Behavioural Science Research in the Canadian Military

By MacLennan, Richard | Canadian Journal of Police and Security Services, September 2004 | Go to article overview

Behavioural Science Research in the Canadian Military


MacLennan, Richard, Canadian Journal of Police and Security Services


When Jeff Pfeifer, Editor of the Canadian Journal of Police and Security Services (CJPSS), asked me to guest edit this special issue on behavioural science research in the military, I enthusiastically agreed. First, as a member of the editorial board of CJPSS, I am strongly supportive of his editorial philosophy of producing a scholarly publication that communicates to both an audience of academics, as well as practitioners in the field (bridging so called: town & gown). It is interesting to note that the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRCC) has developed a similar new policy initiative (2004). As the national granting agency for social science research in Canada, they feel that it is increasingly important for social scientists to communicate the results of their research to the public and stakeholders that it is intended to serve (Recommendation # 9, p. 16).

The second reason that I agreed to edit this special issue is that I have personally been fortunate to enjoy a reasonably long and productive research collaboration with the Canadian Department of National Defence (DND). In addition, I also have extensive experience in conducting research with the RCMP training academy here in Regina. Through both of these partnerships, I have learned that many of the issues in the military also overlap with policing organizations. In this regards, although all of the research reported in this issue was conducted in the military, I believe that it will also have relevance for police members of the journal's readership. Even though some behavioural science research is undoubtedly conducted in policing organizations in Canada, the Canadian military has relatively more resources, and therefore their research program is well organized and more comprehensive. As a simple example, some of the research studies that will be reported here have been conducted on thousands of participants.

Behavioural science research in the military has a long and honourable history in Canada, beginning even before the Second World War. I will not go into this history here in any detail, because it has been extensively documented by others (e.g., Prochiuk, 1989; Anderson, 1991; Ferguson, 1993; and Lamerson, 2002a). Suffice to say that this history can be characterized as demonstrating that social scientists in the Canadian military have a long record of acting in service to their country in many different ways. Indeed, the Canadian Psychological Association was founded in part by military psychologists demobilized after the Second World War, who recognized the need for a national organization to continue the contribution of their discipline to Canadian society that had begun as part of the war-effort.

There are approximately 120 uniformed and civilian personnel employed as human resource scientists and practitioners in the Personnel Selection Branch of the Canadian Forces (CF), located both in the Department of National Defence (DND) headquarters in Ottawa, and posted with various military units across the country and internationally. A large proportion of these personnel are trained in industrial-organizational psychology, but some have a background in other social sciences such as ethics, history, sociology, etc. Currently there are at least four units in the Canadian military that are tasked with conducting behavioural science research that I am aware of, and there may be others. This includes: the Directorate of Human Resource Research and Evaluation (DHRRE), the Military Psychology & Leadership (MPL) department at the Royal Military College (RMC), the Canadian Forces Leadership Institute (CFLI), and the Defence Research & Development Canada (DRDC) establishment-Toronto.

DHRRE consists of approximately 30 researchers and support staff, located primarily in Ottawa. They conduct research into three major areas: Personnel Production, Social Policy, and Organizational Effectiveness and Leadership (Lamerson, 2002b). …

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