The London Workshop 2019

The third meeting of Scientific Chairs was held during the Pre-Congress session of the IPA Congress in London on Wednesday, 24th July 2019. 

The theme of the meeting was “Positioning ourselves for the next decade”.

A total of 46 scientific chairs or their delegates from component and provisional societies heard a warm welcoming address by Dr Virginia Ungar, who highlighted the importance of the role of scientific chairs to the functioning of the IPA.  There was also an introduction to the workshop and a summary of the progress to date with the ‘Scientific Life Project’ by Dr Timothy Keogh (who spoke in English and provided power point slides in Spanish).   

This was followed by two presentations, the first by Dr Mark Solms, representing APsA, entitled “The scientific status of psychoanalysis” and the second by Dr Andre Gagnon, representing the Canadian Society (who spoke in English but also provided power point slides in French) entitled “The role of the scientific chair in shaping the scientific life of a society: Canadian society initiatives”. 

A common theme to emerge from these presentations and from the related group discussion was the need for more openness to other disciplines and their findings (especially when these challenge the basis of our theories) the need to retain the specificity of psychoanalysis and mindfulness about not promoting disproven ideas and approaches.  Whilst acknowledging the different roles that scientific chairs may have in their societies, the importance of the two arms of scientific activities, in-reach and out-reach, was highlighted.                                                                      

Following the two presentations, four (language-based) small groups engaged with the task of thinking about how best for us to position ourselves for the next decade and to consider the draft position description for the scientific chair.  Out of these discussions the groups then made recommendations, through group reporters, to the large group. 

Nominated spokespersons gave reports from each group.  Silvana Rea (Mexico) reported on behalf of the Portuguese-speaking group, Viqui Rosenberg (UK) and Dinah Cardenas (Mexico) on behalf of the Spanish-speaking group, Herman Staats on behalf of the English-speaking group and Andre Gagnon represented the views of a mixed French and other language group. 
Silvana Rea reported that her Portuguese-speaking group suggested the use of partnerships and the use of social media, especially YouTube, as well as radio interviews and newspaper articles. The group also stressed the value of open meetings sponsored by societies to promote the utility and applicability of contemporary psychoanalysis.  They also thought that talks at bookstores and before movies at cinemas can very useful. They stressed the importance of dialogues with other societies and being more accessible to the communities in which they are embedded.

Reporting on behalf of the Spanish speaking group Viqui Rosenberg (London) and Dinah Cardenas (Mexico) noted that their group had spent time focusing on the need to facilitate communication between and within committees in societies to ensure the promotion of the scientific life of the society. They also focused on the idea of sharing resources between societies and regions that is “engaging at the borders” and utilising the resources of the IPA in order to increase the capacity to provide effective outreach, which is underpinned by evidence and offers a contemporary face to psychoanalysis. They also suggested lectures to candidates, which inform them about the scientific basis of psychoanalysis. The overall purpose would be to resource members and candidates in order that societies can engage confidently in promotion and outreach. 

Andre Gagnon reported to the large group on the deliberations of the largely French-speaking group he chaired. In terms of promoting the scientific nature of psychoanalysis the group discussed the tensions between the need to maintain the focus on the specificity of psychoanalysis and the objectivity of research to promote a scientific image of psychoanalysis. This group also strongly proposed a role for the IPA to facilitate access to new scientific research to all members (so as to challenge our colleagues from other scientific backgrounds to recognise and integrate our "evidenced-based research" and to raise the internet profile of this on the internet via a larger diffusion in the membership. The group further noted the lack of awareness of the evidence base concerning psychoanalysis. In focusing on this they also considered in what sense we could talk about psychoanalysis as scientific. 

Hermann Staats, reporting for the English-speaking group, noted his was a cooperative group who acknowledged the need to produce evidence and research. They focused on the need to foster more collaboration on promoting the scientific life of the IPA. In particular, it was felt that we need to promote the IPA by engaging younger members.  The group also endorsed the importance of facilitating linkages between societies and with other disciplines. They also agreed that outreach lectures were an important means of achieving this. They also talked about the importance of longer terms for scientific chairs or similar positions. The idea of a person in the society focused on outreach communications and promotions they thought might be worth considering.  In the larger group discussion it was noted that there are different positions and roles for scientific chairs. It was noted, for example, that in some societies outreach is a different brief to that of a scientific chair responsible for the scientific program of the society.
The proposed position description for the scientific chair, whilst endorsed, was perceived as constrained by these differences in the roles of the scientific chair or similar positions.  

From the large group discussion several key suggestions were made about how to position us for the next decade; these included:

  • Being more open to other disciplines;
  • Making ourselves more accessible to the communities in which we are placed;
  • Finding more ways to demonstrate the value of psychoanalysis and widening the scope of our activities in these communities;
  • Instituting more collaboration and fostering institutional linkages locally, nationally and internationally (“engaging at the borders”);
  • Formalising mechanisms for sharing resources between societies and within regions;
  • Resourcing our members to engage with other disciplines and our communities about the value of psychoanalysis with a special emphasis on training candidates; and 
  • More strategic and efficient use of media and social media to promote psychoanalysis. 

    All groups endorsed the interim position description for the Scientific Chair.

    The large group ultimately agreed with the following mission statement:

    Through a range of strategies and activities and within their role limitations, scientific chairs will facilitate an opening up of their societies to other disciplines by inviting dialogue and forging linkages at all levels and assist their societies to become more communicative (especially through social media) to their local communities and their associated institutions, in order to make psychoanalysis more accessible and to help it to influence culture. 

    Ultimately, the group endorsed the following recommendations to the IPA Officers:

    1. Endorsement of the derived mission statement; 
    2. Acceptance and promulgation of the interim position description; 
    3. Approval for the continuation of the Scientific Life Project (Webpage) with its facility for ongoing dialogue; and 
    4. Approval of ongoing meetings for scientific chairs at IPA Congresses including the 2021 Congress. 

    The meeting expressed its appreciation of the support from the IPA for the opportunity to meet and for these meetings to be a conduit of information to the Executive to assist its decision making.

    On behalf of all participants I made representation to the IPA Officers about the issues on which the meeting agreed. In response, the IPA Officers advised that they:

    1. Endorsed the derived mission statement;
    2. Accepted and agreed with the promulgation of the provisional position description for Scientific Chair or equivalent; 
    3. Approved the continuation of the Scientific Life Project with its facility for ongoing dialogue; and
    4. Approved in principle the next meeting for scientific chairs at the Vancouver Congress (subject to budget).