Racing to Meet Our 2022 Goals: What Is SABA Anyway?

Illustration by Martin Burch

A Letter From the SABA President

By Carol Pilgrim

Acronyms abound in our field today, and the number of organizations focused on behavior analysis is on the rise as well. Perhaps it’s no surprise then that the title, “SABA President,” often meets with blank faces. Although you’ve likely contacted and even benefitted from the activities of SABA (e.g., through student presenter funds, research grants, or inspiring opening events at the annual ABAI convention), members of ABAI are sometimes unclear on the nature and function of SABA and on its distinctive relationship with ABAI. These brief remarks are intended to address such puzzles, and to illustrate the important role of SABA through a report on its recent activities.

At its crux, the Society for the Advancement of Behavior Analysis (SABA) provides financial support for the field of behavior analysis. Chartered in 1980, SABA is a nonprofit corporation devoted to the welfare and future of behavior analysis. It is able to pursue this integral mission as a result of private financial gifts and donations from generous and dedicated members of the behavior-analytic community. In short, SABA provides a tax-deductible mechanism that enables individuals to contribute directly to the continued growth and development of our science. The society amplifies donor gifts through long- and short-term investments in a range of targeted funds, and it distributes proceeds to support talented students, to facilitate global promotion and public awareness of the science, and to honor our most impactful leaders by providing a platform by which their work can reach a broad audience, among other important targets. Since its beginning, SABA has sponsored 199 research , development, and dissemination projects through competitive grant programs, and has supported participation in the ABAI Convention for 1,893 graduate students through Student Presenter Grants. Highlights of SABA’s work for this past year include the following:

2023 SABA Awards
The opening event of each year’s annual convention is an awards ceremony held in honor of a select group of behavior analysts, each chosen for their extraordinary contributions in one of five categories. Please plan to join us for this always inspiring celebration to kick off the 2023 ABAI Convention in Denver. We are proud to announce the 2023 award winners:

  • Linda Hayes for Distinguished Service to Behavior Analysis
  • Ken Silverman for Scientific Translation
  • Zulima Gabriela Sigurðardóttir for International Dissemination of Behavior Analysis
  • APOPO for Effective Presentation of Behavior Analysis in the Mass Media
  • Oslo Metropolitan University for Enduring Programmatic Contributions to Behavior Analysis

Congratulations to these esteemed colleagues, for all they’ve done in promoting behavior analysis.

Supporting Students
SABA distributed $17,416 to 44 student members as Student Presenter Grants this year, to support attendance at the 2022 ABAI Convention in Boston. These monies help make convention attendance more accessible for students and thus provide opportunity for discussing their research with a national audience of peers and senior scientists. In addition to the presenter funds, the interest from SABA’s Innovative Student Research Fund made $30,000 available this year for student research grants, including $5,000 each for up to four doctoral dissertation grants, and $2,500 each for up to four master’s thesis grants. The grant proposals are reviewed by ABAI’s Science Board; preference is given to grants involving translational research.

Winners of the 2022 dissertation grants were the following: Natalie Buddiga (University of Nevada, Reno) for a basic research project on social distance and choice as analyzed in a Prisoner’s Dilemma Game; Elizabeth Houck (University of North Texas) for applied work on the impacts of conditioned aversive stimuli for people with intellectual disabilities who have experienced trauma; Rebecca Chalme (West Virginia University) for translational work on the effects of ethanol and nicotine on delay discounting; and Elizabeth Thuman (University of North Carolina Wilmington) for a translational animal model of positive practice overcorrection. Winners of the 2022 thesis grants include: Brandon Miller (University of Kansas) for a translational thesis on the effects of cannabis-related cues on demand for cannabis; and Carson Yahrmarkt (Northern Michigan University) for a basic thesis on the effects of spatially diffuse versus localized stimuli on pausing in rich-lean transitions.

Thanks to a particularly generous gift from Sidney and Janet Bijou, the current status of the Sidney W. and Janet R. Bijou Fund made possible $40,000 for up to four grants of $10,000 each for students doing research in child development from a behavior-analytic perspective. The 2022 winners of the Bijou Grant were Madeleine Mason (University of North Carolina Wilmington) for a rodent model of concept development, Jeanne Stephanie Gonzalez (University of Florida) for the study of teaching children to recall past events, and Eilís O’Connell-Sussman (Endicott College) for a project on parent training designed to establish echoic repertoires for babbling in infants with down syndrome.

The Innovative Student Research in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Grant is SABA’s newest student grant category. Because the long-term SABA DEI fund on which the grants are based is also relatively new, it has not yet reached a level sufficient to generate the interest that would typically be required for grant support. SABA has been able to contribute from the Unrestricted Fund for this purpose for now, but a sustainable grant program here will require increased donations targeting DEI. For 2022, $20,000 for up to four grants of $5,000 each was made available. DEI grant submissions are reviewed by ABAI’s DEI Board. Our 2022 DEI Research Grant winners were Anniette Maldonado (University of Utah) for work on training and supports for caregivers of children diagnosed with autism in Puerto Rico, Shauna Diffley (National University of Ireland Galway) for work on teacher training in precision teaching to target learning loss by educationally disadvantaged students, and Emma DenBleyker (University of Cincinnati) for a project targeting teacher use of equitable behavior-specific praise in an EBD classroom.

Congratulations to these student researchers for their exciting proposals. We certainly look forward to learning from their findings.

International Development Fund
This fund provides the basis for grants to individuals or organizations with projects designed to promote behavior analysis internationally. To date, SABA has made possible 83 development projects in 42 countries worldwide. For 2022, $10,000 was available for four to 10 grants of $1,000 or $3,000 each, with the top-scoring grant from outside the U.S. also eligible for a travel grant of up to $1,000, to present at the annual convention. Five grants were awarded this year, to the following winners: Maria del Rosario Ruis-Olivares (Spain) for $3,000; Sophie Ganevitch (Ukraine) for $3,000; Helder Gusso (Brazil) for $2,000; Karina Bermudez (Mexico) for $1,000; and Buket Kisac-Demiroglu (Turkey) for $1,000. Congratulations to these colleagues; their important work represents an exciting range of geographic areas of focus and serves as a model to us all for approaching global outreach.

Public Awareness Fund
In addition to the increased visibility for behavior analysis that follows from the SABA awards, student support, and international program efforts, another relatively new SABA fund makes possible grants for projects that aim to introduce and promote the science of behavior analysis to the general public. At this point, SABA has sponsored a total of 15 public awareness projects. For 2022, this fund made available $10,000 for two to four grants of $2,500 or $5,000 each. Winners of the 2022 Public Awareness Grants were Camilo Hurtado-Parrado (Southern Illinois University; $5,000) for a proposal to develop and utilize materials in Spanish to counter misinformation about behavior analysis; and Angelika Anderson (University of Waikato; $4,500) for a proposal to provide information about behavior-analytic interventions to New Zealand parents of autistic children. Congratulations to these innovative colleagues; it is notable that their work is also of international relevance, even as it seeks the critical goal of helping the public better understand our approach.

Reaching SABA Goals
While their missions have much in common, SABA and ABAI are formally distinct entities. ABAI functions as the primary membership organization for those interested in the philosophy, science, application, and teaching of behavior analysis, providing an array of member services (e.g., conferences, journals) made possible by dues, registrations, and subscriptions. In contrast, SABA’s focus is specifically on providing financial resources for activities that contribute to the future of the field, as illustrated by the present review of SABA’s recent work. Please note that, as a nonprofit organization whose sole purpose is scientific, SABA is exempt from federal income tax under Section 501(c)(3) of the 1986 Internal Revenue Code. Remember that when you donate to SABA, your contribution is tax deductible to the full extent provided by law, and you can select the focus for which your funds will be used. We are ever grateful to our benefactors, some of whom have established significant financial legacies for SABA’s work, and all of whom help make our goals possible. If you’ve not done so previously, we hope you can consider joining the ranks of SABA donors. Gifts of any size are most welcome and important. Including SABA as part of your estate planning can also be arranged. Your generosity is critical in ensuring that behavior analysis, as a culture, not only survives but flourishes.