As we commemorate 40 years of the Federation of Associations in Behavioral & Brain Sciences (FABBS), we have invited former FABBS Executive Directors to reflect on their time in the role.
In this Q&A, we spoke to Dr. Christine Cameron, who served as Executive Director of FABBS from October of 2013 through March of 2016.
Dr. Cameron was trained as a psychological scientist at the University of Kansas, where she earned her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology with a specialty in Health and Rehabilitation. Dr. Cameron gained professional policy-making experience serving as mayor and city councilor of the City of Lafayette, Colorado. Prior to her time as Executive Director of FABBS, she supported the organization’s advocacy efforts as a consultant. During her tenure at FABBS (and the FABBS Foundation), she served primarily as an administrative Executive Director and guided the organization through a series of changes that maximized efficiencies and enabled FABBS to expand and grow into the thriving organization it is today.
As we celebrate FABBS 40th Anniversary, how do you think the organization has changed over the years?
FABBS has been remarkably adaptable in its capacity to shift with changing conditions in federal funding and policy, its own financial challenges and administrative structures, and the increasing importance of brain and behavioral science research to the lives of people around the world. That FABBS could grow to 27 organizations representing behavioral, psychological, and cognitive sciences from the original eight in Chicago in 1980 is a testament to the foundational importance of our sciences. While we have had several geographic, structural, and name changes, perhaps more remarkable is what has not changed – FABBS’s role in supporting and promoting our sciences.
What were your biggest accomplishments and challenges as Executive Director?
FABBS’s biggest challenges when I started in the role as Executive Director became my biggest accomplishment. In the fall of 2013, the organization was still operating as two legal but intersecting organizations: FABBS was a 501(c)(6) advocacy organization, and the FABBS Foundation was a tax-deductible 501(c)(3) educational organization. Each organization had separate sources of funding and spending rules. We had to carefully account for expenses and revenue as either “advocacy” or “education.” We had two boards and two sets of books to manage.
Functionally, advocacy and education have always been entwined, which was especially evident as during this time we launched the journal Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences (PIBBS), published several edited books for academic and general audiences, and ramped up our educational feature stories in our newsletter. Merging the two organizations created efficiencies in financial and human resources that enabled a greater focus on our missions.
It was also during this time that FABBS moved its offices to Farragut Square (during a blizzard!) and restructured staffing to decrease administrative costs and expand support for advocacy and education. While these efforts were mostly behind the scenes, they strengthened the foundation of the organization so that it could expand its core services to our sciences.
None of this would have been possible without strong leadership from the FABBS Board and the partnership of Dr. Paula Skedsvold, who continued her exemplary work on Capitol Hill and with Federal agencies, carrying out the ongoing advocacy work of FABBS, while I focused on the administrative efficiencies and educational opportunities.
I am eternally grateful that I had the opportunity to support the work of our scientists – from those we honored in our Early Career Impact Awards, to the council representatives and scientist members of our member societies, and especially FABBS’s dedicated board members.
Do you have any comments or advice for behavioral and brain scientists?
I think of FABBS and the work of the behavioral and brain scientists often with the current multitude of global crises. I attended a lecture in the early days of consulting with FABBS and the point was made that nearly every scientific endeavor is influenced by human behavior – and thus by the behavioral and brain sciences. Some examples: (1) Biomedical research will produce a vaccine for COVID-19, but vaccine adoption is a behavioral question. (2) Why do people vote the way they do, and what can be done to decrease conflict between opposing perspectives? Or (3) How do we combat racism and change racist systems? I eagerly await the research findings of those studying the pandemic; today’s political system and the recent election; and the increase in awareness of issues associated with racism and racial justice – because I know that some of you were already doing this research and others recognized the need and the opportunity to seize it.
We need behavioral and brain science research now more than ever and perhaps under current circumstances, that will become increasingly evident to lawmakers, funders, future scientists, and the general public.