From the President, April 2020

David Murphy writes.

Over the course of 2020 we will be developing a new strategic plan for the Society. This is an extremely important activity; however, I find myself in agreement with Dwight Eisenhower who famously said, ‘I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable’. 

I was a member of the group of trustees who oversaw the development of the 2015-2020 strategic plan and vividly remember trying to bring together diverse visions for the future from representatives of different parts of the Society. Some prioritised promoting high quality research and disseminating this through journals and conferences; others saw the Society’s main role as supporting members through CPD and providing advice; others had a vision of being more focused on public policy issues, campaigning and lobbying at both national and local level; still others had educating and informing the public and employers about psychology as their prime concern. 

We also know from the valuable insights that are coming out of the current member journey initiative that those at the early stages of their career (undergraduate students make up nearly 1 in 4 of all members), look to the Society to help navigate career decisions and support them in getting onto the ladder, or indeed switching from one path to another. We also know there is a lot of room to improve this area. BPS members work and study in very different settings but wherever we are – universities, schools, healthcare, the justice system, sports, or the business world – our environment, and ways of working, are changing rapidly. All of this needs to feed into developing our strategy.

It’s easy to start feeling overwhelmed. Indeed, a case could be made for forming five, or even ten, separate organisations to cater for the needs of different groups or to focus on specific roles. However, one thing that gives me hope is that the Society has successfully found productive common ground for people from diverse backgrounds and motivations, right from its very first meeting on 24 October 1901. Of the ten founding members who met that day to discuss a paper, only two were experimental psychologists, some were primarily philosophers, one a barrister, two were physicians, one a pathologist,  one the headmistress of a nearby school and one identified only as having ‘an interest in psychology’ and later moved to Canada where he became a successful fruit farmer! (For some reason I’ve always identified with him.)

For me at least, it is this very diversity, with its inherent tensions between science and practice, changing society and looking after members’ interests, pushing boundaries and upholding standards, that gives us our strength. Sometimes when developing strategy organisations only look outwards, at new opportunities or threats, I believe we also need to look inwards and clarify our underlying shared values as it is these that unite us as psychologists despite the incredibly diverse nature of our wonderful discipline and profession. They provide the foundation for any strategies we develop. It seems that many of you agree; in a poll recently carried out on Twitter well over 90 per cent of respondents agreed that identifying values should come before developing strategy.

The shared values identified in the last strategic plan are:

rigour and fairness 

honesty and integrity 


respect for a diversity of viewpoints 

the highest standards of professionalism and ethical behaviour, attitudes and judgements. 

Personally, I think these need refreshing, and in particular what the shared values we have look like when they are put into practice in our different contexts. I do hope many of you will engage in this process. The BPS is not a building or a logo, or even a group of staff, dedicated though they are. The BPS is you, and you are the BPS… all wonderful, diverse, 60,000 of you!

David Murphy is President of the British Psychological Society

Follow David on Twitter @ClinPsychDavid

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I apologise unreservedly to all readers who, like me, find the enlarged picture of my face disturbing! The photo honestly looks better in its unenlarged form! (see for proof). The reason I always use this photo however, is that it contains something very important to me (nb. its not myself!). In the background is a thank-you card made with dried leaves that was given to me several years ago by a student's mother. I was fortunate enough to be in a position to perform a small act of kindness for her when I was at Oxford. She sadly passed away shortly afterwards. That card is one of my most treasured possessions. Everytime I see it, I am reminded of Ralph Waldo Emerson's famous quote "“You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.”

David Murphy, BPS President 2019-2020