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SIOP Initiatives on White Papers: The Story so Far

Stuart Carr
Massey University
White papers offer practical and well-grounded summaries of an important research field. They are designed to make research evidence accessible for end-users, from policy-makers in organizations and on the shop floor, to governments, multinationals, multilaterals and community groups. They enable research to have impact, and evidence to count. Accordingly, SIOP is currently involved in several innovative and challenging white paper projects. First, the International Affairs Committee is facilitating a series of white papers within SIOP (IAC White Papers). Second, SIOP is also a founding partner in the Work Psychology White Papers (WPWP) Project. This is an initiative of the Alliance for Organizational Psychology. The governance plan for the Alliance was ratified in 2011 (http://www.allianceorgpsych.org/allianceorgpsych/).
In a spirit of collaboration, mutual support, and communication with SIOP members, and coinciding with SIOP’s annual conference in San Diego, we are joined today for an update by the IAC and the WPWP Committees. The IAC group comprises of Donald Truxillo (Committee Chair, Portland State University), Lynda Zugec (The Workforce Consultants), and Alok Bhupatkar (American Institutes for Research). The WPWP Steering Committee is currently represented by Nik Chmiel (EAWOP) and Stu Carr (SIOP representative and Steering Committee Chair). We very much appreciate the input from Lori Foster Thompson (North Carolina State University), who is SIOP’s External Affairs Officer.
Can you tell us a little more about the projects themselves?
Donald Truxillo, for IAC:  The SIOP IAC white paper series originally came about through a number of discussions, primarily with Kurt Kraiger and José Maria Peiró a few years ago when the Alliance was being formed and when I was External Relations officer for SIOP. At that time, Kurt had discussed the possibility of doing a white paper on training. In addition, when José Maria and I developed the guidelines for the International Research Incubators in fall 2009, we discussed using the International Research Incubators topics—the incubator sessions had been presented at the SIOP, EAWOP, and IAAP conferences—for future white papers. Each white paper would need to be authored by members of SIOP, EAWOP, and IAAP. SIOP’s IAC also began to put together a plan for establishing an editorial board for the white papers.
When I became chair of IAC this year, my committee was asked to continue to work on this white paper series, so I picked up where we had left off:   the paper Kurt agreed to do, plus two papers based on the research incubators (Applicant Reactions, led by Talya Bauer; and Retirement, led by Mo Wang). Our work on assembling an editorial board with more formal procedures is still underway.
It’s also important to note that the SIOP IAC is focused on SIOP’s white papers specifically, which at some point may be (we hope) handed off to the Alliance.
Stu Carr & Nik Chmiel, for WPWP:  This is good news. The Work Psychology White Papers (WPWP) Project was begun in 2009 as an international collaboration between SIOP, the European Association of Work and Organizational Psychology (EAWOP), and Division 1 of the International Association of Applied Psychology (IAAP). The goal of the project is to produce collaborative state-of-the-art summaries of I-O knowledge on issues of broad societal importance, which are presented in a format palatable to policy bodies to benefit society (Schein, 2009). SIOP, EAWOP, and IAAP each have one member on the joint Steering Committee, who reports to the Alliance for Organizational Psychology (http://www.allianceorgpsych.org/allianceorgpsych/) Executive Committee. Having a dialogue with the IAC is helpful because, although we have different ambits, we can exchange ideas on how to manage a white paper process.
What progress has been made so far, within each project?
DT, for IAC:  As noted, in addition to Kurt’s white paper on training, the two additional papers in the works are “Retirement” with Mo Wang as lead, and “Applicant Reactions” with Talya Bauer as lead; these were both research incubator topics at the SIOP and IAAP conferences. Our goal is to have these completed by the 2012 SIOP conference. As far as other progress, we have assembled a subcommittee of academics and practitioners from around the world to further develop the white paper editorial process.
SC & NC, for WPWP: During the lead up to the Alliance being formally constituted this year, the WPWP Steering Committee generated a list of possible topics, in consultation with presidents of the three associations. These include global issues (e.g., child labor and repression), work issues (e.g., accident prevention), social issues (e.g., disaster management, organized crime), work and society (e.g., aging, generations at work), organizational opportunities (e.g., decent work, inclusive organizations), and organizational threats (e.g., downsizing, outsourcing). We have also developed a draft protocol for WPWP papers. If we take work and society for example, this would entail informing readers (a) what people should know (about employing workers as they age), (b) what can be done (about employing workers as they age), and (c) what we do not know (about employing workers as they age).
What challenges have been faced so far, and how can they be overcome?
DT, for IAC:  We aim to get the three papers noted above completed in 2011–2012, but a more formal process for choosing topics and authors is still required. Some work has been done on this over the past 3 years. Developing guidelines will assure the highest quality white papers, which will illustrate the value of I-O/W psychology to business, policy makers, and society at large. In addition, the inclusion of diverse viewpoints from various cultural perspectives continues to be a key challenge.
One approach we’ve used to overcome these challenges is to look at similar white paper models. Specifically, we are looking at white paper series that are developed jointly by different organizations and that need to take into account diverse viewpoints. Such an example would be the joint SIOP/SHRM white papers (http://www.siop.org/siop-shrm/default.aspx). This is also what motivated Alok and Lynda to inquire about the WPWP series, leading Lori Foster Thompson to arrange a connection between IAC and the WPWP committee. In any case, we seek to realize a strong product that will get our science into the hands of those who can best put it to use.
SC & NC, for WPWP:  At last year’s SIOP conference Lynda and Alok from the IAC team met with Stu from the WPWP Steering Committee. This was at Lori Foster Thompson’s instigation and with the backing of Milt Hakel from the Alliance. At the meeting we agreed to support each other in the production of our respective white paper outputs. For example, we shared the protocol for topics and format above, as well as a 10-step review process conceptualized by the IAC group, ranging from the selection of author teams to peer review processes in preparation for publication in respective society journals.
Personally I have learned that the production of white papers is nowhere near as easy as first thought. In theory, the original plan for the WPWP project envisaged three papers in production by this time, with the topics jointly chosen through consultation with policy bodies in organizations and institutions and the three societies, with joint authorship from the societies and both academia and practice, as well as editorial reviews (Schein, 2009). In practice, it has proven difficult to design a fair and effective process for selecting the topics, teams, resources, and incentives. One major reason for this is simply the information explosion. There is now so much information “out there” that nothing short of systematic reviews may be required for marshaling it comprehensively and credibly (Briner & Rousseau, 2011). These are quite demanding. For example many of the relevant publications likely do not appear in I-O or even social-science journals. Hence, we may need to consult with experts in cross-disciplinary collation methods, such as the Cochrane Collaboration (Clarke, 2011). Sharing our resources with the IAC team, for example their 10-point protocol for team and topic selection above, is a significant step/plus-up for the WPWP project. In my view, such collaboration is vital for bringing white papers to fruition.
NC for WPWP: An original intention was to have policy makers on the writing teams to enhance likely influence on policy (an Alliance goal). In practice this turned out to be very difficult to achieve. Personally, I think we should continue to pursue the aim of involving policy makers at an early stage in the white paper process. Thus, I hope we consider what role they could play and how we obtain their input, and hence how we influence policy through them, as the white paper projects develop.
What is next for these white papers projects?
SC & NC, for WPWP:  We have made a number of recommendations to the Executive Committee for the Alliance, which we have now shared with the IAC Committee in 2011. These include commissioning three WPWPs on stock-in-trade I-O topics like hazard/stress management and Internet testing. We have also suggested opening the process for competitive tender through calls launched at SIOP and other society conferences, including authors with media communication experience, goal setting for the timelines, developing a press release or policy brief to accompany the paper, postpaper dissemination workshops, and developing a WPWP website to facilitate all of the above. One of the major functions of the latter would be to enable graduate student voices on the project, for example, using Facebook as a networking tool to help build capacity around WPWP topics and the I-O fields they reflect. In this way the project will feed back recursively, into I-O psychology itself.
DT, for IAC: One of our committee goals for this year is to continue with the development of a more formal board and process for the IAC white papers, and that is what Alok and Lynda are doing, along with keeping the three current papers moving along.
Do you have a take-home message for the readers of TIP?
SC & NC, for WPWP:  Some of the ideas and challenges above were in fact presaged at the 2009 SIOP conference, by students, practitioners, and academics alike. Time has proven their mettle. I would ask readers to be patient about the process, which is ambitious and inherently complex. With that in mind, the WPWP project values more creative suggestions and constructive feedback on the project and process so far, as well as future possible directions and actions.
DT, for IAC: I agree with Stu that one of the key messages is to bear with us! That said, things are happening. With any luck, the next few years should see the publication of the SIOP IAC white papers and a board for moving the process forward.
Briner, R. B., & Rousseau, D. M. (2011). Evidence-based I-O psychology: Not there yet. Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 4(1), 3–22.
Clarke, M. (2011). Evidence-based aid in disaster management: Doing more good than harm. The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, 49(2), 98–100.
Schein, V. E. (2009). Work Psychology White Papers Series: A new international collaboration to produce evidence-based papers on current policy topics. The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, 46(4), 114–117.