Yesterday the American Psychological Association (APA) announced the retirements and resignations of several high-ranking officials. Even the press release acknowledges that the recent release of the report on APA collusion with the government affected these departures. While the APA has made recommendations to its Council of Representatives meeting next month, ongoing criticism of the association may have prompted more immediate action.
Leaving are the Chief Executive Officer, the Deputy Chief Executive Officer and the executive director for public and member communications. While not mentioned in the press release, ScienceInsider is reporting that the APA ethics director is also leaving. They will depart between the end of this month and the end of the year. Other departures may be forthcoming, based on the recommendations of APA critics that reviewed the report prior to its release.
Additionally, two former APA Presidents have released a response to the report, which includes discussion of some of the collusion claims. The former presidents acknowledge that the APA response was poorly executed, but they assert that the association did what it could with the information that it had. That Hoffman and his staff have said something similar about their report suggests that definitive answers will be hard to find agreement.
The former presidents do raise two points worth considering for any scientific society. First, the APA lacked the resources and the mechanisms to conduct the kind of investigation into abuses involving psychologists and physicians that critics have called for. I suspect that is true of other scientific societies. The former presidents also ask why other societies have not been subjected the kind of scrutiny that the APA has. For me, that speaks to a larger issue of scientific conduct, and to what extent scientific societies are (or are not) dealing with the misconduct of their membership.
While these points might be made from a defensive crouch by these former association presidents, it’s worth noting how difficult it could be for scientific societies to actively police misconduct, and how ill-prepared they might be to do so.