I spent the first few days of April at the Society’s Annual Conference in Dublin. For the first time, we held the conference
in association with the Psychological Society of Ireland. It was very stimulating to listen to the many distinguished psychologists who spoke at the conference and to meet a number of Presidents from overseas psychologists’ associations.
One of the keynote speakers at the Conference was Professor Daniel Kahneman (Princeton University). Professor Kahneman was awarded a Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 2002 for his psychological research. He spoke about the relationship between national economic indicators and well-being while also reflecting on the determinants of happiness. He described the ‘focusing illusion’ as being ‘Nothing in life matters quite as much as you think it does while you are thinking about it’. You do have to think about that one!
The Annual Conference is also the event at which the work of individual psychologists is recognised through the Society’s various awards and honours. These awards and honours draw attention to the wide range of important problems and situations that psychologists make key practical and conceptual contributions to. The recipients of these awards are too numerous to list here (articles from many of them will appear over the coming months), but I do want to mention two of these psychologists.
The work of Professor David Canter (University of Liverpool), was recognised by the conferring on him, at the Annual General Meeting, of an Honorary Fellowship. Professor Canter has been responsible for internationally recognised innovations in the fields of environmental psychology and offender profiling. The Society has fewer than 30 Honorary Fellows so David Canter has joined a very select group.
In another field, Professor Joan Freeman (Middlesex University) was recognised by the Society for her work with gifted and talented children by being given the Professional Practice Board Lifetime Achievement Award.
When I was chatting to Professor Freeman, she recounted how she described herself as a psychologist when giving a presentation or dealing with groups of other professionals. She said: ‘I say I am a psychologist because it gives me authority.’ I was very struck by this observation. There is indeed an authority accorded to psychologists and the science of psychology and this is something that we can take appropriate pride in. Professors Kahneman, Canter and Freeman operate in diverse contexts, employ different theoretical models, and use diverse methods. However they would all describe themselves as psychologists. They share a common professional identity.
The Society has tried to make explicit what the common values and competencies of a psychologist are through the development of the Society’s own Occupational Standards and the new Code of Ethics and Conduct (2006). We have also recently produced draft generic ‘standards of proficiency’, based on the Society’s Occupational Standards, to describe a practitioner psychologist in preparation for statutory regulation.
The Representative Council of the Society has agreed that the title ‘psychologist’ should be protected as the title for complete public protection. This emphasises the commonalities between psychologists, which cut across the different contexts in which we work. As psychologists, we employ the same core psychological concepts, principles and values. This is much more than just ‘competence’. Rather it is an integral professional identity which allows the kind of innovative application of psychology in novel contexts, as embodied in the work of Professors Canter, Freeman and Kahneman.
While recognising that we have moved from a core curriculum to a specification of core competencies in postgraduate professional education, it is worth remembering that this approach can lead to reification, fragmentation and an overemphasis on technical skills. Psychologists have a professional character, identity and authority that is more than the sum of our discrete competencies.
I don’t often agree with George W. Bush. However some of his words taken from his 1988 nomination acceptance speech rang a bell with me: ‘Competence is a narrow ideal. Competence makes the trains run on time but doesn’t know where they are going.’
Professor David Canter
Professor David Canter, Director of the Centre for Investigative Psychology at the University of Liverpool, has been made an Honorary Fellow of the Society. This award, currently held by just 25 people, is reserved for psychologists whose work in the application of the discipline of psychology to the practical problems of our society is outstanding.
Professor Canter studied psychology at Liverpool University where he obtained his BA and his PhD in 1969, subsequently holding research posts at Liverpool, Strathclyde and Tokyo Universities, before being appointed as one of the first psychology lecturers at the University of Surrey.
During his time at Surrey he made notable contributions in a number of fields of applied psychology. His early work was in the application of psychology to architecture and the built environment, as well as behaviour in fires and other emergencies, teaching and researching on these topic not only in its broader aspects, but focusing on particular problems in such publications as The Psychology of Place (1977), Designing for Therapeutic Environments (with his wife Sandra Canter), (1979), Fires and Human Behaviour (1980), and Football in Its Place (1989). He also published on the theoretical and methodological aspects of applied psychology.
In the late 1980s he began his innovative work on forensic psychology and identified and named the new subdiscipline of investigative psychology, establishing the first master’s course in this new area. In 1994 he was appointed Professor of Psychology at the University of Liverpool. Here he also established an MSc in investigative psychology, which covers psychological theories, methods and processes as applied to the legal, criminal and civil justice systems and which attracts psychologists and non-psychologists such police officers and social scientists from all over the world.
Professor Canter has since been a major player in the development of offender profiling. In 1986 he was involved in providing guidance to a major police investigation that resulted in the arrest and conviction of John Duffy, the ‘Railway Murderer’, applying his skills as an environmental and social psychologist to a practical problem. As a result he was called on to provide ‘profiles’ for over 150 police investigations and this enabled him to develop the new area of applied psychology of investigative psychology.
He was recently commissioned by the Metropolitan Police Service at Scotland Yard to develop the first ‘Interactive Offender Profiling System’ for use in all forms of criminal investigation.
Professor Canter has published over 20 books and over 300 articles in technical and academic journals as well as contributing to newspapers and many television documentaries, most notably in writing and presenting the Channel 5 series Mapping Murder for Channel 5.
Six senior academic and practitioner psychologists were nominated by the Society to the Academy of Social Sciences in December 2007. All six nominees were successful and the Society would like to congratulate all the new Academicians. The nominees were:
I Professor Ben Fletcher
I Professor Christine Howe
I Professor Peter Kinderman
I Professor Jonathan Potter
I Professor Graham Turpin
I Professor John Weinman
News from the boards
Membership and Professional Training Board
10 March 2008
I Teaching Route to Full Membership of the Division of Teachers and Researchers in Psychology It was noted that the finalising of documentation had been delayed due to difficulties posed by busy work schedules. Final proposals for a competency-based teaching route to Full Membership of the DTRP and Chartered Status will be presented to the September 2008 MPTB.
I Enrolment for the Qualification in Counselling Psychology The Board approved the reduction to the minimum period of enrolment for the Qualification in Counselling Psychology.
I Stage 2 Qualification in Educational Psychology (Scotland) The Board approved in principle the proposal for a Stage 2 Qualification in Educational Psychology (Scotland) with the final documents to be presented to the June meeting.
I Pre-chartership course accreditation The Pre-Chartership Course Accreditation Subgroup at its meeting on 4 March recommended developing a system for accrediting courses that do not relate to chartership.
In addition to the response to the Department of Health’s consultation on their Section 60 Order regarding the statutory regulation of applied psychologists (see www.bps.org.uk/statreg), 11 further responses were submitted during March, including the following (details of consulting bodies are provided in brackets):
I A Call for Views Regarding the Quality, Quantity and Purpose of Science Practical Work in Schools and Colleges (Science Community Representing Education [SCORE])
I Consultation on Review of School Improvement Policy – Every School a Good School (Department of Education for Northern Ireland)
I Developing the Annual Health Check 2008–2009: Have Your Say (Healthcare Commission)
I Freedom, Responsibility and the Universality of Science (International Council for Science)
I Improving Health, Supporting Justice: A Consultation Paper (Department of Health, the Department for Children, Schools
and Families, the Youth Justice Board and the Home Office)
I Ministry of Justice Third Sector Strategy (Ministry of Justice)
I Report of ICSU Planning Group on Natural and Human-Induced Environmental Hazards and Disasters (International Council for Science)
National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE)
Three responses were submitted to consultations from NICE. Two addressed proposed new guidelines (for stroke and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), while the third concerned evidence on workplace mental health. The Society noted NICE’s failure to address psychological issues in the draft stroke guideline and provided a proposed new section for inclusion, entitled: Psychological Care/Patient-Centred Care.
Department of Health Consultation on Guidance on ‘Finding a Shared Vision of How People’s Mental Health Problems Should be Understood’
The Society’s response was led by the Division of Clinical Psychology (DCP) and included input from its Service User and Carer Liaison Committee, its Faculty for Psychosis and Complex Mental Health and its Race and Culture Faculty as well as from the Scottish Division of Educational Psychology. The response endorsed the importance of developing shared visions with service users and was encouraging of the aims laid out in the consultation. It was noted, however, that the guidance did not currently meet these aims. Suggestions were made for amendments that would clarify how clinicians might develop a shared vision with their clients, thereby enabling the guidance to represent a wider range of areas of work; better consider cultural differences in the understanding of mental health problems; and be less off-putting to service users. It was noted that the DCP hope to participate later this year in the Department of Health's Action Learning Sets regarding this initiative.
The preparation and submission of the Society’s responses to consultations on public policy is coordinated by the Policy Support Unit (PSU). All members are eligible to contribute to responses and all interest is warmly welcomed. Please contact the PSU for further information ([email protected]; 0116 252 9926/9577). Details of active and completed consultations are available at: www.bps.org.uk/consult.
Society library under threat?
The Society’s official library collection has been housed at Senate House Library, University of London for many years. It is an important collection of books and journals within the Library’s psychology collection.
The result of a recent review of special funding for research libraries by HEFCE means that the Senate House will lose most of its funding as a national research base (see tinyurl.com/3s99fw). The HEFCE review also requires the university to undertake an internal review of the future role and funding of Senate House. To this end, a consultation will be running through this summer.
Currently there is no specific threat to the Society’s collection, but the Society will want to head off any potential problems and will be making representations as appropriate. We also hope that the colleges will say in response to the consultation that the psychology collections are useful and valued. The Society is therefore urging Society members who are also members of the constituent colleges of the University of London to help influence how their colleges respond.
Psychology Teaching Review
The Division of Teachers and Researchers in Psychology is opening its publication Psychology Teaching Review to final-year psychology students to submit suitably shortened and focused versions of their undergraduate dissertations/projects so long as they are of relevance to learning or teaching in psychology. The editor would prefer succinct reports of less than 5000 words unless the research really merits lengthy treatment.
Enquiries can be made to Stella at [email protected] or to the editor, Paul Sander, at [email protected]. Guidance for submission can be obtained from Stella or found via www.bps.org.uk/PTRnotes.
New equality and diversity plan
The Society launched its new equality and diversity plan at the Annual Conference in Dublin. The plan explains what the Society will do to help members and staff to place equality at the heart of their work.
In the foreword, the then Society President Pam Maras and Chief Executive Tim Cornford say: ‘This plan has been a shared effort, with discussions and consultations across our Society. Promoting equality and diversity is about encouraging everyone to reach their full potential and to overcome barriers (such as prejudice and discrimination), leading to better and more fulfilling lives.’
The plan replaces the 1994 equal opportunities statement and policy, responding to changes in legislation, population, and political landscape.
It outlines the Society's equality and diversity policy; how the aims of the plan will be put into practice; and how the success will be measured and reviewed. Priorities are outlined, including:
I making sure that we have good information and reporting systems so we can demonstrate that we do not discriminate and ensuring that we treat staff and members fairly (for example, that our recruitment practices are legal and do not discriminate against women or men, disabled people or different ethnic groups);
I tackling any areas of concern that we identify in monitoring activities;
I making sure that our members and our staff understand why equality and diversity matter and how they impact on their work for the Society (for example, making sure all our Trustees and managers receive equality and diversity training and telling our members about developments in equality and diversity);
I working with others to include awareness of equality and diversity opportunities in the work they do;
I promoting our contribution to equality and diversity (for example, through our yearly Award for Promoting Equality of Opportunity);
I making sure our information leaflets are available to and readable by everyone.
The Board of Trustees (which receives advice from the Society’s Standing Committee for the Promotion of Equal Opportunities) is responsible for the plan and will publish an annual progress report. The Senior Management Team will manage its day-to-day implementation.
I For a copy of ‘Our plan for equality and diversity’ and the action plan, see www.bps.org.uk/scpeo or e-mail [email protected]
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