Professor Simon Crowe FAPS, APS President 2010-12

Psychology 2020: The 2011-12 Presidential Initiative on the future of psychological science in Australia

The report is available for download here. Hard copies can be obtained by emailing

During their term of office, each President of the Australian Psychological Society has the opportunity to conduct a Presidential Initiative. In 2011, I established the Future of Psychological Science in Australia Taskforce to identify, understand and address the opportunities and challenges arising from the changing environment of the discipline and practice of psychology, and to create a vision and a road map for the future of psychological science going forward to the year 2020. I was proud to present the report of my Presidential Initiative at the 2012 APS Annual Conference last month and to have commissioned this important work to facilitate the sustainability of psychology to 2020 and beyond.

Background to the Initiative

Psychology is now operating in a context of much change and reform associated with alterations to government policy, regulatory frameworks, higher education, health reforms and workforce demands. Challenges facing psychology include:

  • Inadequate levels of funding for undergraduate and postgraduate professional psychology programs
  • An increase in the demand and supply for clinical psychology services, affecting the diversity of psychology training and practice
  • Psychology workforce shortages, which puts stress on the capacity to provide services to meet the needs of the Australian community
  • Poor performance in publication of research, despite a solid research infrastructure
  • Meeting the needs in the general community for accurate psychological knowledge.

In order to meet these challenges and ensure sustainability into the future, psychology must understand and adapt to the continuing changes both in the external environment, and within the profession itself. 

The 2011-2012 Presidential Initiative Taskforce was asked to consider the challenges and opportunities for psychology going forward to the year 2020. The members of the 2011-12 Presidential Initiative Taskforce were: 

  • Professor Simon Crowe FAPS (Chair)
  • Professor Sally Andrews MAPS, University of Sydney
  • Winthrop Professor David Badcock FAPS, University of WA
  • Associate Professor Jacqueline Cranney MAPS, University of NSW
  • Professor John Dunn, University of Adelaide
  • Emeritus Professor Gina Geffen FAPS, University of Queensland
  • Dr Sabine Hammond FAPS, Executive Manager Science and Education, APS
  • Dr Iain Montgomery Hon FAPS, University of Tasmania
  • Professor Ottmar Lipp FAPS, University of Queensland
  • Professor Lyn Littlefield OAM FAPS, APS Executive Director
  • Professor Peter Lovibond FAPS, University of New South Wales
  • Associate Professor Louise Roufeil FAPS, James Cook University
  • Associate Professor Graham Tyson FAPS, Charles Sturt University

The Presidential Initiative aimed to identify: 

  • Opportunities for the development of the discipline of psychology based on the needs of academics, students and the public
  • Strategies and tactics to most effectively address these opportunities
  • Opportunities to develop and enhance sustainable partnerships between the key stakeholders to implement new directions for the discipline of psychology and the development of a common public policy agenda
  • A ten-year vision for the future of the discipline of psychology.

The work of the Presidential Taskforce

A preliminary focus of the Taskforce was to carefully consider the various reforms and developments affecting the training and practice of psychology. Members from across the Taskforce contributed to discussion of the key areas of change affecting psychology: reforms impacting on education and training; health service delivery trends and health workforce reforms; and the impact of technological advances on psychology training and practice.

With an understanding of the reforms and trends affecting psychology training and practice, the Taskforce then set out to conduct an in-depth analysis of the challenges and opportunities for psychology. Four working parties were convened under the leadership of the various members of the Taskforce to focus on the following factors critical to the future of psychological science: securing funding for psychology education and training; sustaining the academic and practitioner workforce; ensuring publication of world class research; and promoting psychological literacy within the community. 

The Taskforce formed a series of recommendations for action across the four broad areas of the Initiative. These have been summarised into eight key recommendations to provide a guide for the future of psychological science toward 2020, which are presented below.

It is my hope that armed with the findings of the Initiative, and with the support of the APS, psychology will be better able to maximise the opportunities for change and improvement as they are presented. There is strong student interest in psychology, policy makers and workforce planners are looking to build a strong mental health workforce, and the Australian community’s demand for psychology has never been stronger. The future of our discipline will continue to be shaped by these forces, but with a well developed action plan for how we must progress and modernise, psychology will be better prepared for whatever the next decade throws at us. 

Key recommendations of the 2011-2012 Presidential Initiative

The Taskforce formed a series of recommendations for action across the four broad areas of the Initiative. These have been summarised into eight key recommendations to provide a guide for the future of psychological science toward 2020. The recommendations are to:

  • Advocate for the higher education funding model to recognise psychology as an area of workforce shortage by providing additional funding assistance to both undergraduate and postgraduate psychology education. 
  • Reform psychology education to achieve appropriately funded and sustainable training pathways that allow the dual outcomes of an increase in both the professional and the academic workforce in psychology.
  • Ensure the psychology workforce can meet the needs of the community now and in the future through: 
    • Increased recruitment and retention 
    • Enhanced professional training 
    • Support for the practice of psychology across specialty areas and places of work.
  • Increase the influence of psychology at the national policy table by disseminating psychology research across the broader community, encouraging engagement between researchers and policy makers, and fostering translational research and policy skill development in psychology education and training. 
  • Support a rigorous and broad undergraduate curriculum that prepares students to conduct research, and develop postgraduate training that includes active engagement with state-of-the-art research methods and techniques.
  • Work toward a national consensus regarding the ways in which students can acquire:
    • Scientific literacy, strong knowledge and practical skills
    • A minimum capacity to apply psychology principles to self, groups and society
    • An appreciation of how the knowledge, skills and attitudes across several foundational sub-fields of the discipline and profession of psychology are integrated. 
  • Develop a national approach to leverage existing committees, communities of practice, and educational bodies and resources to increase the orientation toward ‘scientist-educators’ and develop the capacity of psychology spokespeople. 
  • Maintain and enhance relationships with workforce planners and policy makers to ensure that they are informed about the critical and irreplaceable role that psychologists play in supporting the health and wellbeing of the Australian community. 

InPsych October 2012