Psychonomic Society: The Next Ten Years
Strategic Plan 2013-2023
For over five decades, the Psychonomic Society has played a critical role in promoting scientific research in psychology and allied sciences. Understanding its beginnings are key to understanding the Society’s current position and how it plans to build on its tradition and transform certain aspects of its work to meet the evolving needs of its members and better serve the field over the next ten years.
In 1959, a small group of experimental psychologists recognized the need for a distinct society that would support open and accessible communications about new research on experimental and cognitive psychology. They took the radical step of breaking away from their dominant association of the day, the American Psychological Association, to create a smaller, more select and less formal society with a minimal structure and a sole focus on experimental work rather than practice-related research. Their early success in publishing a journal to report on the latest experimental research paved the way for the Psychonomic Society (“Society” or “PS”) to ultimately self-publish six distinct journals and build a membership of over 2,000 researchers. The Society’s Annual Meeting has become a highly regarded scientific meeting that is the first place where many graduate psychology students learn about the field of experimental and cognitive psychology and hear leaders in that field present and discuss their latest research.
However, psychology is a science that is constantly evolving, and the past ten years have seen dramatic changes and an expansion of the field, particularly at its juncture with neuroscience. New and more specialized societies have been created to focus on particular types of science, much as the Psychonomic Society was created in 1959. There has also been a dramatic shift for the Society as it embraced the modern publishing process, divested itself of its own publishing house, and contracted with Springer Publishing to produce its six journals. There was also a transition of Society management from internal staff to an external management firm. In addition, the publishing contract brought in a new and substantial revenue stream that has put the Psychonomic Society in a position to consider various new programs.
The Society’s Governing Board (GB) realized that new income not only gave it an incredible opportunity but also a grave responsibility to decide which exciting opportunities to take on. They wanted to consider which of these efforts would allow the Society to move forward in the best way. They also saw the need to invest financially not only in the future stability of the Society but also in its meeting, journals and its members and their research—the reason it exists in the first place.
To help them make the right decisions about future directions, the Governing Board first undertook an assessment of where the Society stood at present and what its goals should be for the future. They wanted to make sure the Psychonomic Society retains the qualities that its members value and yet is nimble enough to change with the times. A strategic planning process was used to chart a course for the Society for the next decade. That process was grounded first in the Society’s mission and membership and an expression of who we work for and with. Those elements are articulated below, followed by an overview of the planning process, the issues it raised, and the strategic priorities, goals and strategies that the Society will focus on over the next ten years.
II. Mission and Membership Mission
The mission of the Psychonomic Society is to promote the communication of scientific research in psychology and allied sciences. It achieves this goal through two main mechanisms: (1) an annual meeting devoted to the presentation of scientific papers; and (2) the publication of scholarly journals in a variety of domains relating to cognition.
The Society currently consists of approximately 2,050 members, including the following categories of membership: Members To be eligible for membership, a person must hold the PhD degree or equivalent, have published significant psychological research beyond the doctoral dissertation, and be actively involved in independent scientific research in psychology or allied sciences. Candidates for membership must be nominated by a member of the Society and elected by the Membership Committee of the Governing Board. These selections are made twice a year.
For individuals holding the PhD but not eligible for membership, the Society has created the special status of Psychonomic Associate. Associates do not pay dues but receive the Meeting Program, Directory, etc., for an annual fee covering the costs of these materials. Life Members Members in good standing who have retired or have reached age 65 and, who have paid annual dues for the previous five years, may request Life Member status.
Members in good standing who have retired or have reached age 65 and, who have paid annual dues for the previous five years, may request Life Member status. Life Members pay no dues, receive no journal credit, and must pay the registration fee, if any, to attend the Annual Meeting.
III. Who We Work For and With
The Psychonomic Society is the home for scientists who study how the mind works. Members of the Society are experimental psychologists among whose numbers are some of the most distinguished researchers in the field. Many of us are concerned with the application of psychology to health, technology and education, and many of us use converging methods such as neuroscience and computational science to achieve our research goals. But what brings us together is that we study the basic fundamental properties of how the mind works by using behavioral techniques to better understand mental functioning. The Society and its members perform and promote the basic science of behavior in areas such as memory, learning, problem solving, action planning, language, and perception that connect with other fields of research.
The Society works closely with other societies that focus on allied fields of research. We also support advocacy for research funding by working in partnership with the Federation of Associations in Brain and Behavioral Sciences (FABBS).
IV. The Strategic Planning Process and Strategic Issues
The process to plan for the next ten years of the Psychonomic Society was guided by a Strategic Planning Committee (SPC) comprised of GB members, non-GB members, and the Executive Director (see Appendix A). The SPC then engaged a strategic planning firm, Geoffrey Knox & Associates (GKA) and its team of consultants, for assistance in both strategic planning and in assessing various business models.
As a foundation for the strategic planning process, GKA first conducted a series of individual interviews with a range of informants chosen by the SPC to reflect different perspectives. GKA also conducted two confidential online surveys: one sent to all active members of the Society and one sent to non-member authors who had published in the Society’s journals. An additional set of interviews was conducted by GKA with four individuals who serve as executive directors of associations and societies similar to the Society to discuss management and governance issues. SPC members also worked in subcommittees to interview executive directors of other societies about these same issues as well as to investigate concerns about open access journals.
The interviews and surveys raised key strategic issues in the following categories:
Relevance—How the Society can retain its strong reputation as a significant organization supporting researchers studying cognition and stay on the cutting edge in competition with other, newer societies are presenting and supporting more interesting and innovative research.
Membership—How the Society can engage younger potential members at the graduate school level and involve international researchers, while making membership requirements clearer and enhancing the value of memberships across the board. Publications—How the Society can increase the impact of its respected journals, moving them from second tier to top tier so that members and non-member authors are publishing their best work in PS journals. How can the Society address the wave of the future—open access journals?
Meetings—How can the Society’s Annual Meeting maintain its reputation as one of the best scientific psychology meeting that there is while facing greater competition with the meetings of newer societies and increase its presence with international current and potential members?
Communications— How can the Society improve its communications with members through traditional and new online strategies and also engage much more proactively with the media to publicize members’ research to a broader public?
Management and Governance—What adjustments must the Society make to its current management and governance to allow it to move forward in a strategic, planned manner?
Financial Stability and Business Model—How can the Society fund new initiatives while ensuring financial stability for the Society. The ideal financial plan for the Society should be one that maximizes both mission impact and financial sustainability.
There was tremendous respect and good will for the Society conveyed by those interviewed on the phone and surveyed online. They all want the Society to continue its good work and maintain its unique research niche. There was also support for the Society to change and try new initiatives to recruit, retain, and engage more members, to improve and expand the reach of its meetings, to raise the impact factor of its journals, and to communicate more effectively about its mission and members’ research. Those interviewed specifically about management and governance provided options to consider based on models from other societies and were optimistic about the Society being able to modify its governance model. There was also healthy skepticism about how hard it can be to change an organization that has functioned in a certain way for so long. But some harkened back to the founding of the Society and how its founding members had seen a need for reform and seized the opportunity.
The Strategic Planning Committee reviewed each of the issues articulated above in a series of meetings over a period of five months. SPC members put forth and debated different options and then decided on a set of recommendations to address each strategic issue. The Governing Board held a special strategic planning session to discuss, revise, and ultimately approve a new set of recommendations that form the core of the strategic priorities and strategies set forth below and designed to chart a course for the Society over the next ten years.
V. The Next Ten Years: Strategic Priorities, Goals and Strategies
The Governing Board of the Psychonomic Society has developed a set of integrated programmatic and institutional priorities for our Strategic Plan FY2013-2023. Each priority has a set of goals to be achieved and strategies that will be employed to reach those goals. The five strategic priorities are:
Strategic Priority 1: Membership:
- Grow our membership about 30% over the next 5 years
- Streamlining membership process to support outreach to early career researchers and expand international membership
- Exploring changes to membership categories to include a student membership
Strategic Priority 2: Publications:
- Increase the impact and broaden recognition of our publications
- Broaden public recognition of the research of our members
- Develop synergy between our publications and meetings (e.g., through special editions)
Strategic Priority 3: Meetings:
Enhance relevance and expand the reach of all Psychonomic Society supported meetings
- Enhance the Annual Meeting in North America
- Add an international meeting (outside North America) every 3 years at a different time of year than the annual meeting
- Develop a Psychonomic Workshop Series for cutting edge topics. These small workshops (similar to NSF-style workshops) would be linked to special editions of our journals and special symposia at the annual meeting
- Joint Psychonomic Society & APS Estes Fund to support meeting, talks, workshops etc. related to mathematical psychology
- Development of summer institutes (or internships) to provide training opportunities to graduate students
Strategic Priority 4: Communications:
Expand the visibility of the Society and the work of our members
Strategic Priority 5: Management and Governance:
Strengthen our organizational structure to be able to address our priorities, goals, and implement our business plan
This strategic plan for the Psychonomic Society is ambitious but achievable. If implemented consistently over the next ten years, the Society will increase its effectiveness in advancing its mission to promote scientific research in psychology and allied sciences. Membership will grow steadily and continue to engage leading researchers in the field but also include younger researchers and more international members who can bring new perspectives and energy into the Society’s journals, meetings, and management. The Annual Meeting will continue to be a highly valued gathering but also gain new prominence and relevance, with expansion into the international arena. The Society’s journals will earn a broader, more committed readership with some journals moving into a top tier of impact factor and attract the latest and best research. All of this progress will be communicated to members and the field through a more interactive communications platform. All of these achievements will be made possible by a supportive management structure at the executive director and Governing Board levels that engages members through more active committees. The future stability of the Society will be ensured by a financial plan that maximizes both mission impact and sustainability.
This strategic plan is a living, breathing document that becomes a guide to the Governing Board and Society management as they work to turn these goals into reality. The Governing Board will regularly assess progress on the execution of these strategies and make necessary adjustments as circumstances change. Our strategic priorities and goals, however, have been carefully chosen and crafted. We believe that by following this strategic plan the Psychonomic Society will be building on the strong foundation established over a half-century ago while evolving to meet the new demands of a changing field. The next ten years will be incredibly exciting ones for psychological science, and a larger, more vibrant, more impactful, and more professional Psychonomic Society will be at the forefront of this progress.
Strategic Planning Committee (2012)
Don Foss (University of Houston)
Reed Hunt (University of Texas at San Antonio; Past-Chair, GB)
Helene Intraub, Committee Chair (University of Delaware; Chair-Elect GB)
Robert Logie (University of Edinburgh; Member, GB)
Jay McClelland (Stanford University)
Cathleen Moore (University of Iowa; Member, GB)
Katherine Rawson (Kent State University)
Ex Officio Members:
Jeff Zacks (Washington University in St. Louis; 2012 Chair, GB)
Kathy Kuehn (The Rees Group/Psychonomic Society Executive Director)
Strategic Planning Consultants: Geoffrey Knox & Associates
Note: Governing Board of the Psychonomic Society (GB)