2021 Presidential Address by Jan De Houwer
What a year it has been. At our first ever virtual BAPS meeting in May 2020, we were convinced that we would have a regular, real-life meeting in 2021. As we now know, we were too optimistic. In this and countless other ways, the past 14 months have been full of, mostly unpleasant, surprises. But as the cliché tells us, crises can also offer unique opportunities to learn and grow. As far as BAPS is concerned, what the COVID crisis taught me most is how important it is to have a strong and well-connected BAPS. From the start of the COVID crisis, several of our colleagues highlighted in the media the many important psychological aspects of this crisis. Nevertheless, especially in the beginning of the crisis, the voice of Belgian psychological science in the COVID debate was weak and fragmented. Our then president and now past president Olivier Luminet was one of the colleagues who worked hard at coordinating the actions of Belgian psychological scientists, which resulted in what is now called the “Expert Group on Psychology and Corona” ( https://en.bfp-fbp.be/psychology-corona ). In part because the Belgian Federation of Psychologists (BFP) was in ruins at the time that the COVID crisis started, it also took a long time to involve other professional psychology organizations such as VOCAP (organizational, consumer, and labor psychology) and VVSP (school psychology) in the operation of the expert group. The implosion of BFP can also be linked to the current problems at the Commission of Psychologists. We all heard about the case of Kaat Bollen in the national media, but this is only one manifestation of several underlying problems within the Commission. With the support of BAPS, BFP was revived in September 2020 as a federation of member organizations (see our April 2021 newsletter). It is slowly starting to retake its crucial position at the national and international level, providing BAPS with new ways of supporting and promoting psychological science in Belgium.
During the COVID crisis, BAPS also continued to deliver its more visible services such as the (virtual) annual meetings. The large attendance at the meetings of 2020 and 2021 attests to how important this event remains for psychological science in Belgium, especially for our more junior researchers. Via the BAPS Junior Board, junior researchers are now more directly involved in our association. The Junior Board has undertaken many activities during the past year, such as the Junior Board webinars and the organization of the first BAPS Junior Day on 27th May 2021. Also in 2020 and 2021, BAPS selected winners for its awards, including the Best Master Thesis Award, the Best PhD Thesis Award, and the Early Career Award. These BAPS awards offer unique opportunities for our younger scientists to distinguish themselves and often function as a stepping stone toward a successful scientific career. More and more, the BAPS awards and annual meetings appeal to scientists from all subdisciplines in psychology at all Belgian universities. Finally, our journal Psychologica Belgica is continuing to provide an open access outlet for our scientists and has recently made available for free its entire backlog of articles!
We are constantly trying to further optimize our functioning. As noted above, we already intensified our involvement in BFP and the Commission of Psychologists. We have created a newsletter for our members and increased our visibility in social media. In the coming months, we hope to launch a completely new website that is designed to further increase the visibility of what BAPS and psychological science in Belgium have to offer. We will also continue to look for new ways in which we can achieve our main mission: to support and promote psychological science in Belgium. For instance, we are currently facilitating contacts between the ethical committees at the various Belgian universities in order to allow for an exchange of ideas and coordinated action. We will also ask you what you think we can do to help psychological science in Belgium. BAPS exists for you, so do let us know what we can do for you.
We are here for you but we also need you. For us, BAPS is a community. We can only maintain this community when our members take part in our activities, encourage others to take part, or take up responsibility in our executive committee, our junior board, or as a representative in the many organizations that we are affiliated to. As a community, we can make a difference, in time of war and peace alike.
Jan De Houwer