Between 1968 and 1970, more than 3,000 psychologists wrote to the leaders of the American Psychological Association and described instances of ethically questionable research. The psychologists were responding to a questionnaire that the APA mailed to two-thirds of its members—19,000 psychologists in all. The organization used psychologists’ stories to update its ethics code in 1973.
The stories offer a vivid, panoramic view of American psychology in the decades after World War II from the perspectives of students, practitioners, and human subjects of research. The Wesleyan Digital Archive of Psychology is creating an electronic repository of the responses in two formats: as transcribed text documents, and as digital images. In March 2011, the research team finished transcribing the first of two waves of questionnaire responses. The team is now checking the transcriptions against the originals for accuracy before uploading to the repository.
The aims of the project are threefold:
- To improve access to the archival materials. The original documents are physically held at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC within the APA collection. The WesDAP electronic repository will enable researchers to see, search, and analyze the materials electronically.
- To encourage collaboration among researchers. By sharing transcriptions and images of the materials, WesDAP aspires to promote research on the materials, and to allow scholars who study a range of topics to connect across this common resource.
- To provide a pedagogical tool for courses in history, ethics, research methods, and a range of other areas. Instructors can use the materials to incorporate examples and classroom exercises into their curricula.
The Wesleyan Digital Archive of Psychology began in 2010 with a grant from Wesleyan University’s Center for the Study of Public Life.