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Statement on Supreme Court Case Schuette v Bamn

April 22, 2014 -The Supreme Court upheld a Michigan voter initiative that banned racial preferences in admissions to the state’s public universities in the case Schuette v. Bamn. The American Anthropological Association filed an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief in this case, supporting the universities’ use of race in admissions. A considerable body of research provides convincing evidence that student body diversity promotes learning outcomes, and better prepares students for an increasingly diverse workforce and society.

AAA Executive Director, Dr. Edward Liebow said “today’s Supreme Court decision suggests a world view that race has no place in such important life altering events as university admissions choices.” He argues on the contrary, “this decision flies in the face of social science research that shows how race matters.”

The American Anthropological Association’s public education project, RACE: Are We So Different? helps to promote a broad understanding of race and human variation, including the importance of diversity. The RACE Project has produced to date an award-winning public education program entitled RACE Are We So Different? The program includes a traveling museum exhibit, an interactive website, and educational materials.

National Geographic Channel International Cancels “Nazi War Diggers”

To AAA members:
This letter was sent on March 31st, 2014, to the National Geographic Society, National Geographic Channels and National Geographic Channel International to protest a program aired in Europe (with a trailer briefly available on YouTube), by the presidents of six anthropological and archeological associations based in the United States and Europe, including the AAA. The effort was spearheaded by Jeff Altschul, President of the Society for American Archeology. The content of the letter provides, I think, sufficient information for you to understand why this program is of concern to all anthropologists. Shortly before the letter was sent, Dr. Altschul received the following statement from John Francis, Vice-President of National Geographic:

“National Geographic Channels International, in consultation with colleagues at the National Geographic Society, announced today that it will pull the series Nazi War Diggers from its schedule indefinitely while questions raised in recent days about allegations about the program can be properly reviewed. While we support the goal of the series, which is to tell the stories of long lost and forgotten soldiers, those left behind and still unaccounted for, and illuminate history working in concert with local governments and authorities, we also take seriously the questions that have been asked. National Geographic Channels is committed to engaging viewers in the exploration of the world and all of us associated with National Geographic are committed to doing our work with the highest standards. We know the same holds true for our producing partners, including our partners on this series.”

We look forward to their response to our letter, and will indicate to them our willingness to work with them to ensure their programming meets the highest professional standards.

Best,

Monica Heller
President, American Anthropological Association

 

AAA President Defends Social Science Research at NSF

Dear AAA Members:

For those of you concerned about NSF funding for anthropological research, I want to bring to your attention a legislative proposal currently making its way through the US Congress that would, if enacted, have serious consequences for anthropological research in the United States.

The Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology, or FIRST Act, was introduced two weeks ago by Representative Larry Buschon (R-IN) the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Research of the larger House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. We believe the legislation is a misguided attempt to re-authorize the National Science Foundation (NSF), as it significantly cuts funding to the Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE), which is primarily responsible for funding anthropological research.

If this legislation were enacted, for the first time, Congress would set funding targets for each individual directorate instead of funding NSF as a whole and allowing the agency to allocate funds internally. All directorates would receive an increase EXCEPT SBE, Geosciences, and International and Integrative Activities (IIA). SBE’s budget would be reduced from $267 million it received in fiscal year 2014 to about $200 million in fiscal year 2015.

NSF’s overall budget authority is about $7 billion, one of the larger public sources of funding for researchers in the US. While the SBE budget represents a relatively small share of that total, almost two-thirds of all publicly funded social science research comes from the NSF. We certainly agree that federal operations must be mindful of current fiscal conditions, but we believe it is ill-advised to leave it up to a partisan Congress to determine which categories of science funding should be increased and which should be cut.

The AAA Executive Director and the Public Affairs staff have been closely following this issue, meeting with Congressional representatives, working with coalitions (such as the Consortium of Social Science Associations, the Coalition for National Science Funding and the Federation of Associations in Behavioral and Brain Sciences) to increase overall funding for the NSF, and funding for the SBE. AAA staff have prepared a useful summary of the issues in the legislation on the AAA blog, which includes ways you can support the AAA. Staff have written columns for the Huffington Post and for the Chronicle for Higher Education.

In the coming weeks, the entire House Committee on Science, Space and Technology will vote on the FIRST Act. If it passes in this Committee, and then the full House of Representatives, it will be up for Senate consideration. Please know that your Association is hard at work protecting the interests of researchers and their research. We thank you for your support. For those of you based in the US, we encourage you to let your Congressional representatives know how you feel about the importance of public investments in social science research.

Monica Heller

AAA President

Take a #StandForScience

The FIRST Act, introduced on Monday by Representative Larry Buschon (R-IN), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Research of the larger House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, fails to properly fund social science work at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Standards and Technology and widens the nation’s innovation deficit. The FIRST Act would impede the mission of NSF and the nation’s research portfolio. Among other items, the bill:

1. Completely fails to meet the standards for science research and innovation that were set in the former version of the authorizing legislation, commonly referred to as the COMPETES Act;

2. Sets funding targets for for NSF and NIST that are not adequate to fund basic research; and

3. Includes a funding cut for the the Directorate for Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences (SBE), the division of the NSF that is primarily responsible for funding anthropological research.

Help AAA #StandForScience by contacting your congressional representative to request full restoration of NSF’s authorized levels or vote NO to the FIRST Act (#VoteNoHR4186). Please use the Twitter hastags to voice your opinion as well.

To read a press release issued by the American Association Universities, click here. For a copy of the FIRST Act, click here.

If you would like more information about contacting your Member of Congress, or about the FIRST Act, please contact Damon Dozier, AAA Director of Public Affairs at ddozier@aaanet.org.

RACE Posters

RACE poster RACE: Are We So Different? posters now available on the AAA Online Store. Order your poster today at the special AAA member price of $4.99.

Thank You Congress for Increasing Funds for the Social Sciences

Please write to your Senators and House Representatives to thank them for enacting a fiscal year (FY) 2014 appropriations bill that provides increased funding to federal science agencies important to social and behavioral science researchers.  In addition to protecting research budgets, the FY 2014 omnibus bill was free of troublesome policy riders that would have been harmful to the social science research enterprise. Through the Consortium of Social Science Association’s (COSSA) portal, you can find out how your representative voted and send a personalized thank you note.  Please take a moment to thank your elected officials for their efforts to come to final agreement on FY 2014 spending and preserve social science.

Omnibus Funding Bill Is Good News For Anthropology

On Friday of last week, President Obama gave his signature to the  Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014, which provides fiscal year 2014 appropriations for the projects and activities of the federal government. While the bill was signed more than three months into the fiscal year, it is the first time in several years that Congress has competed work on appropriations legislation, and not resorted to keeping the government running through a series of long term “continuing resolutions.”

The agreement sets an overall discretionary spending cap over over $1.01 trillion and the measure is especially kind, given the current funding and fiscal climates, to the interests of anthropologists and others who seek research funding from the federal government. For example, overall funding for both the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), actually increased, respectively, by over four and three percent. These two funding agencies, according to AAA research, are actually responsible for most of the Federal funding allocated to anthropologists.

The NSF received over $7 billion in the omnibus bill,  and the so-called “policy riders” that have, in the past, restricted political science funding at the agency have been eliminated, and draft legislative language that would have threatened peer review were not included in the final legislative package. The NIH, by far the larger agency, received almost $30 billion in funding, with the expectation, according to the Senate Appropriations Committee that the monies would go to support “as many scientifically meritorious new and competing research grants as possible, at a reasonable award level.”

The protection of social and behavioral science funding and  the elimination of policy riders mark a huge legislative victory for the AAA and the coalitions that  we work with. AAA staff devoted a lot of time and resources on Capitol Hill over the past several months not only meeting with personal office staff, but with staff from the authorizing and appropriation committees as well. There was a lot of talk in Congress both last session and in the current legislative session last year and this year about potential cuts for social and behavioral science funding, and our lobbying efforts has a lot to do with changing conversations about the importance of funding this portfolio of research.

If you would like more information about either AAA lobbying efforts or the omnibus appropriations legislation, please contact Damon Dozier, Director of Public Affairs at ddozier@aaanet.org.

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