can accommodate these types of cases. Also, many researchers have only part-time research roles, especially researchers in applied areas such as clinical, counselling, sport and exercise, and education. We recommended clearer guidance on the research output to expect from such people, and also clearer guidance about how students on professional doctorates should be classified.

Contact Christina Docchar, the PSU Manager ([email protected]), for more information, and thanks to all those who contribute.

I was very pleased in September to welcome to John Street a delegation from the Chinese Psychological Society, led by Vice-President Professor Yue Guoan. The main purpose of the gathering was to strengthen ties between our two societies. A letter was read out from Professor Kan Zhang, President of the Chinese Psychological Society, inviting the President of our society to meet in China. We discussed a range of common interests with invited colleagues, and ideas that emerged included exchange visits in areas such as psychology in the workplace, addressing issues arising in China in the transition from rural to industrial communities, and a prize to allow a Chinese student to visit our Student Members Group. It is also hoped the our History of Psychology Centre might advise on taking oral histories, given that so much documentation on Chinese psychology was destroyed in the Cultural Revolution. We presented a scroll and received a wall hanging for John Street, and I took receipt of a bottle of Kweichow Moutai, promising we would begin our next Trustees meeting by toasting their health. Having checked the bottle and observed it to be 106º proof, I think it would best be kept for the end of the meeting.

Finally we now have the outcome of the subscriptions ballot, subscriptions not having been raised for seven years. The vote of members was 64 per cent in favour, a more decisive ‘pro’ vote than previously, confirming my view that members are demanding more extensive membership services, which this subscription increase will fund.

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