President's Column

Pam Maras on membership services.
Fred Allen, the 1940s radio comedian, once commented ‘If I could get my membership fee back, I’d resign from the human race’. The British Psychological Society needs you; members are the essence of the Society, and member services form a main plank of the its Strategic Plan (see www.bps.org.uk/strategic). But why are you a member of the Society? In response to member consultation, a programme of work linked to the Strategic Plan is in hand.
Fred Allen, the 1940s radio comedian, once commented ‘If I could get my membership fee back, I’d resign from the human race’.

The British Psychological Society needs you; members are the essence of the Society, and member services form a main plank of the its Strategic Plan (see www.bps.org.uk/strategic). But why are you a member of the Society? In response to member consultation, a programme of work linked to the Strategic Plan is in hand.

In pursuit of one element of the plan, the ‘proactive dissemination of psychological science’, a new Journal of Neuropsychology (with over 500 subscribers and an impressive list of authors) was launched in the spring. Members can subscribe to the Society’s journals at a preferential rate of £20 per annum (£15 for students), including free online access see www.bpsjournals.co.uk. Members can also still obtain a discount on newly named BPS Blackwell books, as well as on Evidence Based Mental Health, our journal jointly owned with the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Psychiatrists. Members continue to tell us that The Psychologist and Psychologist Appointments remain key benefits; we look forward to seeing the redesigned Psychologist in the New Year. And the free Research Digest service continues to attract praise and large numbers of subscribers and visitors to the blog at www.researchdigest.org.uk/blog.

Another Strategic Plan objective is ‘to improve support services for all psychology students’. The new Research Assistantship scheme offers students’ opportunities to develop research skills (e-mail [email protected]), and the Annual Edinburgh and London Lectures provide accessible psychology for undergraduate and pre-degree students. We also offer information on careers via the Society’s help desk, website and the recently introduced articles in Psychologist Appointments.

The capacity of the Conferences and Events office has been increased and it now services events previously run by members; 23 Society conferences and 15 workshops have been supported this year. The online CPD system has been upgraded, with the new system easier to use. Membership admission processes have also been improved, reducing waiting times with straightforward applications being dealt with within two weeks.

All of this is supported by members and paid staff. Member subscriptions, which are a main source of income, have been kept as low as possible in the past by using our reserves. However, our sources of external income are under pressure and we are seeing increased running costs through inflation. Now more than ever we need to use our reserves to invest for tomorrow rather than pay for today. We are, therefore, asking you to vote for an increase of the full graduate membership subscription of a little over £1 per month. This is still very inexpensive compared with many other professional bodies, but it will enable the Society to meet the commitments in the Strategic Plan both now and in the longer term.

Last year we asked you to vote on a change to the Statutes to allow the Trustees to set the future level of subscriptions. That vote was lost by 0.1 of a percentage point. I am sure it won’t go unnoticed that whilst 0.1 of a percentage point is probably statistically insignificant, our rules meant (quite properly) that we could not go ahead. The issue has not gone away and we are asking you again to vote in favour of this resolution.  

A letter about the changes is included with this issue. Put simply, the proposal is to allow the Trustees to set the subscription level. We are not asking for a blank cheque – clear safeguards have been built into the rule change, in terms of the amount the Trustees can increase subscriptions by, and a requirement that we consult with your elected Representative Council. This change is vital to the future financial health of our Society. Without it we would find it almost impossible to do the medium- to long-term financial planning that is essential for a modern organisation.

So why am I a member of the Society? Well, partly for the services but also because the Society represents the professional community to which I belong. William James pointed out, way before social identity theory, that ‘the community stagnates without the impulse of the individual. The impulse dies without the sympathy of the community’. So for me the Society represents more than books, journals or advice. It also represents a sense of community which is dependent on members and staff and offers collegiality and opportunity for action. As Margaret Mead said, ‘never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has’.

Finally, it is with great sadness that I have to tell you that Margaret Packman, Chair of the Professional Conduct Board, died suddenly on Thursday 5 July. Margaret has been a wonderful colleague and servant of the Society, and this is a great loss to all of us.

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