The Boston Workshop, 2015

The overall aim of the Pre-Congress workshop was to provide a forum in which to discuss the current ‘scientific’ activities within IPA societies.  The workshop facilitated the exchange of views about the contemporary scientific life of component societies.  Specifically, it:

  • Provided a snapshot of the scientific life of societies in 2015 by producing and discussing a compendium of these activities across all societies;
  • Articulated views about the structure and content of the scientific meetings of component societies; and
  • Derived a broad and non-binding interim definition of what is meant by the term ‘scientific life’, which could be used as a reference point in future discussions.


The importance of the workshop links with the fact that not only is the scientific life of the IPA its pulse but having a forum in which to discuss matters related to the scientific life could ultimately result in the global sharing of resources.  Further, utilising developing technologies for the sharing of ‘in-reach’ and ‘out-reach’ activities can help to promote a contemporary image of psychoanalysis: one that is informed by inter-disciplinary findings, single case material, conceptual and efficacy research.  We could say it could promote an important image of our international association which can be seen to combine what Doidge has referred to as “the sacred with the scientific”. 

The reports contained in the compendium, which all societies contributed ahead of the workshop, provided the details of the current scientific life activities of component societies.  These were shared and discussed at the workshop. 

The three-hour session began with an introduction by the IPA President, Dr Stefano Bolognini, who conveyed the IPA Executive view at the meeting.  He noted that the scientific life of component societies, and moreover the IPA, was its engine room and that a meeting which brought together so many societies to discuss and share views about what this is and how it might be conceived was seen to be of enormous importance to the organisation.  

Following presentations by Dr Timothy Keogh and Professor Marianne Leuzinger-Bohleber, three small groups (based on language) were then formed. They were asked to work on a small-group exercise for 45 minutes.  Each group was asked to elect a chair and a reporter who could subsequently report back to the large group.  
As part of the exercise each group addressed a number of questions.  These were:

  • From the compendium of society reports, could the group say if they felt there was a typical profile of scientific life and was there agreement about its key components?
  • What did the group think about the role that IPA Research Fellows might play?
  • How did the group feel that developments in theory and research could impact on training?  
  • How is the scientific life reflected in their society conferences?
  • Was it possible to derive a broad, non-binding interim consensus definition of ‘scientific life’ which could be used as a reference point in future discussions?


It was agreed, without dissent, that the scientific life of component societies could be interimly defined as:

“those in-reach and out-reach activities that allow for the inclusion of both idiographic, hermeneutic and nomothetic approaches, in different proportions, which are culturally determined and which aim to promote a contemporary image of psychoanalysis and, in turn, allow for the development of an IPA framework within which all component societies can both contribute and operate”. 

Following the agreement on the interim definition, the large group also wanted to make a number of recommendations to the IPA Executive.  These were: 

  • That the IPA Executive continue to provide ongoing space and resources to assist the development of a broad framework which can facilitate the scientific life of component societies and moreover the IPA as an organisation;
  • That an IPA webpage forum be established and a forum moderator be identified to assist in this process; 
  • That a further workshop be held at the next Congress to develop recommendations with a view to finalising a framework; and
  • That the Third Edition of the Open Door Review be placed on the IPA website to offer an overview of the different forms of psychoanalytical research within the IPA, as well as some epistemological and methodological considerations.  That it also be utilised as a framework, for specific areas of research.