In October the American Psychological Association released a statement in response to allegations made by author James Risen. In his book Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War Risen alleges that the Association colluded with the Bush Administration in developing ‘enhanced interrogation’ techniques that most would consider torture.
It’s a very serious allegation, and the APA has taken pains to rebut the allegation through describing Rosen’s very limited interaction with the Association during the writing of his book, as well as its official policy on torture.
Not satisfied with those efforts, the APA announced that it has hired counsel to conduct an independent review of Risen’s claim. Three members of the APA Board of Directors will coordinate the review, but APA promises an independent review.
“The review will include but not be limited to the following three issues: 1) whether APA supported the development or implementation of “enhanced” interrogation techniques that constituted torture; 2) whether changes to Section 1.02 of the APA Code of Ethics in 2002 or the formation and/or report of the APA Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security (PENS Task Force) were the product of collusion with the government to support torture or intended to support torture; and 3) whether any APA action related to torture was improperly influenced by government-related financial or policy considerations, including government grants, contracts or adoption of government policy regarding prescription privileges for psychologists serving in the military.”
Once the independent investigator completes the investigation, the three members of the APA Board will review the report, compile a set of recommendations, and forward them, along with the unmodified report, to the full Board. It would then be released to APA members and the general public. That would happen no earlier than the first quarter of 2015.
I appreciate the Association’s abundance of caution in responding to these allegations. While clearly the process is responding to an extreme case of possible scientific misconduct (yes, it’s an understatement), I’m encouraged that a scientific society is being open and transparent about such matters. Perhaps it’s a big lift to move from a process for an individual case to something generalizable to handle multiple kinds of scientific integrity cases. But given how government scientific integrity policies seem nearly invisible these days, I think we all could benefit from more visible efforts of government agencies and scientific societies handling allegations of misconduct and violations of scientific integrity.