A Senseless APA Rule

The American Psychological Association has a policy that makes no sense to me.

APA rules dictate (in so many words) that filming may not be done at the Convention unless it is done by the APA’s film crew.  I have seen many outstanding presentations that were attended, for reasons that have nothing to do with the merits of the speaker(s), by very few people.  Given the large number of sessions offered at the Convention and the relative limited availability of the film crew, few will ever be recorded and be seen by majority of people who belong to that Division or the APA. Simply put, I think Divisions should have the ability to preserve the product of their programming.

I brought this up on a ListServ of Division officers. One person, speaking on behalf on his experiences with his Division’s standalone conference, responded with possible justifications for the policy, which are summarized here:

  1. Not every speaker wants to be filmed. Waivers would be needed, which would be a potential burden for program chairs. Failure to follow through may put the Division or APA in a potential legal situation.
  2. Not every attendee (e.g., those in the audience) is comfortable being filmed.
  3. The quality of recording in most meeting rooms is not good due to lighting.
  4. Recording sessions may diminish attendance because people can watch sessions at home as opposed to attending them.

For each of these concerns, I see a solution or counterpoint:

  1. If a speaker does not want to be filmed, then the speaker is not filmed. Gauging this could be as easy as asking for consent when they submit proposals in the fall; they can indicate on the submission portal  whether they would permit themselves to being recorded. The program chair can later get the written consent required, and a speaker can always change his or her mind.
  2. If one places the camera in the front row pointed to the speaker podium, then this virtually eliminates the risk.
  3. In my experience from other conferences, I have found that a tripod and a smartphone are sufficient to record both the video and audio for one to get the information presented. I speculate that people are more concerned about the information to be learned as opposed to the visual aesthetic and crisp audio quality.
  4. Divisions can set their own guidelines as to what they post and when (such as a year after the convention). Are there any data that suggest that professional conferences have suffered from decreased attendance when they started recording their sessions? Even if there is a modest effect, I would argue that it is offset by the benefit of each Division having increased exposure to the general membership.

In the end, I find it annoying and frankly absurd that a grad school student cannot have their dissertation presentation recorded because of APA policy. I still remember a paper presentation from 2008 in which a very well-known hypnosis scholar presented research findings that suggested he (in his own words) might be wrong about a long-standing theoretical belief he held. I know that he likely would have consented to being recorded, but this very important moment was missed by all with the exception of the eight people who attended that session.

While I certainly understand the potential concerns about what filming sessions may bring, I believe that this policy should be reconsidered.

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