28 Dec 2016

Congressional Briefing Explores Issue of Police–Community Relations

Aggressive policing tactics are associated with racial trauma and poor mental health outcomes, and communities and police need to work together to coproduce public safety. Those were two of the main takeaways of a November 15, 2016 APA congressional briefing, Improving Police–Community Relations: Psychological Perspectives, where the audience heard from two expert psychologists and a member of Congress.  

The year 2016 was marred by tragic violence between law enforcement and communities of color. In just one week during the month prior to the APA Convention in Denver, Philando Castile and Alton Sterling lost their lives in police shootings, and an assassin gunned down five Dallas law enforcement officers. It was hardly surprising, then, that the APA Convention included a Black Lives Matter protest and a listening session with prominent police psychologists.

This diversity within the field of psychology situates it perfectly to serve the cause of improving police–community relations. Psychologists work with parties on all sides of these issues, and the lenses of psychological science and practice can help unravel the mutual mistrust and skepticism that have led to the tragic and too-frequent officer-involved shootings and attacks on law enforcement. Psychology’s contributions in the areas of implicit bias, police–community relations, and law enforcement training are critical to implementing legislative and programmatic solutions.

From this framework, APA engaged federal policymakers on the issue and held a briefing for congressional staff on November 15, 2016 (YouTube recording). Three House sponsors of the event, Reps. Doug Collins (R-GA), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), and Robin Kelly (D-IL) serve on the bipartisan Working Group on Policing Strategies, and the fourth House sponsor, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) has worked extensively on issues related to deaths in custody and other civil and human rights issues.

Executive Director for APA’s Public Interest Directorate, Gwendolyn Puryear Keita, PhD, opened the briefing by calling attention to the need for understanding on all sides. “APA is committed to policies that ensure all Americans are treated fairly under the law,” she said, “and psychological research can provide direction for law enforcement efforts to reduce crime and increase community trust.”

Despite the far-reaching implications of research in the realm of police psychology on federal policy, Congress too infrequently uses scientific literature to inform criminal justice legislation. In his opening remarks, Rep. Scott praised psychology and APA for holding a briefing to highlight an academic approach to these issues. “I want to thank you for having this discussion. We look forward to your findings, but most of all, I want to thank you for having a research, evidence-based approach to a criminal justice issue,” said Scott.

From left: Earl Turner, PhD, Ellen Scrivner, PhD, and Gwendolyn Puryear Keita, PhD, with Congressman Bobby Scott.

Providing that perspective were psychologists Ellen Scrivner, PhD, and Earl Turner, PhD.

Turner, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Houston-Downtown, discussed the psychological implications of policies that may disproportionately target people of color, such stop-and-frisk. “One of the possible results of aggressive policies such as stop-and-frisk is what scholars and psychologists refer to as racial trauma or race-based stress,” Dr. Turner explained. “Racial trauma may result from racial harassment, witnessing racial violence, or experiencing institutional racism. The trauma may result in experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, feelings of humiliation, poor concentration, and irritability.” In the process of analyzing police–community relations, Turner explained, public policy is a key component of implementing fair practices and avoiding abusive ones

Scrivner, a psychologist consultant who specializes in public safety innovations and transformative police reform, spoke from her experience as a senior administrator in the Chicago Police Department and Director of the Justice Department’s Offices of Community Oriented Policing (COPS Office). From that perspective, she described the historical context of police violence and stressed the importance of allowing communities affected by police misconduct to express their frustration and coproduce public safety with law enforcement.

“We need to find ways that will create a national dialogue on race and policing that will include all who are involved in collaborative community–police partnerships--so that this dialogue will be much more than talk,” stated Scrivner. “It is within that context that the groundwork will be laid for establishing new strategies that are based on learning from our past - and now recent history - and that will strengthen efforts to ensure that constitutional policing prevails.”

Addressing psychology’s unique role in redressing conflicts between law enforcement and the community, she said, “It is here that professional psychology can be very helpful. In fact, APA leadership met with representatives of police and public safety psychology at the most recent APA convention in Denver to discuss just what it is that psychology can do. That’s a very positive step.”

APA and partners will continue their work on police–community relations into 2017 and beyond. This includes working with Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division (CRD) and COPS Office, to ensure gains made through consent decrees and other mechanisms are sustained. Additionally, APA will urge Congress to use its critical oversight role, should it appear that recent reforms are faltering.

-- By Micah Haskell-Hoehl and Sarah Gioia of the APA Public Interest Directorate

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22 4
20 Dec 2016

Michael Hendricks Uses Research to Advocate for LGBT Community

Michael Hendricks Uses Research to Advocate for LGBT Community
APA Fellow Michael Hendricks has done pioneering work with transgender people, and as a gay psychologist, he's also fought some tough battles within the profession.

Washington, DC, psychologist Michael Hendricks, PhD, has worked for decades to move our society to extend a more dignified and healthy life to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals, and has advocated for the LGBT community both within and outside of the APA.

A clinician, researcher, Fellow of the American Psychological Association and a gay man himself, Hendricks has been involved his whole career in developing and improving models of care, especially for LGBT people. He came into the profession during the HIV-AIDS crisis of the mid-1980s to mid-1990s, and has never lost his sense of urgency about the need to create a rigorous scientific basis for addressing LGBT issues.

"One of the great things that distinguishes psychology is its ability to do solid research and then stand on that research to advocate for something that needs to change," he says.      

Most recently, Hendricks has been involved in pioneering studies of the experiences and health care needs of transgender individuals, whose gender identity and expressions do not conform to the sex they were assigned at birth. Hendricks was a member of the APA Task Force that developed the Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Transgender and Gender Nonconforming People, passed by the APA Council in August 2015.

Hendricks is also a suicidologist, an expert in what he calls “the sentinel event of mental health. Keeping people alive is the most important thing we do.” In his private practice, he combines clinical and forensic work. His psychotherapy clients tend to be LGBT individuals and couples; individuals with moderate to severe depression, anxiety or mood disorders; or individuals who have considered or attempted suicide. In his forensic work, he serves as a clinical evaluator or, less often, as a "content expert" in suicide, psychopharmacology or other issues.

He worked on the 2005–2006 Virginia Transgender Health Information Study (THIS), which revealed, among other findings, that transgender individuals had higher rates of suicide ideation and attempts than any other population examined to that point. Hendricks contributed a key timeline methodology that helped establish those results. For him, especially given his expertise in suicidology, the new understanding of the vulnerability of transgender individuals was a call to action. He set to work disseminating the study's results, and also creating tools for therapists working with transgender clients, "charting a course through the therapeutic process that would foster resilience to stress."

In 2012, Hendricks teamed with Rylan Testa, PhD, a research affiliate at the Center for LGBT Evidence-based Research (CLEAR) at Palo Alto University, Palo Alto, Calif., to adapt Ilan Meyer’s LGB Minority Stress Model for a transgender population. This new "conceptual framework" was designed to help clinicians understand the impact of a lifetime of discrimination, isolation and often violence on transgender individuals, so they can assist their clients in developing strategies to deal with those stressors. In 2015, Hendricks was awarded the APA Presidential Citation.        

For Hendricks, working with the LGBT community comes naturally. Growing up gay in a small town in conservative western Michigan was “a stealth existence,” a life informed not even by real shame but by “quasi-shame,” the understanding that many of the people living around him would never understand or accept him for who he really was. Now Hendricks is “very out,” he says, and is a past president of Division 44, the Society for the Psychological Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues. Presently, he represents Division 44 on the APA Council.

Hendricks was a premed student at Michigan State University in East Lansing when he took his first psychology class. He loved it so much he abandoned the study of medicine and started pursuing a degree in social psychology.

"I enjoyed focusing on how people behave in groups, on questions like, when do people decide to help other people?" he says. But social scientists mostly worked in academia, and that didn't feel right to Hendricks, so he went instead in to American University's graduate program, training to be a clinician in the Boulder Model — "heavy on the science."

Hendricks' career was touched early by the HIV-AIDS crisis. Until effective treatments emerged, the deadly viral disease decimated communities of gay men and created an emotional havoc of grief and fear. Both his master's thesis and doctoral dissertation dealt with HIV.

"In my age cohort, a huge number of psychologists were doing research on HIV, all across the country," he says, and many LGBT psychologists became openly active in the APA, often first in Division 44.

"We all realized we had something to contribute. We were very much invested in getting our research out there. If we wanted to change what psychology said about LGBT people, we had to be in the governing body," Hendricks says.

He was also a founding and longtime member of the Virginia HIV Community Planning Committee (VHCPC), which oversaw expenditures of federal funds for HIV prevention. VHCPC committed 5 percent of its budget to research on groups most affected by HIV, and to assess what prevention strategies might work best with specific populations. That led to the Virginia THIS study, which Hendricks participated in as then-chair of the VHCPC Research Subcommittee.

The emancipation of LGBT people arguably began in 1957, when Evelyn Hooker PhD, a Los Angeles, Calif., psychologist, published "The Adjustment of the Male Overt Homosexual," a science-based study of gay men, in the Journal of Projective Techniques. At the time, gay men were considered mentally ill; gay sex was against the law and could lead to prison sentences and horrific medical interventions geared toward "curing" homosexuality. Hooker's work helped depathologize the movement, and showed that science could fight the misinformation that had been used to justify discrimination against gays, Hendricks says.

The American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in 1973; in 1975, the APA did the same. Science had opened the door. In 2003, in Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down the remaining state criminal sodomy laws.

Hendricks says, "You're not just advocating for someone's rights on principle. It has to be grounded in science. Nobody is surprised to hear that discrimination causes psychological harm, but a study can show what kind of harm it inflicts, and the negative impact."

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156 8
12 Dec 2016

Game: Copy That!

Challenge your sense of hearing and sense of sight, as you'll need to memorize the pattern of lights and sounds that will be presented to you. You have at most 20 seconds to replicate the whole sequence. Try your best not to be mistaken when you start repeating the whole arrangement, so that you won't be given another pattern to memorize all over again. As the game level progresses, the whole thing gets longer and more complicated.


- Click on play with your cursor in order to begin your game.
- Memorize the pattern of sound and lights that is played.
- Using your cursor, click on buttons to repeat the pattern in twenty seconds or less.
- If you miss a pattern, a new one will be given to you.
- The patterns get longer as the levels get more advanced.
- Three strikes and you're out!

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19 8
09 Dec 2016

Consider an Alternative Funding Method for Your Research

Consider an Alternative Funding Method for Your Research

The cost of research can be high, and funding opportunities for research studies are competitive. With the ever-growing presence of crowdfunding resources on the Internet, for purposes ranging from creative projects to personal medical expenses, why not take advantage of crowdfunding for academic research? Here are a few venues for this alternative method of research funding:


Experiment.com, an internet crowdfunding source for the specific purpose of scientific research, comprises a community of over 66,000 members and a display of over 60 experiments. This resource remains available to anyone who wishes to submit a study for the public solicitation of donations.

Experiment.com boasts a success rate of 48%, and shares stories (and data results) of research projects that have been successfully completed after having raised all of the necessary funding.


Chuffed.org hosts funding campaigns for organizations and charities devoted to social causes. Why not post your own research project to solicit funding? If you are able to communicate a clear outcome for your research funding purpose, you will likely be eligible to run a campaign on Chuffed.org.

According to Chuffed.org, the site’s campaigns raise an average of $7,000, and their largest campaign to date raised $345,000.

Unlike most crowdfunding sites, Chuffed.org does not charge any fees for campaigns. Donors pay the processing fees for their donation, at no cost to you. Also, Chuffed.org allows you to keep your funds, even if you don’t hit your fundraising goal. Partial funding for research can go a long way!

#SciFund Challenge

#SciFund Challenge not only provides a crowdfunding platform specifically for the funding of research, but also offers a wide range of resources, such as tools for outreach to publicize your research.

In 2014, #SciFund Challenge enjoyed a success rate of almost 70% for their funded projects. [1]

While many #SciFund Challenge projects are ecologically oriented, there is no rule that states they all must be. Anyone with a research project in the social sciences may sign up for their free newsletters, informational service, and crowdfunding resources.

If you are considering submitting proposals for research funding, visit https://experiment.com/, http://www.chuffed.org, or https://scifundchallenge.org/ to view their terms and regulations to see if these innovative alternative methods of funding work for you!

[1] Faulkes Z. #SciFund round 4 analysis. 2014. http://scifundchallenge.org/blog/2014/03/18/scifund-round-4-analysis/.

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7 0
07 Dec 2016

When Funding Dries Up

When Funding Dries Up

In an era of tightening budgets, grad students are increasingly at risk for losing university support.

Nicole Strange can almost see the finish line. Her dissertation committee just approved her proposal, and she's applying for internships. She's just a year or two from completing her doctorate in counseling psychology at the University of Kentucky. But for the first time in her academic career, she's thinking about dropping out. Why? She has exhausted all sources of funding.

She managed to find a practicum position that pays $15,000 a year, but it doesn't offer tuition or insurance benefits. She applied for three dissertation grants and two tuition fellowships. One of the grants came through, but paid only $360. Strange already spends 50 to 60 hours a week on her practicum, classes, dissertation and internship applications, so another part-time job is out of the question. So is taking on more debt. Her credit cards are maxed out, her student loans total $148,000 and she has run out of options to borrow more.

"I didn't think money would derail my education," she says. "I don't know what to do."

Strange isn't alone. As schools across the country grapple with dwindling budgets, many grad students are losing their teaching assistantships and watching as other funding sources dry up. Given these harsh realities, even students who feel relatively secure in their funding may want to consider searching for outside support and trumpeting the value they bring to their departments, says Nabil Hassan El-Ghoroury, PhD, APAGS associate executive director.

"The recession definitely hit graduate students," El-Ghoroury adds. "But students can be proactive; there are preventive things to do."

The big picture

Today's financial woes are bad enough. But beginning in July, graduate students will no longer be eligible for subsidized Stafford loans, in which the government pays interest while the student is enrolled full time. This is a serious change — $10,000 borrowed in year one of graduate school, at 6.8 percent interest, could grow to nearly $14,000 after five years of graduate school.

Plus, several other federal funding sources for grad students will be slashed. For instance, the McNair Scholars program, which helps minority students to pursue doctoral degrees, lost $10 million of its $46.2 million budget last summer, and the Jacob K. Javits Fellowship program, which funds doctoral studies in psychology and other disciplines, was canceled.

But the news isn't all bad. Graduate students and other APA members worked with the APA Education Directorate to keep the Graduate Psychology Education (GPE) program, the only source of federal funding exclusively for psychology training, safe from the federal budget ax. APAGS officers and others attending the 2012 Education Leadership Conference conducted hundreds of meetings on Capitol Hill to ask for lawmakers' support. Thanks in part to their efforts, Congress maintained level funding for the GPE program at about $3 million.

In addition to the Education Leadership Conference, students also can learn more about advocacy at APA's State Leadership Conference, by getting involved with state psychological associations and by attending APAGS programming at the APA Annual Convention, says APAGS Chair-elect Jennifer Doran.

Doran, a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at the New School for Social Research, encourages graduate students to write, call or even visit their elected representatives to discuss funding issues. "They really do listen," Doran says. "Students have a really powerful voice."

Coping with cuts

When funding evaporates, students should consider non-traditional avenues, says El-Ghoroury. Options could include searching for jobs outside of your department and using social media. "Letting people know 'I lost my funding and I need a part-time job' is a real way to access resources you might otherwise not have thought of," he says.

You may not want to connect with supervisors on Facebook or other personal social networking sites, but be sure to connect on LinkedIn, El-Ghoroury says. "Because it's business-related, it's really appropriate," he says. "Sometimes funding opportunities come up that may not be publicized," so having that connection with a supervisor could give you an inside track.

It also helps to find your own funding sources, says El-Ghoroury. "Apply for national grants and training grants, and be on the lookout for adjunct positions with supplemental funding," he says. You might also want to search APA's website for grants, scholarships and other awards.

Third-year doctoral student Julia Kearney* knows that graduate funding is never guaranteed, but she didn't expect to find that out the hard way. When she lost her counseling psychology teaching assistantship earlier this year, school officials told her it was because dwindling enrollment had cut revenue. Now Kearney is weighing her options to make up the $12,000 in lost funding. She's thinking about cashing in retirement funds she saved before starting her doctoral degree. "I'll try to go as long as possible before I do that," she notes.

In the meantime, she has applied for adjunct teaching jobs at community colleges. But few are closer than an hour's drive away. "Then it would become a push, with how low adjunct pay rates are and the high price of gas," she says.

Sometimes, students can avoid getting hit by budget cuts by promoting themselves within their department, says Doran. "Advocate for why you're a good student and a good researcher," she says. "If one student gets funding in your program, you need to be able to make a case for yourself to be that student." Don't be hesitant to tell your advisor or mentor about financial difficulties. "They don't always realize your situation," Doran adds.

Finally, be aware of the funding climate at your school. If you're at a state university with severe budget problems, it's probably time to start lining up new funding sources. That's especially important for advanced grad students, because assistantships tend to go to students who are just beginning their graduate training.

"If you're a more advanced student, get those grants or get an adjunct position at a local college," he says. "At least have something in your back pocket."

*Name changed to protect privacy.

By Rebecca Voelker

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0 1
07 Dec 2016

Secrets for Securing Research Funding

Secrets for Securing Research Funding

Apply early — and often — for success in funding your research as a graduate student, experts say.

It's no easy feat to find research money in today's arid funding climate. But there are funding sources that students might not know about — and tapping into them is a great way to impress your advisors and future employers.

"Securing your own funding — be it through a research grant or fellowship — shows that you have the capacity to be an independent researcher," says University of Iowa psychology doctoral student Edmarie Guzman-Velez, recipient of a National Science Foundation (NSF) graduate research fellowship to conduct memory and emotion research on people with Alzheimer's disease.

The ability to bring in their own grant money also changes students' relationships with their advisors, allowing for more peer-based interactions and discussions, says Bruna Martins, a doctoral psychology student at the University of Southern California, who has also secured an NSF fellowship.

"It really gives you the opportunity to pursue something that might not align perfectly with the research goals of your lab," Martins says.

Sounds great, right? So how do you procure this money?

Start early

Students should begin identifying potential grants before they are even eligible to apply, advises APAGS Assistant Director Eddy Ameen, PhD. "That way, you can shape your research pathway so that it crosses a few potential funding streams."

In addition, Martins notes, developing your grant-writing skills early in your graduate career gives you more time to hone your abilities and your research story, which will likely lead to more success.

"Starting off is the hardest part," she says. "Getting your feet wet is a great way to get that process started and to start mastering the art of writing grants."

Do your research

It may surprise you to learn there are scores of research funding sources for graduate students — as long as you know where to look. For starters, check in with your department and university. These internal opportunities offer an excellent way to begin applying for grants and credentials en route to "meatier" awards from the federal government.

Also, be sure to ask your school's grant/fellowship office about other grants and fellowships they know of, Martins says.

"This is often a little-known resource on campuses, and the officers there are so knowledgeable, not only about the existence of grants and fellowships but also the procedure and things to keep in mind, as well as what the mission of some of these grants are, which is really important," she says. "Then you can write your application with that in mind."

In addition, APA, the American Psychological Foundation and several other affiliated organizations offer grants.

Listservs, including those of APA divisions, state psychology associations and other more specialized organizations, can also be a great way to find potential funding sources, says Ana Hernández Kent, a doctoral psychology student at St. Louis University and member of the APAGS Science subcommittee.

"Their emails often include grant and other funding opportunities and give helpful information such as deadlines and who should apply," she says.

Follow the instructions

Guzman-Velez still cringes when recalling a friend who had a stellar application for an NSF fellowship but was automatically disqualified after submitting her references in nine-point font, when the instructions required nothing smaller than 10-point font.

"They didn't even look at her application," she says.

Martins cautions that every step of the grant process is a test of a student's ability to be detail-oriented as a researcher, so it's important to find out as much as you can about the rules of the grants you're after.

"It's the first litmus test for the people who will be judging your grant," she says. "They need to know that you're very invested in it and that you're going to follow the instructions that they set forth diligently and not think you're beyond the rules."

Reach out

Making connections with more senior graduate students — particularly those who have received the grant you're applying for — can also be a key factor in helping you strengthen your application, says Mike Sladek, an NSF graduate research fellow and developmental psychology graduate student at Arizona State University. Ask what they did, how soon they started writing their grants and what they think helped them succeed, Martins says. If they're willing to share their application with you, it can be a great way to better understand the components that may lead to success. And definitely ask them to be part of your review team when it's time to finalize and proof your application, Sladek says.

Get personal

Your cover letter is your chance to showcase your career as a scientist, and specificity is key, says Guzman-Velez. As a grant reviewer for APAGS, she says she's constantly seeing cover letters telling her that the applicant is a promising student, without providing evidence to back up that statement.

Martins agrees, and encourages students to avoid vague descriptions about themselves, such as, "I have a passion for science," which don't give the readers a true sense of who you are and why you're qualified for the award.

"We all have a passion for science," she says. "Most of the people who are applying for the grant will use that kind of language, so be concrete and really spell out who you are and what your background is. It gives you a step up relative to the other applicants."

Showcase the fit

In addition to describing who you are as a scientist, your cover letter should convince the reader that your research goals are in line with the grant maker's mission and goals.

"You're trying to tell a story about who you are as an applicant, what you envision in terms of your relationship with this grant institution and then show them how the fit is great and that you are ready to perform this project that you're proposing," Martins says.

Go outside your field of study

Have your application reviewed by your advisor, other faculty who may have experience with the particular grant, and other graduate students, Sladek says.

"It's also not a bad idea to get feedback from scholars outside of your area of study," he says. "They should be able to follow your application just as well as someone familiar with your research area."

Be sure to factor in this extra review time from the start.

"If your mentor usually takes a week to get back to you, make sure you give him or her a few weeks to review your application," Guzman-Velez says. "It's not only the writing part that you have to keep in mind, but also the back-and-forth between you and your advisor, so that you can get your application as polished as possible."

Don't give up

Persistence is key in grant writing, Guzman-Velez says.

"I applied for NSF my first year in grad school and didn't get it, but I used the feedback I received from them to strengthen my application and then in my second year, I was awarded the grant," she says.

And rejection is simply part of the process, Martins says, making it important to develop a thick skin early on.

"Getting practice with dealing with no and understanding that it's not personal and moving on from that builds your emotional resilience as a scientist," she says.

By Amy Novotney

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07 Dec 2016

Grant Writing 101

Grant Writing 101

How to craft a grant that could boost your career prospects.

When Thomas Eissenberg, PhD, gives the first lecture of his grant-writing course for grad students, he asks his students how many plan to become professional writers. "Nobody raises their hands," says Eissenberg, a professor of psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University. "That's too bad, because as a scientist, you'll be writing for a living."

Grant writing is a necessary part of life for many psychologists. If you plan a career in research, knowing how to find funding is key. But even psychologists who plan to go into practice benefit from grant-writing skills, says John G. Borkowski, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of Notre Dame. "A student going into an applied mental health career might very well have to apply for grants," he says. Someone working in community mental health, for instance, might seek funding for outreach programs from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the state mental health agency.

No matter where your interests lie, it's never too early to familiarize yourself with the grant-writing process. "You're going to be doing it," says Eissenberg, "and you need to excel at it."

Special skills

If your university offers a grant-writing course, you should sign up, Eissenberg says. Just as writing a manuscript is completely different from writing a newspaper article or a novel, grant writing, too, is its own beast — and it's a tough skill to teach yourself. "It's not something that can be done in a list of 10 tips," he says.

Your mentor and other experienced faculty are also an invaluable resource. Ask if you can read their grants, or even offer to help your mentor write or edit a section. "Be your own advocate, and ask to see your mentor's grant proposals," says Amber Story, PhD, the deputy director of the Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences at the National Science Foundation (NSF). "Grant writing is a collaborative process and being part of it early gets you a big leg up," she says.

Luckily, most psychology grad students aren't expected to come up with the funds to cover their entire dissertation research costs. Often, they're covered by departmental funds or grants awarded to their mentors. Once you start planning your own research projects, however, it's a good idea to start thinking about grants.

Talk to your advisor and your university's grant office for information on available funding, both internal and external. (See "Grant Resources" in the box below for more information on locating grant opportunities.)

The U.S. government is the biggest source of research funding for scientists. In fiscal year 2012, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded more than $21 billion in research grants, plus another $772 million in training grants. The NSF, meanwhile, awarded more than $6.7 billion for research support, equipment and education.

For psychology graduate students, among the most coveted awards are the NIH's Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards for Individual Predoctoral Fellows, known as the F31. This training grant helps cover the cost of your education — and it looks great on your resume, says Eissenberg. The NSF also offers a Graduate Research Fellowship.

After you've finished your degree, the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards for Individual Postdoctoral Fellowships, or F32, are similarly prestigious grants that can help you land a great postdoc position. Ideally, you should apply for this grant during your dissertation year. At NSF, the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate offers SBE Postdoctoral Research Fellowships along two tracks — broadening participation and interdisciplinary training. Many smaller grants are also available to students and early-career scientists, both through the government and private foundations, including the American Psychological Foundation.

Your best foot forward

So you found a grant to apply for. Now what? First, make sure it's the right fit, Story says. The NSF and NIH have program officers to assist in the proposal process. They can help you make sure your idea is appropriate for a particular grant or funding agency before you write up the entire application.

"Write a few paragraphs about your project, email it to the program officer and ask for a phone call to discuss it," Story advises. "Call early to save yourself the time and grief."

And then make sure your application is watertight. To do that, say experts:

  • Know your audience. Different agencies and programs have different procedures, requirements and funding missions, says Story. Make sure you know the priorities of the agency you're applying to.
  • Take your time. It can be tempting to rush to get a proposal out when you see an opportunity. But if you don't budget enough time for your application, it shows, says Molly Wagster, PhD, the chief of the Behavioral and Systems Neuroscience Branch at the NIH's National Institute on Aging. For all NIH grants, applicants may only revise and resubmit their proposal once, she says. If you don't put in a stellar effort in the first place, you're doing yourself a big disservice.
  • Pay attention to detail. Make sure your nouns agree with your verbs. Use spell check. Follow the submission guidelines exactly. "A sloppy proposal does give reviewers pause," Story says. "If you're not conscientious enough to take care with the proposal, how conscientious are you as a researcher?"
  • Be concise and clear. Have a compelling theoretical framework, and make sure your experiments will clearly test the hypothesis you've derived from that framework, Story says. "Those links have to be crystal clear." And don't forget that grant reviewers are mostly volunteer scientists and faculty members with busy full-time jobs, Eissenbeg adds. Make it easy for them to keep reading. "If your application isn't focused, you'll lose your audience very quickly."
  • Cover the bases. Some predoctoral grants require information about the applicant's training plan as well as his or her research plan. Sometimes applicants focus their energy on their research plans but give their training plans short shrift, Wagster says. Include details, such as how and when you'll be interacting with your primary mentor, and clearly describe your training timeline.
  • Rein it in. Being overly ambitious is a common problem, says Eissenberg. "Don't try to do too much. If the review committee senses a project can't be done in the time allotted and with the money requested, they can't possibly give you a good score," he says.
  • Show you care. Too often, applicants don't fully convey their enthusiasm, Eissenberg says. "Communicating passion for your idea counts for a lot."
  • Ask for help. Enlist your mentor or another colleague to read your application and offer critiques. Don't submit an application that hasn't been looked at by another set of eyes, says Borkowski.
  • Don't get discouraged. In fiscal year 2012, fewer than 20 percent of applicants to the NIH were awarded grants. The NSF success rate was less than 25 percent. Rejection is part of the process, even for experienced investigators. Hang in there. "Don't put the application in a drawer and leave it there. Build on it, resubmit it or submit it somewhere else," Borkowski says. "The first no is just the beginning to getting a yes."

A creative process

Submitting a polished application is obviously essential. But there are other steps you can take to make yourself attractive to grant committees. For instance, start publishing as early as possible.

"Publications show your past track record," says Borkowski. "Funding agencies want to give money to someone they can trust."

Also keep in mind current funding trends. Lately, Borkowski says, some funding agencies are particularly keen on research that explores the biological basis of behavior, as well as bench-to-bedside research that connects basic science to real-world problems. Interdisciplinary science is also highly prized by funding agencies, Eissenberg adds.

That said, don't contort your interests to make your research fit the latest funding fashions. Ultimately, your enthusiasm for an idea is what will make you successful both as a researcher and a grant writer. "If you're passionate about an idea, that's what's going to drive you forward," Eissenberg says.

Above all, don't be afraid of writing grant applications. The process isn't just about scoring dollars. It's also a way to hone your ideas.

"Grant writing should be a creative process," says Eissenberg — a chance to figure out how to solve a puzzle that intrigues you. "At least until you get to the budget stage and have reality hit, you have a question you want to answer and all the resources in the world to try to answer it," he adds. "It's an exciting enterprise, and you should want to write a grant."

By Kirsten Weir

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06 Dec 2016

How Did You Get That Job? Q&A with Faculty Recruiter Dr. Patrick Smith

The knowledge, skills, and experience gained through your psychology education and training can successfully transfer to a variety of jobs that you may never have previously considered. As chief of faculty affairs at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, Dr. Patrick Smith uses his psychology expertise to find the best employees and to keep them happy and engaged. In this webinar, Dr. Smith shares his experience about his career path and how to apply a psychology background to this field of work .

Dr. Patrick Smith

Speaker: Dr. Patrick Smith is the Chief Faculty Affairs Officer for the University of Mississippi Medical Center. He also serves as the Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs and Professor of Family Medicine at the University of Mississippi School of Medicine. Within these roles, he oversees academic leadership recruitment, contributes to leadership development, provides faculty consultation services, and manages principles of academic life (viz., appointment, promotions, tenure, and faculty development). Dr. Smith was featured in the November issue of the Monitor on Psychology’s popular column How Did You Get That Job?


Dr. Garth Fowler
Dr. Garth Fowler

Host: Dr. Garth A. Fowler is an Associate Executive Director for Education, and the Director of the Office for Graduate and Postgraduate Education and Training at APA. He leads the Directorate’s efforts to develop resources, guidelines, and policies that promote and enhance disciplinary education and training in psychology at the graduate and postdoctoral level.


This webinar series is based on, and borrows its name, How Did You Get That Job?, from the popular column in APA’s monthly member-magazine, The Monitor on Psychology.  You can read Dr. Smith's interview from the November 2016 issue here. The magazine is a benefit of membership with APA.

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02 Dec 2016

PsycIQ Quick Links: External Funding Sources

PsycIQ Quick Links: External Funding Sources

There are several external sources you can use for scholarships, expenses, funding, and awards for your research—and we’ve found them!

National Institute of Mental Health

  • Description: The National Institute of Mental Health provides several opportunities for funding research, training and career development and clinical trails through grants and research contracts.
  • Why It’s Great: Funding opportunities, listed by type, are displayed right at the top of the page, with program announcements and easy access to requests for applications.

National Science Foundation

  • Description: NSF provides funding opportunities for graduate students and postdocs, as well as educational development opportunities.
  • Why It’s Great: You can search for recent opportunities, or search by field, and find application/proposal guides, timelines, and contact information.

Brain and Behavior Research Foundation

  • Description: The Brain and Behavior Research Foundation provides awards and three types of Investigator Grants to support mental health research.
  • Why It’s Great: Easily searchable, detailed description of awards, purposes and eligibility and timeline of application process.

Mental Health Research Association

  • Description: A detailed list of priority areas, all in the mental health field, which MIRA accepts grant proposals for research project funding.
  • Why It’s Great: Direct links provide easy access to grant applications.

William T. Grant Foundation

  • Description: Research grants, career development programs for early-career researchers, and fellowships.
  • Why It’s Great: The foundation provides an actual database of funding! Also, a search engine is available, which holds an exhaustive list of grants, eligibility requirements and application guides.

This list will continue to grow as we add more outside funding opportunities. We’d love to hear about any opportunities you’ve been able to find! Please contact us to forward any research funding opportunities you’ve seen!

APA has some funding opportunities worth considering. Learn more >>

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