• 2016 AA Editor Search
  • Open Anthropology
  • Latest AAA Podcast

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 16,733 other followers

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

New Podcast Featuring Robin Nagle

RobinNagle.comListen to Robin Nagle speak about her work in the latest AAA podcast. Dr. Nagle is the author of Picking Up, an ethnography of New York City’s Department of Sanitation.

Dr. Nagle is a clinical associate professor of anthropology and director of the John W. Draper Interdisciplinary Master’s Program in Humanities and Social Thought at New York University. She is also an anthropologist-in-residence with the New York City Department of Sanitation.

 

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.

Popular Anthropology: Buttering Up Humanity

Today’s guest blog post is by Erin B. Taylor (ICS-UL) of PopAnth.

Some years ago, when I was working at The University of Sydney, a colleague of mine stopped me in the corridor to complain. “Nobody listens to anthropologists,” she lamented, “We have so many interesting things to say about the world, but people don’t pay any attention.”

I was puzzled. Not because I disagree on either count: I think she’s right that our voice gets subsumed to that of economists, political commentators, and publicists. I also agree that anthropologists can provide a historically-grounded, cross-culturally informed perspective on contemporary events that is of real social value.

My puzzlement, rather, was because to the best of my knowledge, this particular colleague never made any effort to be heard. She published exclusively in academic journals behind paywalls, didn’t do press releases, didn’t write for newspapers, didn’t even blog. Did she really expect that public servants, the media, and people at large would go to the effort of seeking out her and her opinions?

This encounter triggered a personal quest to find out more about the state of public anthropology. I quickly discovered that I wasn’t the only one. Thomas Hylland Eriksen, in his book Engaging Anthropology, writes that “Anthropology should have changed the world, yet the subject is almost invisible in the public sphere outside the academy” (2006:1). One of my favorite articles on the subject is by Greg Downey who, on his Neuroanthropology blog, argues that anthropology’s difficulties with engaging the public is at least partially a branding problem. He then presents a series of fascinating ideas on how to fix it.

There are plenty of anthropologists who are doing something about it. Anthropologists globally are publishing their work in news venues such as the BBC, the Financial Times, and the Trinidad Guardian. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of us are blogging our thoughts on personal and collective websites, including The Huffington Post and The Conversation. Others are interviewed on radio shows or run community workshops. The California Series in Public Anthropology provides an incentive for authors to write about their engagements with communities and policies. Our brand is looking better since Eriksen published his book in 2006.

One thing I noticed, however, is a lack of ways for anthropologists who would like to write for the public to get started. This is partially because too few academics are aware of what the possibilities are, as the work of their more public-facing colleagues remains largely invisible. There are also relatively few venues in which people can experiment with this kind of writing. Personal blogs are a beginning, but a chronic lack of feedback means that it’s hard to know whether you’re on the right track. And without having a sense of how you’re doing, it can be daunting to submit an article to a newspaper.

PopAnthThis was a major reason why Gawain Lynch, John McCreery and I began the community website PopAnth: Hot Buttered Humanity. We began building the site in July last year, after an exhaustive search turned up exactly zero generalist anthropology websites that are truly written for a popular audience. There are many brilliant blogs out there, but they either focus on narrow topics, or include academic content such as jargon or calls for papers. We deliberately designed PopAnth to cover all branches of anthropology because we wanted to see what kinds of topics would prove popular.

In just over a year since launch, the site has grown surprisingly fast, and last month we had 90,000 unique visitors (bots largely edited out of our analytics). This is a pretty impressive feat for a non-profit website that relies on a small crew of committed editors. I’m particularly happy that authors have been courageous enough to send us off-beat stories that otherwise might never have seen the light of day. Our articles have covered topics as diverse as the history of Rastafarianism in Jamaica, land use rights among footballers in Trinidad, metal theft in the United Kingdom, drug markets in Colombia, consumer freedom in Germany, and angry tourists in Madagascar.

What makes PopAnth work? In my opinion, it’s the effort we put in to making popular anthropology visible. We don’t just promote ourselves, we use our website and social media to promote popular anthropology wherever it is published: newspapers, blogs, books, TED talks, and so on. This increases our audience base and helps make anthropology a household name.

Crucially, we provide a mentoring service to new public writers, helping them polish their articles for PopAnth and gain confidence to submit their work to other venues. We also act as a hub connecting new popular authors to old hands. Because we publish on merit, not qualifications, our authors are just as likely to be undergraduates as they are to have regular columns in The Huffington Post or Psychology Today. This means that up-and-coming authors who aren’t sure where to publish can gain inspiration from seeing what their colleagues are doing.

What’s the next step in getting public anthropology out there? My feeling is that cross-promotion will help us all build our audiences and contributor bases. To this end, I’ve begun talking with people people from other groups, such as Savage Minds, DANG, Ethnography Matters, the Society for Visual Anthropology, and others about how we can best work together to stay in communication and build collaborations. I’d like to invite everyone to join the conversation in the PopAnth group at the Open Anthropology Cooperative. And, of course, if you want to write for PopAnth, you can check out our Contributions page. The more we write for the public, the more the public will be able to listen.

Congress Targets National Science Foundation Grants

In a recent USA Today editorial/opinion column, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and House Committee on Science, Space and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith target grants awarded by the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate of the the National Science Foundation as examples of government waste and a misuse of taxpayer resources.

This isn’t the first time that the NSF has been the target of increased Congressional scrutiny. Last year, the agency’s political science grants were targeted and AAA responded quickly. Earlier this year, in response to draft legislation (the so-called “High Quality Research Act”) that would have required the Director of the NSF to certify that prior to making any grant award the research project be “in the interests of the United States to advance the national health, prosperity of welfare, and to secure the national defense by promoting the progress of science,” the AAA wrote a letter stating our objection to the proposal.

Certain Members of Congress have been asking the public to present ideas and identify areas where federal government waste and fraud are present. YouCut, launched by Majority Leader Cantor in May of 2010, is a website where visitors can submit their ideas for cost-cutting measures, and view videos of selected submissions being discussed while Congress is in session. Recently, the Majority Leader launched a new initiative designed to identify and target cuts to the NSF. Sadly, the new website asks citizens to search the NSF grants database to highlight grants to be questioned, and suggests keywords such as “success, culture, social norm, museum and stimulus” to identify them.

The AAA has been working with our partners in the humanities and social science communities, visiting Congressional legislators and their staff,  making the case that social science research is critical to not only American, but world scholarship. While it is important to give the American taxpayer value for their research investment, Congress should not hamper the ability or the autonomy of federal agencies to award grants to those researchers whose projects have been peer-reviewed and deemed worthy of further study. With legislation re-authorizing the NSF scheduled to be considered in the upcoming months, it is important to let Capitol Hill know the value of social science, behavioral and economic research.

Please contact your Member of Congress today and let them know that you support NSF and it’s peer review process. If you’d like more information about how to become involved, please send an email to ddozier@aaanet.org.

Dr. Nancy Scheper-Hughes Named First AAA Public Policy Award Winner

The American Anthropological Association (AAA) is pleased to announce that its Committee on Public Policy has selected medical anthropologist Nancy Scheper-Hughes as the first recipient of the new Anthropology in Public Policy Award. Dr. Scheper- Hughes is a nationally-recognized expert on several important health issues, including hunger, illness and organ trafficking.

Photo Courtesy of UC Berkeley

Photo Courtesy of UC Berkeley

The Anthropology in Public Policy Award (AiPP) was established in 2012 by the Committee on Public Policy (COPP) to honor anthropologists whose work has had a significant, positive influence on the course of government decision-making and action. Dr. Scheper-Hughes’ body of work and research, especially in the area of organ trafficking, has shaped how governments and international bodies address the issues of illegal transplantation.

In 1999, Scheper-Hughes helped found the Berkeley Organs Watch Project, an organization dedicated to research on human organ traffic worldwide, including examining the transnational networks that connect patients, transplant surgeons, brokers, medical facilities and so-called “live donors.” Almost ten years later, in 2008, her investigation of an international group of organ sellers based in the East Coast of the United States and Israel led to multiple arrests by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In recent years, she has served as an advisor or consultant to the European Union; the United Nations, Division of Law Enforcement, Organized Crime and Anti-Laundering Office on Drugs and Crime, and the Human Trafficking Office of the World Health Organization in Vienna. She has also testified as an expert before the US Congress, the Council of Europe and the British House of Lords.

“We are pleased and honored to make Dr. Scheper-Hughes the winner of the first AiPP Award,” COPP chair Dr. Suzanne Heurtin-Roberts announced in a statement today. “Her work and research offer powerful examples of the contribution our discipline can make to larger public policy debates.  By recognizing her as thefirst recipient of the award, we are making a strong statement about the power and effectiveness our discipline can have with regulators and legislators worldwide. ”

COPP will honor Dr. Scheper-Hughes on during the 112th AAA Annual Meeting. The meeting is open to the public, registration is required.

Dr. Scheper-Hughes is a professor of anthropology and Director of the Medical Anthropology Program at the University of California at Berkeley.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harvard Anthropologist Honored by Japanese Cultural Affairs Agency

The Edwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies at Harvard University recently announced that it current Director, Theodore C. Bestor, received the Commissioner of Cultural Affairs Award for the Promotion of Japanese Culture from the Agency of Cultural Affairs in Japan.  The Agency of Cultural Affairs is a special body of the of the Japanese Ministry of Education, established in 1968 to promote Japanese arts and culture. Dr. Bestor is the twelfth person to receive the honor.

Help AAA Contribute to Huffington Post

HuffPost AAA Home Have you read Past President, Alan Goodman’s recent Huffington Post piece – Biophobia Not. Biology and Science in Anthropology?

AAA has a contributing relationship with The Huffington Post. AAA members are encouraged to contribute to this unique relationship. Blog posts should be written geared toward a public audience; a conversational, informal style is ideal. News-driven, topical posts perform best on the site. The post should be 500-8000 words in length. If you are interested in contributing a blog post for the Huffington Post, please contact Joslyn (josten@aaanet.org).

To submit a blog post please submit the following information via e-mail to Joslyn at josten@aaanet.org:

  • Name
  • Author biosketch (this will appear at the bottom of the article)
  • Title
  • Blog post of 500-800 words
  • Section the post should be categorized in (see list of Huffington Post sections by clicking “All Sections” on the menu bar)
  • Images are welcome (must be .jpg and a maximum of 500 pixels wide)

AAA reserves the right to refuse submitted posts or multimedia content for both the AAA blog and its contribution to the Huffington Post. Items submitted to the Huffington Post are subject to the Huffington Post editorial process. Huffington Post editors will determine to post or refuse the content. This process can take anywhere from a couple of days to several weeks.

Click here for details.

Scientists Respond to The New York Times

For the third time in three years, The New York Times has published an article by Nicholas Wade (12/20/10, 12/13/10, and again on February 18, 2013) that includes misrepresentations of the American Anthropological Association’s views on science, ethics, and the role of debate in the advancement of knowledge. Some have found their way into the recent article by Emily Eakin in The New York Times Magazine Section (2/17/13). In light of these misrepresentations, we present for the record the exact wording of core guiding documents of the Association.

The American Anthropological Association’s Statement of Purpose (Mission Statement) last amended in 1983 reads as follows: “The purposes of the Association shall be to advance anthropology as the science that studies humankind in all its aspects, through archeological, biological, ethnological and linguistic research; and to further the professional interests of American anthropologists, including the dissemination of anthropological knowledge and its use to solve human problems.”

The AAA’s Long Range Plan, revised April 22, 2011, states: “The American Anthropological Association will support the growth, advancement and application of anthropological science and interpretation through research, publication, and dissemination within a broad range of educational and research institutions as well as to the society at large.”

Furthermore, while AAA does not take sides in intellectual disputes among individual members, the Association remains committed to ethical practice and to robust debate about disciplinary ethics. The Long Range Plan states: “The AAA will reinforce and promote the values associated with the acquisition of anthropological knowledge, expertise, and interpretation. This includes a commitment to the AAA Code of Ethics.” The new version of that code, now entitled AAA Statement on Ethics: Principles of Professional Responsibility, was released in 2012. The Statement reflects the multiyear efforts of two different working groups and an Association-wide discussion of draft versions. The final version was adopted by vote of the membership in 2012.

Finally, the Association continues to view lively debate as key to knowledge production. Disagreements about what is good science and what is bad science do not translate into an attack on science.

Indiana Jones is to Anthropology as Fred Flintstone is to Neolithic Life

Below is a copy of the Letter to the Editor of the New York Times Magazine by President Mullings in response to the recent article by Emily Eakin.

To the Editor,

While we recognize that the figure of Indiana Jones is attractive, it is about as useful for understanding anthropology as Fred Flintstone is for understanding life in the Neolithic. Your article perpetuates an outdated and narrow stereotype of our profession. The 11,000 members of the American Anthropological Association alone actually spend their time doing a vast array of things. Today’s anthropologists can be found in such diverse endeavors as leading the World Bank, designing health care for areas devastated by disaster, or researching  the causes of the 2008 recession or the deaths of 100 boys in a defunct reform school in Florida. The  representation of a field paralyzed by  debates about  ‘science, ’ vs. ‘advocacy ’ is similarly inaccurate, given the non-polarized ways most anthropologists today understand ‘science’, ‘advocacy’ and the nature of the field. The article also misses one of Napoleon Chagnon’s lasting legacies to our field: the reminder to engage in constant reflection about anthropological ethics. The American Anthropological Association recently did just that, releasing its new Statement on Ethics: Principles of Professional Responsibility in October 2012. Finally, we consider lively debate neither dangerous nor self-serving: it is a key to knowledge.

Leith Mullings
President
American Anthropological Association
Distinguished Professor
Graduate Center, City University of New York

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 16,733 other followers