Post by Paul A. Schutz, University of Texas at San Antonio
In November 2015, I attended the first Psychology in the Public Interest Leadership Conference sponsored by the American Psychological Association’s Public Interest Directorate and Board for the Advancement of Psychology in the Public Interest. The focus of the conference was on how we, as scholars, could improve how we share psychological research and policy to the wider populace.
I think it is safe to say that, generally, scientists are a bit reluctant to share their expertise and research outside of the world of academia. Personally, I have been quite successful at convincing myself to avoid sharing my research outside of my academic family. Over the years, I developed a wide array of protective self-statements such as:
During this conference, however, I was confronted with the following (somewhat shocking) reality: Between 1990 and 2001, the output of scientific papers increased 15%. (So far, so good.) And yet, only 0.013-0.34% of those papers garnered attention from the mass media. Even more disconcerting for social scientists is that—if you remove the health/medicine papers—the percent drops to 0.001-0.005% (Suleski & Ibaraki, 2009). Ouch! This basically means that social scientists are simply talking to each other, which is clearly a problem.
If you take my own discipline of Educational Psychology, it is clear that, over time and as a collective, we have investigated a considerable number of issues related to teaching, learning, motivation, and emotion within educational contexts. As such, it is also clear that educational psychologists have a lot to offer when it comes to helping solve many educational problems (e.g., high stakes testing, teacher shortages, and student success—particularly in high-needs schools). Yet, as the previous statistics suggest, we are simply not getting our work out to the public.
Here are five strategies that may help other researchers with their next opportunity to speak with the media:
Overall, remember to have fun! I have provided some additional readings below:
Anderman, E. M. (2011). Educational psychology in the twenty-first century: Challenges for our community. Educational Psychologist, 46, 185-196.
Dean, C. (2012). Am I Making Myself Clear?: A Scientist's Guide to Talking to the Public, Harvard University Press.
Olson, R. (2009). Don’t’ be such a scientist: Talking substance in and age of style. Island Press: Washington DC.
Suleski, J., & Ibaraki, M. (2009). Scientists are talking, but mostly to each other: A quantitative analysis of research represented in mass media. Public Understanding of Science.
This post and its companion piece (here) are part of a special series curated by APA Division 15 President Nancy Perry. The series, centered around her presidential theme of "Bridging Theory and Practice Through Productive Partnerships," stems from her belief that educational psychology research has never been more relevant to practitioners' goals. Perry hopes the blog series will provoke critical and creative thinking about what needs to happen so that researcher and practitioner groups can work together collaboratively and productively. Those interested can learn more—and find links to the full series—here.