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I-O Goes to Washington


by Stephany Below, SIOP Communications Manager

SIOP Hires D.C.-Based Firm to Raise Awareness of I-O Science and Practice

SIOP is working to strengthen support for I-O psychology research and practice among national policy decision makers.

To assist in this mission, the Society has enlisted the help of Lewis-Burke Associates LLC, a full-service government relations firm located in Washington, DC that specializes in providing comprehensive federal representation for scientific associations and institutions of higher education.

Lewis-Burke, working with SIOP, will develop a strategic advocacy agenda, build support and coalition activities, expand federal agency requests for and utilization of I-O research results and practice capabilities, enhance the membership’s understanding of the federal political process as it relates to science policy and funding, and build relationships with members of Congress and federal agencies.

“Lewis-Burke will be assisting SIOP in establishing our own voice in Washington and beyond and is part of a larger effort to be more externally focused,” explained SIOP President Tammy Allen. “Through this effort, we want to increase the recognition and use of our scientific contributions. This includes placing more I-O psychologists on federal advisory committees and as witnesses in congressional hearings on workplace issues. We would also like to see our science used to impact government regulation and legislation and to influence business leaders. Further, we need to maintain a strong presence within psychology departments. For better or worse, the coin of the realm in most psychology departments today is federal grant funding. To preserve the strength of our training programs we need to increase opportunities for federal grant dollars.”

Through SIOP’s work with Lewis-Burke, the society also hopes to better leverage coalition activities with partner organizations such as FABBS, APS, APA, and SHRM, Allen explained.

Over the coming months, the two organizations will be developing a strategic advocacy agenda, including decisions with regard to what specific issues we want to pursue and how.

Allen explained the decision to partner with the firm and how appropriate this work is for SIOP right now.

“There is a long history behind our engagement with Lewis-Burke,” she explained. “Science advocacy has been part of our strategic plan since it was formalized in 2006-2007. However, advancement in this area has proven difficult for SIOP and it has been one of the areas in which members rate their satisfaction as the lowest. Despite the fact that our science can be used to help inform, advise, and educate on issues of concern to society, SIOP’s and industrial-psychology’s visibility remains low among major scientific organizations, policy-makers, and organizational decision-makers.”

As a volunteer organization with a small staff serving more than 7,000 members, Allen said, it was recognized that SIOP needed additional resources and expertise to be able to develop a sustained and strategic advocacy effort over time.1

“After exploring different options, including hiring a staff person, and vetting a number of different government relations firms, it became clear that Lewis-Burke was the best fit for SIOP,” she added.

The firm has a unique working style, explained April L. Burke, President of Lewis-Burke Associates, LLC.

“Unlike other public affairs companies in Washington, Lewis-Burke has developed a collaborative, team approach to working with scientific groups,” she said. “Each team includes members with diverse skill sets – advanced degrees, scientific training, political experience, and legal expertise. This synergy allows the representation to span legislative, regulatory, policy, and communications issues across the government.”

Lewis-Burke and SIOP have already begun the process of identifying important areas for advocacy and crafting the strategies and tactics to expand SIOP’s federal impact.

“Federal science advocacy is a complicated environment,” Burke explained. “Lewis-Burke has created a deep bench of experts who work with the society to develop and carry out communications that best advance the interests of the membership and fit the SIOP agenda with the roles and responsibilities of the Congress and the Executive branch.”

Burke said she is looking forward to working with a society that offers so much practical knowledge and that Lewis-Burke will strive to ensure SIOP’s expertise is recognized.

“I am particularly pleased to be working with SIOP because the society has credibility and important contributions to the workplace based on science and practice,” she added. “While many federal agencies value I-O, there needs to be a pervasive understanding and recognition of I-O beyond the working level of agencies in order to imbed I-O science into the policy decision-making of Washington.”

SIOP is excited to begin working with Lewis-Burke, Allen added.

“The wealth of expertise that they have to share will help SIOP create more opportunities to foster our science and the application of our knowledge,” she said, “for the betterment of work, workers, workplaces, and society.”

1Kozlowski, S. W. J., Kanfer, R., Major, D. A., & Weiss, H. M. (2011). A strategy to build an infrastructure for SIOP science advocacy. Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology Scientific Affairs Task Force on Science Advocacy.