‘Psychology can be the driving force to unite…’

Ella Rhodes previews the British Psychological Society hosted European Congress of Psychology, to be held in Brighton next year.

The vibrant city of Brighton will welcome the 2023 European Congress of Psychology (ECP) next summer – the first time for almost two decades the UK has hosted such a major general psychology conference. Hosted by the British Psychological Society, the 18th ECP is expected to attract thousands of psychologists from across the world under the theme ‘Psychology: Uniting communities for a sustainable world’. 

The BPS has been working with a number of organisations to build the event, including the European Federation of Psychologists’ Associations (EFPA), which organises the bi-annual European Congresses, the University of Sussex and the University of Brighton. The BPS is focusing on sustainability and community in developing the ECP – considering the environmental impact of the event and hosting performances from local arts groups, and organising special events for early career researchers and students.  

Nicola Gale, Vice President and Treasurer of EFPA, and former BPS president, said the theme of next year’s congress should attract a wide range of practitioners and academics. ‘The ECP audience is not only people directly in the field. Those in the media, and policy makers and their advisers, are especially welcome to engage with what European psychology has to offer, and we know the BPS is especially well placed to bring in this audience.’

Gale, whose role also involves representing EFPA on the ECP organising committee and liaising with the BPS, said bringing people together at such an event gave them the power to influence and advocate for change. ‘Psychology can be the driving force to unite and harness the power of community on a global scale… Having a good congress is naturally the primary aim, another however is attempting to leave a legacy. This has been envisaged for ECP2023 from the beginning as being primarily around influencing public policy. This gives an opportunity for presenters to submit work with an eye to impact, both in terms of extending the knowledge base and implementation in various applied fields.  

‘One thing Covid-19 has taught us is the importance of getting good quality evidence out there quickly, and it would be nice if ECP2023 can make its mark in this way. Another important aspect of legacy and central to sustainability and the community focus of the theme is to leave a positive footprint for the Brighton community… as light as possible in terms of consumption of resources and adverse impact on the planet. This walks the talk in terms of the theme; what the Congress does must be congruent with what it promotes.’ 

Gale said another important aspect was for the congress to do something positive for the community and highlighted the partnership between Brighton and Sussex universities. ‘The organising committee will work with them to look for example at careers and mentoring for young people, opportunities to perform for local artists and arts students at the Congress, engagement with the public in psychology to increase understanding and foster wellbeing.’ 

Organising an event such as the ECP, Gale said, was quite the feat and takes around four years. For 2023 that task is down to the BPS – including the society’s Director of Membership, Professional Development and Standards, Karen Beamish. She said she hoped the congress would be as vibrant as Brighton itself. ‘I hope it makes us all go home and think about our priorities for psychology. We hope delegates will have the chance to think about how we can do things more sustainably, and how we can be more community-minded in what we do.’ 

Dr Debra Malpass, BPS Director of Knowledge and Insight, has been leading on the scientific programme for the congress. She said the society wanted to include a diverse range of speakers who are representative of psychology and the communities they serve. This diversity will also be reflected in the members of the Scientific Committee and reviewers for ECP submissions. ‘We will be linking closely with the local Universities of Brighton and Sussex, both of whom work closely with their local communities… The event will be a great networking opportunity and we encourage psychologists from all communities, career stages, professions and research areas to participate.’ er

The ECP 2023 will be hosted at The Brighton Centre between 3 and 6 July. For more information and to register your interest in attending see ecp2023.eu

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