President's Column

Pam Maras writes about international relations

Our Society is the second largest and second oldest national psychological association in the world (behind the American Psychological Association). We have memorandums of understanding with the Psychological Society of South Africa (PsySSA), the Chinese Psychological Society (CPS) and the Psychological Society of Ireland (PSI), and links with other international organisations, such as the International Union of Psychological Societies, via our UK membership of the Royal Society Scientific Unions Committee and as a member and on task groups of the European Federation of Psychology Associations.  

I was invited to the PsySSA Annual Congress in Durban in August at which Advocate Boyce Mkhize, Registrar and CEO of the Health Professions Council (of South Africa) suggested that ‘our science and approach needs to be developed and adapted to our own local context while also comparable to the world’s best’. Advocate Mkhize’s address was the first stage of a review of psychology in South Africa by Dr Saths Cooper, outgoing President of the PsySSA.

On p.734 of this issue Dr Buxin Han and Professor Kan Zhang provide us with an overview of psychology in China today. The BPS has had links with the CPS since the early 1980s, when its President, Professor Ching, presented a Chinese scroll to us to commemorate his visit. In September 2005 BPS President Graham Powell welcomed Professor Yue Guoan, Vice President of the CPS to our John Street office. At that meeting a letter was read out from President Professor Kan Zhang, inviting the BPS President to meet with him in China. In November this year I was delighted to meet Professor Zhang and other colleagues from the CPS at the Institute of Psychology in Beijing and was an invited guest at the 11th National Conference of the CPS in Kaifeng City in Henan Province.  

The Society also has a longstanding relationship with the PSI – our holding of the 2008 Annual Conference in Dublin (2–4 April; see is testament to the goodwill between the two societies. I will shortly be attending the PSI Annual Conference in County Kerry, where I am looking forward to some high-quality academic papers and the usual Irish hospitality. While there I hope to be able to finalise arrangements with PSI’s President Elect Dr Mitchel Fleming for a joint BPS/PSI international presidents roundtable to be held at our conference in Dublin.

I was also invited to the American Psychological Association (APA) International Congress in San Francisco in August, where I was especially pleased to see that three British psychologists were awarded APA honours: Dr Victoria Clarke (University of the West of England) and Dr Elizabeth Peel (Aston University) received Division 44’s Book Award for their edited volume Out in Psychology: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer Perspectives; and Professor Ian Rivers (Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh) received fellowship of the APA through Division 44, for his work on homophobic bullying and with LGBT voluntary and community sector groups. As a result of this visit we hope to sign a memorandum of understanding with the APA in the coming year.

Whilst at the APA and PsySAA, meetings were held with the President of the Australian Psychological Society about a possible memorandum of understanding between our societies, with associated activities.

Nearer to home, but as important, I have had the pleasure of visiting members in the Northern Ireland, Scottish, North West of England and West Midlands Branches and hope to visit the Wessex Branch in the new year. Branches are important, providing local opportunities for networking and member activities. For example, the North West of England Branch with the Division of Forensic Psychology has held a highly successful conference on violence, the London and Home Counties Branch recently hosted a talk by Martin Seligman on positive psychology, and the very successful London and Edinburgh Lectures for students continue to be hosted by the London and Home Counties and Scottish Branches respectively.

Are these links important? I think they are. Isaac Asimov wrote: ‘No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be.’ Memorandums of understanding are important symbols of shared values, demonstrating a spirit of openness in our work as part of a worldwide community of psychology. Maintaining contact with key psychological associations is valuable in supporting members’ interests and ensuring representation of UK psychology in key international forums. We also need to take account of the wider world in our own policy formulation; many issues such as ethics and statutory regulation are shared with international colleagues. The Trustees are reviewing policy for embedding international relations firmly within the overall governance structure in the next few months: I will report back on this in the new year.

That’s all until next month, when you will find my column in its new home on the Society pages, as part of the redesigned and revitalised Psychologist.

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