Helping the BPS to punch its weight

Responses to our May article.

Ella Rhodes asks if psychology is truly having impact (‘Are we punching our weight?’, May 2016). On one level, and as articulated in my Presidential Address at the Society’s Annual Conference, and before handing the reins over to Peter Kinderman, we are, and on several levels. Through our research, through teaching and education, through our conferences, through public engagement, through awards, through the media and on practice, policy and politics and social justice.

But we psychologists are, as a clan, incredibly reticent at speaking out for and on behalf of psychology, our profession and our Society. And we could do a lot more. That was the major fact that propelled me into standing for the presidency.

So, as someone who benefited from the excellent media training that the BPS used to run in the past, I’d like to make just one simple but practical suggestion.

All postgraduate training courses in psychology should contain, as parts of their core syllabus, practical media training (writing for a variety of media and interview skills for radio, television and film) and, importantly, training on policy. Because the greatest impact that we need to have is on our future.

We owe it to psychology, we owe it to our Society, and we owe it to ourselves.

Jamie Hacker Hughes
BPS Vice President

I’d like to thank all the contributors to ‘Are we punching our weight?’ for their insights, which have helped me write my to-do list as the new Director of Policy and Communications at the BPS.

The Society has a hugely important role in shaping public policy and we already have the expertise and the evidence from across the discipline to do so. To increase our impact we must engage effectively with policy makers and influencers, as well as with the media. That means thinking more strategically about the audience for our policy work. Sometimes our audience are experts with a vast knowledge of psychology, sometimes it’s a minister who has a responsibility to understand complex issues, but it’s just as likely to be time-pressed civil or public servants or a member of the public who is motivated to learn more in order to campaign for change.

The onus is on us to make our argument clear and coherent and to provide policy advice that is easy to understand and easy to act upon. Anyone reading a BPS briefing paper should finish the document knowing exactly what we want them to do next and how to go about it. If we can communicate effectively as one authoritative voice, others will repeat and amplify our message so that policy makers hear it multiple times – in the media, from colleagues and advisers, from constituents – so it cannot be ignored. That is how we guarantee our place at the table.

Kathryn Scott
BPS Director of Policy and Communications

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