Industrial-Organizational Psychology Research in the Canadian Forces
Sulsky, Lorne M., Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science
At a previous annual Editorial Board meeting for this journal (held in Ottawa, July 2000, during the annual Canadian Psychological Association (CPA) convention), I suggested the idea of a special journal issue, concentrating on applied psychological research in the Canadian Forces (CF). Canadian Psychology (Vol. 29:1, and Vol. 39:1-2) has already published two special issues on Industrial-Organizational (1-0) Psychology in Canada (1988 and 1998, respectively), although these issues do not present empirical papers, and they do not focus on a specific organization like the CF. In the 1988 Special Issue, Terry Prociuk contributed an interesting paper, reviewing some of the applied psychological research activities within the CF since World War II. Why did I consider the creation of a new special issue, focusing specifically on empirical applied psychological research within the CF?
From examining a cross-section of topics relevant to I-0 Psychology, I was already aware that the military is actively involved in applied psychological research. For example, I know that the CF is actively involved in research relating to personnel selection, performance appraisal, leadership, and occupational stress, just to name a few topic areas. I was also aware of the fact that the CF encourages dissemination of this research through participation at conferences like CPA, and that some military personnel frequently engage in research collaborations with Canadian 1-0 psychology academicians. In fact, a number of CF members have obtained (and continue to obtain) advanced degrees in Industrial-Organizational Psychology from a variety of Canadian 1-0 graduate programs.
As an applied discipline, 1-0 Psychology benefits greatly from research conducted by scientist-practitioners working in field settings. This is often difficult to achieve, however, because some organizations consider their research to be entirely proprietary. Thankfully, this is not the case with the CF. The research not only contributes to the effective running of a large organization such as the CF, it can add significantly to the body of knowledge in I-0 Psychology. This has certainly been true of applied research emanating from the United States military as well.
Unlike profit-based organizations, which represent a large percentage of field research in I-0 Psychology, the military obviously has a very different mandate. The area of personnel selection provides a nice illustration in this regard. Unlike a typical organization where maximizing selection validity is highly concerned with implications for the organization's bottom-line, selecting the "best" individuals for officer positions, including positions of high command, is vital for enhancing national security, as well as protecting the lives of soldiers in combat or peacekeeping operations. Simply stated, the effective management of human resources in a military context is vital for the well-being of military personnel and the country they serve. I believe this is one of many reasons the CF is so highly committed to personnel research - research that draws greatly from the latest conceptual and methodological advancements in the field of 1-0 Psychology.
Now back to the Editorial Board meeting at CPA. The idea for the Special Issue was enthusiastically endorsed by the journal editor, Dr. Warren Eaton, as well as the Board members. Very shortly after the Board meeting ended, I happened to see Colonel Cheryl Lamerson out of the corner of my eye outside one of the conference meeting rooms. Colonel Lamerson is the director of the military branch most directly involved in Industrial-Organizational (1-0) research, and received her doctorate in 1-0 Psychology from the University of Guelph. I was planning to contact Colonel Lamerson about the idea of a special issue, and there she was - timing is everything! I was delighted to learn that Colonel Lamerson was highly supportive of the issue, reinforcing the point that the military views public dissemination of 1-0 research sponsored by the CF as worthwhile and important. …