President’s column

… from Jamie Hacker Hughes.

Every year, the Society’s Board of Trustees, with the Society’s officers in attendance, decide on which aspects of the Society’s Strategic Plan are to be prioritised over the coming year. You can read the Plan in full but the six main pillars are: (1) promoting advancements in psychological knowledge and practice; (2) developing the psychological knowledge and skills of our members; (3) maximising the impact of psychology on public policy; (4) increasing the visibility of psychology and raising public awareness of its contribution to society; (5) attracting new members and broadening our membership; and (6) developing our organisation to support change. All of these are vitally important aspects of the Society’s business, but I have a particular affinity for the third and the fourth, and a role to play in helping our Society achieve them.

As you know, I’ve represented the Society on the NHS England Mental Health Taskforce over the past few months and Division of Clinical Psychology Chair, Richard Pemberton, and DCP Children and Young People’s Faculty Chair, Julia Faulconbridge, have both deputised for me when I have been unable to attend. The Taskforce’s report is to be published soon, and we psychologists have certainly been able to make an impact on its content.

There are so many ways of increasing the visibility of psychology and raising awareness of our contribution to society, and the Education and Public Engagement Board (EPEB), chaired by Catriona Morrison and supported by Kelly Auty, put a lot of effort into developing this aspect of our business through activities such as the Cheltenham Science Festival and the BPS/ British Academy Public Lecture. We’ve also got another public lecture coming up in November as part of the Society’s First World War commemorations. And of course every time that we hold a conference, there’s a huge opportunity to get publicity at local, national and international levels for research and other activities. This year’s Annual Conference in Liverpool was particularly successful in this respect, as were the Scottish and Northern Ireland Branch conferences in Stirling and Armagh. I have no doubt that the Welsh Branch conference in Wrexham will have been equally successful, along with all the other Branch, and Division and Section conferences that we hold. All really good opportunities for waving the flag and telling people what psychology is all about and what we are up to.

Later this year, I shall be going to the Psychology4Students and Psychology4Graduates events in London, PsyPAG’s conference in Glasgow was amazingly successful, and university and school PsychSocs can do their bit too. I’m grateful to everyone who supports these activities – through the EPEB, our hardworking conference and events team in Leicester and all who work so hard on conference committees. If you’re not already a part of all this, please have a serious think about how you can get involved.

It’s right and proper that impact is one of the several factors on which our research work is assessed and these days, with a couple of clicks of a button, it’s possible to measure the reach, not just of formal academic publications but of social media posts. Our Research Board, chaired by Daryl O’Connor, works hard to promote the scientific reach of our research publications and our journals have a well-deserved international reputation, with high impact factors too.

Another way in which psychologists can increase our visibility and promote awareness of our contribution is, of course, through the media. I’ve been heartened by the increasing number of psychologists being broadcast on local and national media, not only on specialist programmes such as BBC Radio 4’s All in the Mind, with Claudia Hammond, but on news and current affairs programmes too, such as Panorama and the Today programme. Attracting the attention of the media, and through them, the public, is so important in informing them what we do, what we work on, what we have expertise about and what we have to offer. There really shouldn’t be a need for people to say, ‘Tell me. What is the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist?’, they should just know. (Besides, if I’m ever asked the question, I always just say, mischievously, ‘Several thousand pounds a year, actually and we have to buy all our own mugs, pens and post-its too.’ – The latter not being true for all of us who go to BPS conferences!)

Lastly, maximising the impact of psychology on public policy. We do this through our publications, of course, and through organisations such as the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology. We have a Policy and Communications team in Leicester, who do an excellent job of horizon scanning and supporting our communications, but public policy is an ever-more complex area nowadays, with Europe, Westminster, and the devolved parliaments and assemblies. Our national Branches, together with our retained PR and policy consultants all play a very considerable role in linking in with, and informing and influencing decisions made in, the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies and we shall almost certainly need to consider a similar function for England at some stage in the future.

As far as the Westminster government is concerned, I already have meetings with members of both Houses of Parliament in the diary, I’m due to attend and speak at a number of events in the Commons and the Lords and the Presidential and Policy Teams will also be busy attending the three main Westminster party conferences.And we can impact policy in other ways too. I was proud, as a clinical psychologist, to join several colleagues ‘Walking the Talk’ from Leicester to London, and the event, even though it was not an official BPS event, attracted significant media attention in the airwaves and in the broadsheet and tabloid press alike.

Psychology, and our Society, has a lot to say so thank you for playing your part by organising or speaking at conferences or other events, by publishing, by speaking to or on the media, by engaging with policymakers. And, if you’re not involved yet, please think about how you can be. There’s lots to do.

Together we can!

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