History of ARTS

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The First Decade Of ARTS 

The Congress Years 1992-2000

John G. Adair, University of Manitoba & ARTS Coordinator 1992 - 2004. 

This article appeared in the International Journal of Psychology, 2000, 36 (3) 

As we conclude the Millennium and the first decade of the ARTS program, it is an appropriate time to take stock of what we have accomplished and how the program has grown and changed over the years.   Specifically, we want to review past ARTS, and to examine changes in the manner of selecting conveners and seminar topics, in the coordinator and convener roles in the administration of ARTS, in the selection and nature of participants, and in the growth and changes in the sources and magnitude of ARTS funding.  This overview is an important accounting for sponsors, donors, and potential participants and provides a base for informing future directions for the program.  

Changes In The Organization Of ARTS 

The first several ARTS (see Poortinga, 1993; Kagitcibasi, 1995; 1997) were highly dependent upon volunteers for topic selection, for their ability to raise funds, and for convening the seminar.  In her substantial report on the 1996 ARTS, Kagitcibasi (1997) expressed concerns with this process and an urgent need for the program to become more formally structured through the creation of an ARTS Secretariat. The program was reviewed at this time and reaffirmed, but accompanied by only an informal restructuring with the appointment of the next Coordinator.  This restructuring meant that the ARTS program would be more centrally administered with the Coordinator essentially functioning as a Secretariat at no cost to the program.  I agreed to this approach, having decided that the task was too unstructured with too many issues and uncertainties simply to be delegated to each convener to learn and manage on their own in such a short time.  Having completed two terms as Coordinator, I agreed to serve a third term in order that I might finalize a substantial ARTS Manual to help guide the process and to have time, with an ARTS Committee, to select a Coordinator to take on the task for the future.  Nominations are solicited for persons who are committed to the goals of ARTS and who may be willing to continue this practice and further strengthen the program. 

The process of organizing ARTS is unfamiliar to most.  ARTS are not simply three small seminars that are as easily organized as any small conference.  Every two years the program begins as a “tabula rasa”, on which the Coordinator must design the program of seminars.  Unlike typical conferences, ARTS has only a set of co-sponsoring organizations, a list of previous contributors, no preset conference site, and no defined constituents who submit abstracts and registration fees. Not anticipating many volunteers to convene ARTS, the Coordinator has to approach persons unfamiliar with the program. This mixture of methods for selecting topics, the unpredictability of volunteers, and the absence of deadlines (it is difficult to state deadlines for volunteers) leads to uncertainties in the organization of ARTS and some awkward exchanges with potential conveners. Although the potential pool of applicants is enormous, disseminating the information about ARTS remains a recurring challenge — even previous participants are given lesser priority to provide opportunities to others for ARTS attendance. Conveners’ deadlines for applicants are repeatedly reset as additional methods of advertising ARTS are attempted. Once the program is in place, local arrangements for accommodation and instruction have to be made by the Coordinator in a new setting that he has never seen, aided only by the generous help of persons from the local organizing committee that he has only met through email. Yet somehow by the time of the next Congresses it all seems to come together.  The best advice to Coordinators and conveners is to remain calm and flexible. 

Roles And Responsibilities Of The Coordinator And Conveners

Because ARTS is not a typical conference it is important to spell out the roles and responsibilities of the Coordinator and conveners under this centralized system of organization.  The Coordinator selects the convener and topic, advises on development of the seminar, prepares and disseminates advertisement of the ARTS, conducts fund-raising with national and international associations, works closely with conveners in the selection of participants and in the determination of the travel grant and per Diem support, makes local arrangements for accommodation and instruction; provides budgeting, financial management, and final accounting, administrative management (application forms, seminar evaluations, certificates of attendance, draft letters for conveners to send to participants), coordinates registration concessions and travel grants with Congress organizers, and integrates conveners reports within a final report on ARTS.

On the other hand, the convener’s work is also substantial.  They structure the topic and seminar (develop the curriculum, course materials, recruit any additional instructors), prepare an abstract describing the seminar; attempt to obtain additional funding for seminar expenses; receive applications and correspond with all applicants; select participants; decide on their travel grants; correspond with accepted persons to confirm their attendance; mail out course materials; distribute on-site travel grants and per Diem; provide instruction over the three days of the seminar, collect post-ARTS evaluations; and write a brief final report on the seminar for publication.  The convener is asked to make an extraordinary contribution to international psychology and to scholars who teach and research in less advantaged circumstances.   However, there is no honorarium for this service.  Unless special funding has been obtained, conveners are routinely asked to obtain travel support from their own university which is then acknowledged as a contributor to the ARTS program.  More often the level of support for conveners is merely subsidized accommodation and/or a paid Congress registration fee.  The reason for this practice is that all contributions to ARTS are used for the seminar, the accommodation and the travel of scholars from low-income countries.  That we have been able to convince top quality scholars with international reputations to make this contribution to the ARTS program is testimony to the perceived importance of the program and to the dedication and commitment of leading psychologists to their profession.

ARTS Topics And Seminars

The Coordinator has to ensure the topics selected are appropriate for the scholars for whom the program is designed, and that they do not repeat topics of previous ARTS.  Over the decade there have been 15 individual ARTS seminars. It is instructive to reflect back on the topics that have been covered in these seminars.

ARTS Coordinators, Seminar Topics, And Conveners 

ARTS 1992 -Coordinator: Ype H. Poortinga

  • Life Span Development from a Cross-Cultural Perspective - Berlin, Germany (Ute Schoenpflug & Klaus Bhoenke, Germany)
  • Coping with Adverse Conditions - Tilberg, Netherlands (G. Van Heck & F. Von de Vijver, The Netherlands)

ARTS 1994 - Coordinator: Çigdem Kagitçibasi

  • Eco-Ethical Thinking from a Cross-Cultural Perspective - Saarbrücken, Germany (Lutz Eckensberger, Germany)
  • Human Development and Assessment - Istanbul, Turkey  (Sevda Bekman, Banu Oney, &  Çigdem Kagitçibasi, Turkey

ARTS 1996 - Coordinator: Çigdem Kagitçibasi

  • Qualitative Research Methods - Ottawa, Canada (Marta Young, Canada & Alistair. Ager, UK)
  • Early Intervention in Families and Other Settings for Infants and Young Children - Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada  (Pnina S. Klein, Israel & Michael Boivin, USA

ARTS 1998 - Coordinator: John G. Adair

  • Advances in Cognitive Psychology - San Francisco, California (Peter Graf, Canada)
  • Qualitative Approaches to Cultural Psychology - Baltimore, Maryland, USA  (Robert Serpell, USA  and Jalil Akkari, Switzerland)
  • Developing Effective Health Behavior Interventions - Bellingham, Washington, USA (Martin Fishbein, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA)

ARTS 2000 - Coordinator: John G. Adair

  • Imaging the Structure and Function of Brain - Lund, Sweden  (Jarl Risberg, Sweden
  • Psychological Test Adaptation to Diverse Cultures and Measuring Personality Cross-Culturally - Stockholm, Sweden  (Thomas Oakland and Walt Lonner, USA)
  • Pathways Across Development: Cross Cultural Perspectives - Stockholm, Sweden  (Heidi Keller, Germany)

Although the seminars have been distributed across a range of topics, there has been several common themes.  Developmental psychology has been a frequent and well-covered topic; there have been two recent seminars on qualitative research methods.  Except for Fishbein’s seminar in 1998, applied topics in work-organizational psychology or health psychology have been missing.  One-third of the seminars have included cross-cultural or culture within their titles, and this likely has been an emphasis in most.  Over the two most recent sets of ARTS, an effort has been made to select topics that reflect the focus of the three sponsoring international associations — applied psychology, cross-cultural, and basic science.  As a consequence,  the number of seminars held each year was increased to three, and the range of topics has widened.

Selection Of Participants

Over the decade, 187 psychologists from 45 different countries have participated in the 15 ARTS seminars.  However, by the end of the first three ARTS, problems emerged with the selection of participants: Complaints arose over the alleged bias in their geographical distribution and over the frequency with which some of the same participants were admitted to successive ARTS.  Contrary to the allegations there has always been good representation from a variety of countries at all ARTS.  The specific concern arose over the fact that more than 20% of all participants came from a single country; India. Quite likely the widespread use of the English language enhances access to information about ARTS in India and hence yields greater numbers of applicants from that country.  The problem also may have been exacerbated by the selection of participants by volunteer conveners.  Careful supervision of the selection process by the Coordinator in 2000 resulted in the percentage of Indian psychologists comprising 12% of the total participants, and their replacement by China as the country with the most participants.  Geographical distribution of participants will remain a problem requiring continuous monitoring. 

Similarly the application list are limited to the set of persons who hear about ARTS and apply.  If a psychologist heard about ARTS through a particular medium in one year, they are bound to monitor the same source the next year, and hence apply again.  A cumulative register of all previous ARTS participants has been developed, which, together with a regulatory policy, now enables the Coordinator to carefully monitor prior participation and to ensure that persons with multiple previous ARTS or attendance at the most recent ARTS are given much lower priority for acceptance.  Moreover, it requires vigorous argument from conveners that such an applicant is a perfect fit for the seminar before the Coordinator accedes to their admission.  

Continuity Of Donors And Stability Of Funding

Probably the biggest change in ARTS over the years has been the growth and stability of funding for the seminars.  Initially co-sponsored by the IUPsyS and IACCP, following the early addition of the IAAP as a co-sponsor “central funding” for ARTS was put in place.  The member psychological associations of the IUPsyS have been generous in their support of the program.  From the very beginning, substantial funding was provided by the Japanese Psychological Association, the Royal Society (UK) and the British Psychological Society, and by the American Psychological Association, who has maintained their support in recent years through grants from the American Psychological Foundation.  As charter contributors, the continuing support of ARTS by these organizations is much appreciated.  To be able to count on these reliable sources of funding makes advanced planning for ARTS possible.

The most noticeable change over the years has been increasing support from other European and North American psychological organizations.  The French Psychological Society, has been joined in recent years by the Netherlands Institute for Psychologists and the Canadian Psychological Association as regular and substantial contributors to ARTS.  From year to year various other European Societies (Finland, Norway, and Sweden) have also made generous contributions to ARTS.

Another significant addition has been the commitment of international Congress organizers to provide registration concessions to ARTS participants.  Although they do not directly support the cost of the seminars, such concessions enrich the ARTS experience through aiding the Congress attendance of participants from low-income countries.   Registration concessions were intermittently provided by congress organizers until the Canadian organizers in 1996 began the practice of advanced budgetary commitments to a specified number of registration concessions.  This practice has been continued with all subsequent congresses.

Although ARTS funding from the sources outlined above has become sufficiently reliable to allow for advanced planning, ARTS funding is still uncertain and dependent on the continued good will of its donors.  If a major donor or two were to announce that they were unable to commit support to ARTS in any given year, we would be back into a precarious organizational dilemma. A major responsibility of the Coordinator is fund-raising to ensure that this level of support is at least maintained from year to year. Whereas it would be desirable to find a single large grant source that would provide reliable funding for ARTS, there is insufficient time and resources available to pursue it. The central sources are occasionally supplemented by special grants or one-time contributions from governments, universities, or granting agencies, such as the special IUPsyS/IBRO grant of 2000 or smaller grants from government ministries and university departments. We must continue to pursue these sources through applications by individual conveners or others.

Conclusion

A reasonable assessment at the end of the decade is that ARTS is in good shape.  The objectives and process for program development are well-defined and accepted.  Funding has become stable, yet just meets the needs of the program.  Finances are carefully managed to give donors good value for their contributions.  Weaknesses in the program have been identified and addressed. Yet ARTS has been able to grow.  The number of seminars held every two years has increased, and the range of seminar topics has broadened. The quality of the conveners is extremely high.  Participants are also of high quality, well distributed geographically, and selected only if they fit the seminar topic.  Early problems such as imbalanced geographical distribution of participants and frequent participation by a few individuals are now carefully monitored.  Ways to improve seminar instruction have been identified and will be implemented in future ARTS.  In short, international psychology has much to be proud of: Only an idea 10 years ago, the collaborative efforts of psychologists around the world have made the Advanced Research and Training Seminars our tangible contribution to the advancement of psychology as a world-wide scientific discipline. 

References:

Kagitçibasi, C. (1995).  Final report on ARTS, 1994.  International Journal of Psychology, 30, 507-509.

Kagitçibasi, C. (1997).  Final report on ARTS 1996 and recommendations for the future.   International Journal of Psychology, 32, 265-269.

Poortinga, Y. H.  (1993). IUPsyS-IACCP Advanced Training Seminars.  International Journal of Psychology, 28, 120-121.