President's column

Ray Miller writes.
Time-travelling elephants and giant marionettes are not the usual interruptions to the Representative Council. At the May meeting in London the agenda covered wide-ranging issues from the Society’s finances to draft policy on diversity and equality. It was accompanied by music and sound effects from the parade of a 12-metre tall, 42-tonne elephant and his 5-metre tall mechanical girl companion.
Time-travelling elephants and giant marionettes are not the usual interruptions to the Representative Council. At the May meeting in London the agenda covered wide-ranging issues from the Society’s finances to draft policy on diversity and equality. It was accompanied by music and sound effects from the parade of a 12-metre tall, 42-tonne elephant and his 5-metre tall mechanical girl companion. This street theatre was performed by the French Royal de Luxe group, loosely inspired by the science fiction writings of Jules Verne, who died in 1905. (This centenary parade was meant to happen last year but was postponed because of the 7 July bombings.) Several streets around The Mall were closed, causing traffic chaos, but it made Council an even more memorable and entertaining event than usual.

Not many people know that the Society has published science fiction. In 1987 Jim Ridgeway and Michelle Benjamin edited Psi Fi, a collection of seven short stories by major science fiction writers illustrating psychological themes. The foreword was from one of my favourite authors, the late Bob Shaw.

The time travel theme continued with a visit to Belfast to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Northern Ireland Branch. I wonder whether the 19 members and guests who gathered for the first meeting in 1956 would have anticipated the present-day membership of close to 1600. It was a time to reflect on the many achievements of the Branch and its members and an opportunity to look forward towards some of the changes the future may bring.

Like the Branch, the Society has grown considerably in recent years. We have close to 44,000 members, taking part in some 33 Branches, Divisions, Sections and Special Groups. Around 140 staff work to deliver a range of services for members. Some services are fairly obvious; for example, journals, conferences, professional guidance and, of course, The Psychologist. Many are less obvious and form the background tasks of advancing, promoting and representing the discipline and practice of psychology. In the last three months the BPS responded to over 30 major consultations. We also engaged in a wide range of development with government and other bodies and organisations to advance the contribution of psychology in areas including GCSE, A-level and undergraduate education, research and health care. See p.372 for some examples of the Society’s continuing work on these fronts. The Board of Trustees and Representative Council are keen that this hidden work should be more widely publicised. Ways of making information more readily available are being investigated so that members can have a clearer understanding of what is done on their behalf.

There are also challenges. The additional complexity brought about by growth places burdens on systems and resources. There are external factors, such as statutory regulation and devolution. The devolved activity and influence being celebrated in Belfast are reflected in similar developments in the Scottish and Welsh branches. Subsystems generally are making ever greater contributions to the dissemination of psychology knowledge and practice. How do we manage the balance between autonomy and accountability in a diversified BPS? A working party has been set up to consider these issues so that we can build on the successes while making sure that the Society is fit for the future. Members will have a variety of opportunities to express their views.

A reminder of the more personal aspects of future fitness was occasioned by the need to submit my first mandatory CPD record. Like many members I had put this off until the last minute, anticipating a level of tedious and daunting bureaucracy. The best way to tackle it seemed to be through the interactive website, accessible from the members area at www.bps.org.uk. I was pleasantly surprised. The site has very useful information on the definition of CPD, the history of its development within the Society and the benefits of a planned approach to maintaining and updating professional skills.

The online logging of CPD is remarkably easy, with an opportunity to consider personal goals for development and the activities necessary to attain them. With a click or two they can be related to the main areas covered by the Occupational Standards for Psychology that underpin chartered status and there is encouragement to reflect on the knowledge and skills gained. Using the system to create an annual plan is going to be very helpful, and I’ve already made a start on sorting out next year. CPD will feature strongly in the ongoing development of member services, and this system is an excellent aid to the process.

A final slant on ‘fit for the future’ was reading the interesting and timely advice in this issue from Sandy Wolfson and David Lavallee to the England World Cup squad (see p.336). I’ve never really been a football fan and, living in Scotland, I’ve almost forgotten that there is a World Cup. As for Scotland’s chances of ever winning it… well, maybe that really is science fiction.

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