2006 Richard C. Tees Distinguished Leadership Award Winner
Dr. Lorraine G. Allan
I am writing to put forward the nomination of Lorraine Allan for the 2006 Tees Award for Distinguished Leadership. I cannot think of anyone who better fulfills the criteria for the Tees Award than Lorraine. Lorraine needs little introduction to the membership of BBCS due to her prominent and tireless work on its executive for many years. Here I will summarize briefly the areas of Lorraine’s contributions that may be less well known to the BBCS community, and finish with a description of her direct contributions to our organization.
Lorraine began her student career at Toronto (BA, 1962; MA, 1963) but moved to McMaster for her PhD training and has remained there ever since, playing a prominent role in many sectors of university life at McMaster. Her first published paper was in 1968 on visual position discrimination, and since that time she has published nearly 90 papers and chapters, co-edited a highly respected volume (Timing and Time Perception, 1984) and has given numerous invited presentations on her work. Her scientific contributions have been numerous and significant. She is first and foremost a psychophysicist: she has applied her methodological expertise in this area to several distinct problems. She is perhaps best known for her work on timing, a theme that runs through her work from the earliest days to the present. I personally am most familiar with the work she did on the McCollough effect in which she brought an entirely new learning perspective to a problem that had largely been viewed within the narrow confines of tuning properties of cells in the visual system. Lastly, her work on causal relations is highly respected in the field of learning. Her work is known both for the important findings it has contributed to all of these fields and for the methodological rigor with which it was conducted.
In addition to her work for our organization, Lorraine is a member of several other scientific organizations including the Psychonomics Society, the Eastern Psychological Association (EPA) and the International Society for Psychophysics (ISP). She is currently on EPA board of directors (2003-06), and served on the executive of ISP from 1995-97. In 2005, she was elected a fellow of the Society for Experimental Psychology, one of only a small group of Canadians to be so recognized. She has served as a Consulting Editor for Learning & Behavior, a role she still occupies, and for Perception and Psychophysics, which she did for close to 20 years (1975-2003). We psychophysicists owe Lorraine a huge vote of thanks for that one!
Lorraine has also contributed in a major way to our field through her role in the granting process both in Canada and internationally. Her first grant review role was on the NIH Basic Behavioral Process Research Review Committee from 1977-81. More recently the focus of her activity has been at NSERC. Here Lorraine has worked for us in many capacities. She sat on the GSC 12 committee from 1996-9, and was its chair in her final year. She has twice served on the GSC12 Reallocation Steering Committee (1992-94 and 2000-02). After completing those onerous roles, she has taken on the NSERC mantle at home, serving as the McMaster NSERC representative from 2003-05.
Before going on to describe Lorraine’s role in BBCS, I want to briefly mention her numerous contributions at McMaster. While not directly related to the criteria for the Tees Award, they speak to Lorraine’s dedication to all aspects of academic life, and serve as a wonderful role model for junior members of our field indicating that the real leaders like Lorraine not only pursue their first class science and work with organizations like ours, but also take on leadership roles in administration in their home institutions. Briefly, Lorraine chaired the Psychology department from 1984-89, has served on both the University Senate and Board of Governors multiple times, and also was president of the McMaster Faculty Association on two separate occasions (1993-4 and 2002-3). In addition to these very demanding positions, she has served on many department and faculty committees, focusing particularly on issues related to curriculum. The fact that her home department is no longer just the Psychology Department but instead Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour reflects the focus that this department has developed over the years Lorraine has been there. It is difficult to think of a department that better reflects the interests of this Society than the McMaster department, and Lorraine has clearly been a driving force in the shaping of that department over the past three and a half decades. Her contributions to McMaster have been recognized with two recent awards, The McMaster University Alumni Gallery (2003) and the McMaster Faculty Association Outstanding Service Award (2004).
Lorraine has also contributed greatly to the field through her training of students at all levels from undergraduate to postdoctoral. The following is an excerpt of an email I received from Sam Hannah, a current post-doc in Lorraine’s lab:
“As a post-doc, I can say working with her is fantastic. She supervises with a deft and gentle touch, pointing out gently when thoughts are running astray from a systematic investigation of an issue, yet encouraging me to revisit old assumptions. She has been a supervisor who gives me plenty of room to be independent, and yet is careful to make sure I am aware of what the big picture is, and whether progress is being made. Watching Lorraine's own way of working has been an education in itself, for she brings a marvelous blend of rigourous and systematic thought blended with originality and creativity. She never shies away from a new idea, but never give an idea a free pass either. Nor does she forget that scientific research is a human activity, and she is gentle, if persistent, and considerate of the feelings, as well as the ideas, of the people she is supervising, whether post-docs or undergrads.”
Among other notable graduates from Lorraine’s lab is Tom Eissenberg who was the 1998 recipient of the Wyeth-Ayerst Young Psychopharmacologist Award of the American Psychological Association (APA), an award given to only one Ph.D. each year. Lorraine’s most recent Ph.D. graduate is Jason Tangen, now a post-doc at New South Wales, and just appointed to a lectureship in Brisbane. Jason’s website reveals two things that are a tribute both to him, but also to the supervision he received from Lorraine: he completed his entire graduate training post BASc in four years, and six publications have appeared based on the work he did in Lorraine’s lab. This is the sort of graduate record most students can only dream of.
In the classroom, Lorraine’s teaching focus has been primarily in statistics and experimental design. We all know that this is one of the most difficult tasks in undergraduate teaching in Psychology, and for so many students, Stats is the barrier that drives them away from science. Lorraine has helped countless McMaster students overcome their profound math phobia and grow to appreciate the importance of quantitative thinking.
Finally, and most importantly, let me address Lorraine’s enormous leadership contribution to BBCS. Lorraine has been involved in BBCS since its early days. She was first elected to the executive in 1998, and has been there ever since. She served as President from 2000-01, and since then has stayed on the executive as Secretary/Treasurer, a role from which I doubt we will ever let her resign. While she was President, she served on the Board of Directors of the Canadian Psychological Association, attempting to strengthen the tenuous link between CPA and BBCS.
Presidents of BBCS come and go, but in the background behind us all has been Lorraine, the driving force of BBCS today. Anyone who has been on the BBCS executive knows that the person who knows the most about BBCS past and present is Lorraine. Yes, she keeps the books and pays the bills, but she does much more. When she approached me about becoming President-Elect, I asked her how much work this would entail as I was also a department Chair at the time. Lorraine assured me that the load would be quite manageable. She was right, but that is because the lion’s share of the day-to-day direction of BBCS is done by Lorraine, by gently nudging incumbent Presidents and other executive members with e-mail reminders of the “ it’s time that we really should do …” variety, accompanied by “here’s how we have been doing it” and often the text for the necessary emails etc. As the executive know too well, but many – particularly student – members won’t realize, BBCS does not have a permanent management staff. Unlike many of the other scientific and professional organizations we belong to – CPA, APA, Society for Neuroscience – which are vast organizations with large financial bases (and high fees to support them), BBCS lives or dies on the commitment of its executive body, and especially Lorraine. She has held the organization together in so many ways in the time I have been associated with the executive. While her leadership is often invisible to the membership at large, she is there, backstage, making it all happen. She has been involved in our links with other organizations, most notably CPA; with our lobbying efforts and our concerns at NSERC, especially the reallocation exercises which pose a recurring threat to our support. She brought the BBCS website to McMaster and has overseen its development as our visible presence in cyberspace. And anyone who has organized a BBCS conference will have discovered that Lorraine’s phone number was the most important one in their book!
New organizations always have a lot of momentum at the outset, but maintaining that momentum can be difficult when the initial founders move on and play less active roles. However, BBCS has continued to thrive and grow, and as we enter our 16 th year I think we are as strong as we have ever been. That is in no small part due to the role Lorraine has played on the Executive of the organization over the second half of the organization’s existence. For all of these reasons, I can think of no one more worthy of receipt of the Tees Award for Distinguished Service than Lorraine Allan.