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EASP – European Association of Social Psychology

Taking stock and the challenges ahead

07.06.2017, by Sibylle Classen

Manuela Barreto, President, writes about what EASP has achieved in the past three years and what is ahead.

Dear colleagues,

Our next General Meeting is coming up fast and with it the end of the current Executive Committee’s term and of my term as President of EASP. I’d like to leave here a final and personal note to briefly take stock and reflect on the challenges ahead.

Serving on the EC is very much about the daily management of the association, including, but very much not limited to, taking care of the journals, ensuring our finances are on track, supporting summer schools and conferences, and distributing as much resources as we can among as many people as we can. In the last three years, I think we can proudly say that we granted almost all of the financial requests we received, worked hard to understand additional needs of our members and to adjust to them, made additional funds available, and supported special events, such as a conference in memory of Serge Moscovici and a meeting of the ESCON network. Every time we agree to fund an activity, we take care that the core values of EASP are attended to: We scrutinize proposals and work closely with organizers to achieve as much inclusiveness as possible.

But serving the association in the EC is not just about daily management. It is, and should be, about a continued striving to fulfil the vision of our founders, as well as to adjust to new challenges. Among other things, we’ve changed our website and bulletin, developed funds to stimulate pre-registered research, and developed a code of scientific conduct. Most importantly for me, personally, we’ve dedicated a lot of attention to diversity in EASP. If there’s one thing we agree on, it’s that EASP’s mission is centred on the value of diversity and we want to do our best to achieve it. What we might struggle with is to understand exactly where problems lie, as well as how to solve them.

One major initiative of this committee was therefore to fund a deep analysis of diversity within EASP. A task group including Nora Lantos and Boglarka Nyul as main researchers, supported by Anna Kende, Steve Reicher, and Torun Lindholm, analysed diversity in EASP membership and in relation to the activities it promotes. The report of this analysis will be presented at the GM in a session all are invited to attend. There are important findings in this report, but there are also many questions that need further analysis—this is not the end, but the beginning, of a journey to ensure we are as diverse as we ought to be.

Of course one does not need a report to know that promoting diversity is something any organization needs to be deliberate about, even when it can be said to be doing well in this regard. And so we did not wait for the results of the report to start analysing more deeply what we could do to promote diversity in EASP. One example from the last year was opening up all awards to either (self-)nominations or suggestions from members. We were careful to ensure that this was not a popularity contest, but a way of bringing names to the table. We also went through the members’ list and encouraged members to apply, as well as to recommend others. I can say that our procedures were careful and that our candidate pools were as diverse as our members allowed them to be. But I cannot say this was entirely successful, in that our award recipients, though extremely impressive and serving, still represent only a particular kind of social psychology, carried out in particular regions. We can do better—and EASP members must take an active role in this regard.

One fundamental question is whether we do justice to the ‘Europe’ in EASP. Our statistics show that we have members from a variety of locations, but in several countries we have very few. There are many reasons for this, of course, but can we say we’ve done all we can to ensure that social psychologists in these countries feel they could be part of EASP? I think we can do a great deal more, and indeed the EC is committed to improving this by developing ways of expanding membership in less represented countries.

Taking diversity seriously is also about reflecting on what merit is about. I am often told, when we select or encourage people to apply for particular roles, that we need ‘the best.’ This, to me, is unhelpful. It implies that judging who ‘the best’ are is straightforward and unquestionable and that the criteria by which we judge what is ‘the best’ are a lot narrower than our discipline. It implies that there is a handful of people out there who embody the richness of what social psychology is about, and that we must draw on this same handful every time and are unlikely to have anything to learn from the rest.

I think that a fundamental challenge for the future for EASP and its members is to keep questioning these assumptions, to keep focusing on diversity as a core value, to develop better procedures to record and monitor how diverse we and our activities are, and to keep expanding our membership to ensure it is as varied as social psychology itself. Only then can we say that we are fulfilling the vision of our founders.

My thanks for all their hard work to the remaining members of the EC, the editors of our journals, and the organizers of all our activities. It’s been a pleasure to serve the association. Thank you all and good luck for the future.

Manuela Barreto
EASP President 2014-2017