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Practice Perspectives: Is SIOP Inclusive? A Review of the Membership Composition of Fellows, Awards, Appointments, and Volunteer Committees

Rob Silzer
HR Assessment and Development Inc.
Baruch College, City University of New York

Chad Parson
Baruch College, City University of New York

SIOP members seem to widely support the science–practice model that serves as the foundation for the I-O psychology discipline. This might lead to the assumption that science and practice, and consequently researchers and practitioners, are equally valued; however, these distinctions are not always clear. There are many members who do both science and practice. But the model can be interpreted in different ways for different member groups in their work. Practitioners and academics/researchers may use or pursue science differently, and practice may also look different in various career roles. For example, some academics see practice as doing applied empirical research, whereas some practitioners see practice as using scientifically informed knowledge to make decisions and advise clients. (A few years ago a proposed task force to explore and identify possible interpretation differences among different member groups was not supported by the Executive Board.) These work differences likely lead to different professional needs and interests among member groups.

Recent evidence suggests differences in satisfaction with SIOP between academics/researchers and practitioners (Silzer, Cober, Erickson & Robinson, 2008). Differing levels of satisfaction with SIOP may be related to perceived differences in the level of SIOP support for the professional needs and interests of each member group. For example, practitioners have expressed dissatisfaction with the extent that SIOP recognizes and rewards the contributions of practitioners to I-O psychology (Silzer et al., 2008). A related concern is the difficulty that SIOP has in retaining I-O practitioners throughout their careers (Colella, 2011). This article uses archival data to better understand the underpinnings of practitioner dissatisfaction and turnover.

The purpose of this article is to investigate the extent to which SIOP values the contributions of practitioners as well as academics/researchers. To do this we reviewed the membership composition of SIOP awards, committees, and appointments using publicly available archival data from SIOP.org. We hope to engage the community in a discussion of inclusiveness concerning one of our most highly valued tenets, that of the science–practice model.

Members by Primary Work Focus

In our last column we reported on different member groups (Silzer & Parson, 2011). One key finding was that full members were almost evenly split into two groups on their primary work focus (see Figure 1). Those with an academic/research primary work focus represented 48.6% of the membership, while those with a consulting/organization primary work focus represented 49.3% of the membership (these member group distinctions are more fully discussed in Silzer & Parson, 2011). This comparison serves as a baseline for other analyses reported below.

Figure 1. SIOP 2011 Full Member Comparison* (academics/researchers vs. practitioners).

SIOP Fellow Designations

Over the years there has been an ongoing discussion in SIOP about the requirements for Fellow designation. The overall requirement is to show “unusual and outstanding contributions or performance in I-O psychology” (SIOP Web site). Historically the requirements have been written primarily for academics/researchers. As Fellowship Committee chairs, both Dick Jeanneret and George Hollenbeck worked hard to broaden the requirements to be more applicable to practitioners. The qualifications for Fellowship designation now include research, practice, teaching/education, service, and administration.
The overall percentage of all Fellows who are academics/researchers is very high at 83% (see Figure 2), and the Fellows group is overwhelming dominated by academics (77%). This is significantly higher than their membership in SIOP (43.5%).

Figure 2. SIOP Fellows, Overall Comparison, All Fellows 1957-2011* (academics/researchers vs. practitioners).

Progress has been slow in increasing the number of practitioners who are designated as Fellows. As Figure 3 demonstrates, the percentage of Fellows who are academics/researchers has remained very high (over 80%) across various time periods, but the percentage who are practitioners has remained very low (at around 13%). In 2010 there was an unexpected change as the percentage of Fellows named that year who are practitioners reached a peak of 38%. However those gains were only temporary as the percentage of Fellows named in 2011 who were academics reached a high of 91%, and the percentage who are practitioners fell to a low of 9%. This seems like a step backward in getting SIOP to be more inclusive. It suggests that SIOP does not fully value practitioner contributions to I-O psychology.

Figure 3. SIOP Fellows, Comparison by Time Period* (academics/researchers vs. practitioners).

One of the barriers for practitioners to becoming Fellows is that a candidate needs recommendations from at least three Fellows in order to be considered. So you have to know three to be one. Further, the Fellowship Committee is usually dominated by academics (see later in article for statistics), some of whom in the past have expected candidates to meet researcher requirements, such as having a high journal citation index, to even be considered. In addition, the Fellow nomination process in the past has been oblique and hidden to practitioners, but academics seem to mentor each other on how to get designated. This is a twist on the old Grouch Marx joke, but this time it is “you can’t be a member of this club unless you are already one.”

Surely there are numerous practitioners who have made significant contributions but who have not been named Fellow. One alternative approach that often gets rejected by academic members is to create a separate Practitioner Fellow designation, with requirements specific to I-O practice. The skewed Fellow designations provide an ongoing reminder to practitioner members that they, and I-O practice, are not equally valued with research.

SIOP Awards

SIOP makes annual awards to recognize the scientific and professional contributions of members. We identified the past winners of SIOP awards. Some awards were not included in our analysis.1 We focused on the following awards (see endnotes for descriptionsi):

• Distinguished Professional Contributions: 31 awards (1977–present)
• Distinguished Scientific Contributions: 35 awards (1983–present)
• Distinguished Service Contributions: 22 awards (1989–present)
• Distinguished Early Career Contributions: 23 awards (1992–present)
• Distinguished Teaching Contributions: 8 awards (2004–present)
• William A. Owens Scholarly Achievement: 16 awards (1998–present)
• M. Scott Meyers Award for Applied Research in the Workplace: 13 awards (1998–present)
• Edwin E. Ghiselli Award for Research Design: 18 awards (1984–2002)

An overall comparison of the award winners and first authors (when there were multiple authors) across all awards and all time periods is presented in Figure 4. In general 84% of all award winners (and first authors) are academics/researchers. Clearly the awards have favored this member group. Some of the possible explanations for this are the intent of each award (most tend to focus on empirical research), the stronger interest in these awards by academics/researchers, and an underlying SIOP preference to recognize research more than practice.

Figure 4.SIOP Award Winners, Overall Comparison* (academics/researchers vs. practitioners).

To further explore this we looked at the award winners and first authors separately for each award. The comparisons are presented in Figure 5.2 For almost all of the awards, except one, the award winners were overwhelmingly academics/researchers (by 73%–91%). Even in the remaining award, Distinguished Professional Contributions, the majority of award winners are also academics/researchers (55%). Although this award is often considered by many members to be an award for I-O practice, it still is given mostly to academics/researchers.
Figure 5. SIOP Award Winners, Comparisons by Individual Award* (academics/researchers vs. practitioners).

Some observations:

• Most of the awards are specifically designed to recognize carefully designed (and publishable) empirical research. This seems true for five of the awards. One of the awards is specifically reserved for tenured or tenure-track academics (Distinguished Teaching Contributions). So this tends to eliminate 2/3 of these awards from consideration for practitioners who are not academics or who do not do publishable empirical research. Only this year was an award added for early career contributions to I-O practice. Unfortunately the requirements for this award have not yet been adapted to be appropriate to practice contributions.
• The Distinguished Service Contributions award is more open to practitioners, but barriers still exist. A few years ago the first author worked to get several practitioners nominated and got a clear message that it required a demonstration of “career-long contributions” and was discouraged from going forward. However this may still be an opportunity to recognize the significant service contributions of practitioner members.
• The Distinguished Professional Contributions award is of some concern. It seems that many past academics/researcher winners were recognized for their research contributions. So it seems that strong research credentials are also favored here. The single SIOP award that has been seen as an opportunity to recognize I-O practitioners seems to be regularly awarded to academics/researchers. Even over the last 10 years3 the award was given to academics/researchers 64% of the time. It seems that I-O practice is not being recognized with this award.

Why are I-O practitioners so rarely recognized for their contributions to I-O psychology? Most of the awards seem to have been designed by academics/researchers for academics/researchers. Only a few of the awards seem open to the half of the SIOP membership who are primarily practitioners. Even the few awards that are possible for these practitioners do not seem to be sufficiently open to considering practice contributions (as opposed to research contributions). Of course it is possible that practitioners do not invest much effort in applying for these awards, perhaps they have given up. The winners of most of these awards spend considerable time producing publishable empirical research, but few practitioners have the time to pursue similar research efforts. This is not to take away from the high-quality research work being done by the winners of the research awards, but there needs to be more balance and more inclusiveness. It seems past time that SIOP should create awards that fully value and recognize the contributions of I-O practitioner members.

SIOP Committee Membership

Periodically at the annual conference you can hear some member suggest that I-O practitioners are not adequately engaged in SIOP. One measure of engagement is the extent of their voluntary involvement in SIOP committee work. To explore this issue we analyzed the membership of various SIOP committees. Most SIOP committees rely on volunteers from the membership. Once a member volunteers for one or more committee, the committee chair then invites some volunteers to join the specific committee. Although it is not entirely a member-driven decision, it does provide some measure of the volunteer level of different member groups.

We were able to identify the full members on 12 of the current 2011 SIOP committees.4 We included only the full SIOP members that are on each committee.5 The committees that were included and the number of full members on each (based on the SIOP Web site listings) are:

• Education and Training Committee: 26 full members
• Electronic Communications Committee: 7 full members
• External Relations Committee: 4 full members
• History Committee: 2 full members
• International Affairs Committee: 22 full members
• Institutional Research Committee: 4 full members
• Membership Committee: 13 full members
• Placement Committee: 5 full members
• Professional Practice Committee: 14 full members
• Scientific Affairs Committee: 11 full members
• Visibility Committee: 21 full members
• Workshop Committee: 14 full members

The percentages of full members on each committee who are academics/researchers versus practitioners are presented in Figure 6. Practitioners are well represented on eight (75%) of the committees, including Electronic Communications, International Affairs, Institutional Research, Membership, Placement, Professional Practice, Visibility, and Workshops. They are not well represented on only four (25%) of the committees: Education and Training, External Relations (focused on advocacy issues), History, and Scientific Affairs. These four committees may have less appeal for practitioners because of the focus of the committee, more fundamentally related to the work of academics and researchers.

Figure 6. 2011 SIOP Volunteer Committee Members, Comparisons by Committee* (academics/researchers vs. practitioners).

It should also be noted that the majority of each committee is from the same primary work-focus group as the chairperson. That is, the four committees dominated by academics/researchers are all chaired by an academic/researcher. The same finding also holds for the committees with a majority of practitioner members; they have a practitioner chair (the only exception is the Electronic Communications Committee that has a practitioner chairperson and a slight majority of academic/research members). Because the committee chair has some latitude in selecting members from the volunteer list, it may be that that the committee chair tends to select members with similar work interests. Alternatively members may also be more likely to volunteer for committees that have a chairperson with similar work interests.

These comparisons suggest that practitioners do get very involved and engaged in SIOP activities when they have an opportunity to volunteer and when the issues are relevant to their work. However, the strong connection between the work focus of the chairperson and that of the committee membership is of some concern.

In general, practitioners, just like academics/researchers, do get involved when they can contribute in meaningful ways on relevant issues. This should dispel the notion that practitioners are not willing to get involved in SIOP when they are given the opportunity.

SIOP Appointed Groups Membership

Each year select members get appointed to special positions, either within SIOP or as representatives for SIOP. We explored the membership of recent appointed groups to see how representative their membership was of the full SIOP membership. The appointed groups we looked at were:

• SIOP Foundation, Board of Trustees, 6 members
• Alliance for Organizational Psychology, SIOP representatives, 4 members
• 2001 Leading Edge Conference, chairpersons, 4 members
• SIOP Publications Board, board members, 7 members
• Editors of SIOP Book Series (Professional Practice, Organizational Frontiers, Science You Can Use6), 4 editors
• Professional Practice Book Series, Editorial Board, 12 members
• Organizational Frontiers Book Series, Editorial Board, 9 members
• Fellowship Committee, 10 members

The members of each of these groups were appointed to the group. The membership compositions for each group are reported in Figure 7.

Figure 7. Recent SIOP Appointed Group / Committee Members, Comparisons by Group* (academics/researchers vs. practitioners).

For every group there is a significant, and often overwhelming, majority of members who are academics/researchers (70%–100%), except for the Professional Practice Board where they are only majority (58%). Several observations:

• The dominance of academics/researchers in these appointed groups is striking
• For every group the person making the appointments is an academic/ researcher (or is heavily influencing the appointment decisions)
• These groups should be much more inclusive and represent the full SIOP membership, but clearly the bias in the appointments heavily favors academics/researchers

SIOP Foundation

According to the Foundation’s mission statement “The Foundation’s resources are intended to further the outreach of both the practice and the science of I-O psychology” (see SIOP Web site). Yet the activities of the Foundation have been completely dedicated to funding research, and there has been no attention given to the practice of I-O psychology (according to a former president). Both Foundation presidents have been academics and the board has always been strongly dominated by academics/researchers. It seems that this does not truly represent the full spectrum of SIOP membership.

Foundation grants are funded by donors, so part of the issue is the nature and requirements associated with those donations. However, there is at least one case where a major award was announced as only for research when the actual intent of the award was to recognize both research and practice. In addition, half of the SIOP resources that are provided to the Foundation (i.e., annual report production, conference meeting rooms, administrative support, etc.) are coming from practitioners, who are neither adequately represented on the board nor are benefitting from Foundation activities. It seems reasonable to conclude that the Foundation is not fulfilling its mission to support both science and practice.

Alliance for Organizational Psychology

This is a recently formed international organization for organizational psychology. All four recently appointed representatives from SIOP are academics. In fact the board members from the other partner associations (EAWOP and IAAP) are also all academics. This is a problem because they seem to be forming an academic-designed organization run by academics for academics. This is particularly striking given that so many I-O practitioners in SIOP do international work (from our perspective it seems that many more practitioners than academics are involved in international work). Why have I-O practitioners been excluded from these important appointments and from this organization?

2011 Leading Edge Consortium

The original intent of the LEC was to provide a concentrated conference focused on a specific topic of central relevance to I-O practice. Practitioners have responded enthusiastically in the past and have been in strong attendance at several of the initial LECs. However, this year three out of the four chairpersons were academics, the topic selected did not seem central to practitioner work, and attendance was at an all-time low (almost a third of the initial LEC attendance). Why did the LEC go off track? Perhaps the heavy influence of academics in selecting topics and running the conference has distracted the LEC from the original I-O practice objectives. This was a creative idea that was well received but now seems to be in deep trouble.

The Publication Groups and Boards

Three of these appointed groups, the Publications Board, the book series editors, and the Organizational Frontiers Board are now totally dominated by academics/researchers. Of the 20 members in these three groups, there is only one practitioner. Essentially 50% of the SIOP membership is being almost totally excluded. Even the Professional Practice Editorial Board is now chaired by an academic and has an academic majority of members. Having academics as chairs of all of these four groups is probably part of the problem. But even that does not seem to justify this 20:1 membership ratio.

Fellowship Committee

As mentioned above academics/researchers are 83% of those who are designated as SIOP Fellows. The Fellowship Committee that makes these decisions is currently made up of 70% academics/researchers. Perhaps these facts are related. How well can an academic-dominated committee understand and fairly evaluate the credentials and qualifications of practitioner candidates? How clear and measureable are the standards for practitioners? Some have suggested that practitioners just do not apply often enough. That may be true, but it may be based on the general perception that practitioners frequently get rejected and do not get fairly considered. In addition, the nomination process and requirements still seem opaque and hidden. This continues to be an area of significant dissatisfaction by practitioners with SIOP (Silzer et al., 2008).

Volunteer Committee Membership Versus Appointed Group Membership

It is useful to compare the membership in the volunteer groups with the membership in the appointed groups. These comparisons are reported in Figure 8.

Figure 8. Appointed Group Members, 2011 Volunteer Committee Members and SIOP 2011 Full Members, Overall Comparisons* (academics/researchers vs. practitioners).

It should be first noted that actual SIOP membership is 48.6% academics/researchers and 49.3% practitioners. This serves as a general baseline for representation on various committees and groups. The membership distribution on the volunteer committees comes close to reflecting this baseline. Volunteer committees are made up of 56% academics/researchers and 44% practitioners. However the membership in the appointed groups is significantly distorted in favor of the academics/researchers (80% academics/researchers vs. 20% practitioners7). It is very disappointing to see this lack of inclusiveness and balanced representation, particularly because this is an area where SIOP and the Executive Board can and should take responsibility for better managing the membership. As we have previously reported (Silzer & Parson, 2011), the Executive Board and the past presidents have been and still are heavily dominated by academics/researchers. So they bring their own perspective to these appointments, and the resulting bias, whether it is intentional or not, is clearly evident.

The differences in these overall comparisons reinforce the conclusion that practitioners are very willing to become engaged in SIOP and volunteer for committees, but the academic/researcher gatekeepers are excluding them from key appointments, positions, and activities.


This analysis of archival data suggests that some SIOP awards and recognitions seem to clearly favor academic/researcher members. Few appointments, Fellow designations, and awards seem to be sufficiently open to I-O practitioners.
Some general insights are:

• SIOP Fellow designations are dominated by academics/researchers (up to 91%).
• Most SIOP awards are given primarily to academics/researchers (up to l00% for some awards).
• Even the Distinguished Professional Contributions award is given primarily to academics/researchers (64% over the last decade).
• Volunteer membership in SIOP committees comes closest to reflecting the actual balance in SIOP membership between academics/researchers and practitioners. Perhaps not surprisingly, the majority of members in each committee closely mirrors the primary work focus of the chairperson (i.e., academics chairs always have a majority of academic/ researcher members on the committee; practitioners almost always have a majority of practitioner members, with one exception).
• Key appointments made to SIOP groups heavily favor academics/ researchers (80%). These appointment decisions have been made exclusively by academics/researchers.

SIOP is not balanced in providing rewards and recognitions to academics/researchers and practitioners. Practitioners engage equally in SIOP voluntary activities, an indication that they are interested and willing to participate. However, an examination of the screening and invitation outcomes (for Fellows, awards, appointments) reveals that practitioners are not equally rewarded.

We would like to move the discussion to why does this occur in a professional organization and what can be done to correct it. Our tentative hypotheses for why practitioners have been excluded are:

• A lack of relevant, measurable criteria for considering practitioner contributions. Perhaps the journal citation index is inappropriately used because it is an easily available metric, however irrelevant it may be to practice.
• The two members groups in our discipline do not interact enough. So academics/researchers, who make the majority of the decisions in SIOP, rely on members who they know and contributions they understand. This results in them primarily tapping other academics/researchers to a heavy extent for awards and appointments. They spend limited time out in applied settings or with practitioners in organizations and consulting firms.
• There is a strong research bias in our discipline that does not sufficiently value the contributions of I-O practice. For example, recently two academics in a SIOP journal refer to I-O practitioners as “dart-throwing chimps” (quote originally from Tetlock, 2005; unnecessarily repeated in Kuncel & Highhouse, 2011, pg 304). This unprofessional attitude unfortunately reflects the views of some academics/ researchers. It seems that some members may only value carefully designed and publishable empirical research and do not see how practice can and should inform and guide their research work.
• I-O practitioners have not pushed enough to make sure SIOP fairly recognizes their work and contributions and addresses their needs and interests. Instead, they may choose to move to other organizations that do value their work and address their interests. In addition, I-O practitioners may not be spending enough time communicating the scientific underpinnings of their work and the connections to relevant research.

What can SIOP do to become more inclusive?

• It seems evident that relevant practice criteria and measures need to be developed. For the last several years it has been suggested that SIOP conduct a practitioner career study to help identify practice criteria, competencies, and career paths. However the EB has not yet agreed to pursue this potentially valuable study.
• SIOP needs to design forums, workshops, and networks that foster two-way communications and create a stronger dialogue among all SIOP members.
• Academics/researchers in decision-making SIOP roles need to embrace the idea of inclusion of practitioners within SIOP and take responsibility for involving, rewarding, and appointing I-O practitioners. Leaders in SIOP should represent all members and not just their own personal network.
• I-O practice needs to be valued in SIOP for the significant contributions made to individuals, organizations, and society. Those are very worthy efforts that need to be recognized.
• I-O practitioners need to challenge SIOP to treat them as full and equal members. Instead of leaving, they need to work to change SIOP to be the professional organization it can be in serving all members. They also need to communicate their work more often to others and bridge a connection between their work and our research knowledge base.

We invite the reader to respond with ideas and suggestions in this important matter.
I-O psychology is both a science and a practice. It is time for SIOP to act  and provide a better balance in serving the needs of all members, both practitioners and academics/researchers, and in recognizing the professional contributions of all members. SIOP needs to be more inclusive.


Colella, A. (2011). A message from your president. The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, 49(1), 7–8.

Kuncel, N. R., & Highhouse, S. (2011). Complex predictions and assessor mystique. Industrial and Organizational Psychology: Perspectives on Science and Practice, 4(3), 302–306.

Silzer, R. F., Cober, R. T., Erickson, A. R., & Robinson, G. (2008). Practitioner Needs Survey: Final survey report. Bowling Green, OH: SIOP.

Silzer, R. F., & Parson, C. (2011). SIOP membership and representation. The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, 49(2), 85–96.

Tetlock, P. (2005). Expert political judgment. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University.

i Distinguished Professional Contributions Award is given to an individual who has developed, refined, and implemented practices, procedures, and methods that have had a major impact on both people in organizational settings and the profession of I-O psychology.
Distinguished Scientific Contributions Award is given to the individual who has made the most distinguished empirical and/or theoretical scientific contributions to the field of I-O psychology.
Distinguished Service Contributions Award is given for sustained, significant, and outstanding service to SIOP.
Distinguished Early Career Contributions Award beginning in 2011, two awards will be presented: one to an individual who has made distinguished contributions to the science of I-O psychology; the other to an individual who has made distinguished contributions to the practice of I-O psychology.
Distinguished Teaching Contributions Award is given to an individual who has sustained experience in a full-time university/college tenure-track or tenured position(s) requiring substantial teaching responsibilities.
William A. Owens Scholarly Achievement Award is given to the author(s) of the publication in a refereed journal judged to have the highest potential to significantly impact the field of I-O psychology.
M. Scott Meyers Award for Applied Research in the Workplace is given to an individual practitioner or team of practitioners who have developed and conducted/applied a specific project or product representing an example of outstanding practice of I-O psychology in the workplace (i.e., business, industry, government).
Edwin E. Ghiselli Award for Research Design is given in recognition of the research proposal that best shows the use of scientific methods in the study of a phenomenon that is relevant to the field of industrial and organizational psychology.

We did not include awards related to conference papers and posters and student grants, contributions, scholarships, or dissertation awards. We also did not include the Katzell Award in I-O psychology for communicating to the public (only two winners), the Wiley Award for Excellence in Survey Research (too new) and Joyce and Robert Hogan Award for Personality and Work Performance (too new). 

2 Note on awards abbreviations: Disting Profess Contrib=Distinguished Professional Contributions Award, Disting Scientif Contrib=Distinguished Scientific Contributions Award, Disting Servc Contrib=Distinguished Service Contributions Award, Disting Early Career= Distinguished Early Career Contributions Award – Science and Practice, Disting Teach Contrib=Distinguished Teaching Contributions Award, Owens Scholar Achiev=William A. Owens Scholarly Achievement Award, Meyers Applied Research=M.Scott Meyers Award for Applied Research in the Workplace, Ghiselli Research Design= Edwin E. Ghiselli Award for Research Design.

3 2000-2009, 11 awards total, no awards were given in 2010 & 2011, two awards were given in 2005.

4 We were unable to identify the current members of the State Affairs committee. The conference committee seemed primarily made up of representatives of other committees and therefore was not included.   The program committee proved to be too large to analyze and was also not included.   However, a quick scan of the program committee members suggest that practitioners are very well represented on this committee.

5 Committees may also have some associate members and one student member. For our purposes they were not included in our analysis.

This series has just been abandoned by SIOP

There is at least one academic who has been appointed simultaneously to two key opportunities.