Below you will find the draft principle for your review and comment.
As a reminder, the task force has been asked to undertake a thorough review of our current code of ethics, and to suggest revisions. We have begun the process of drafting those revisions, and are asking for your involvement in that process.
In thinking about changes to our Code of Ethics, we reflected on what it is that a Code is supposed to do for its members. One purpose is to state clearly that anthropologists are responsible for engaging in an on-going process of ethical thinking and practice that grapples with dilemmas that necessarily emerge in conducting research and other aspects of our professional lives. Another is to assist faculty members and their students in teaching and learning about ethical dimensions and laying foundations on which anthropologists can continue to build throughout their careers. A third is to be of real value to anthropologists in the actual contexts in which they make ethical decisions. Finally, any conceived framework must be flexible enough to adapt to diverse circumstances and adjust to the wide range of contexts of anthropological practices, while providing core principles informing ethical practice in real-world situations.
Our sense is that a new Code can more squarely address the third and fourth challenges, but only if seen as one resource among many. No code or set of principles or guidelines can anticipate every unique circumstance of practice, nor dictate direct actions in specific situations; instead the draft core principles to be presented here are meant to provide a preliminary place to start the ethical decision-making process. It is intended that these draft core principles can be readily recalled and applied in a continuum of research and practice contexts that extends from the initial planning stages in which there is ample time to anticipate ethical dimensions, to those in which on-the-spot decisions must be made in the course of ongoing projects. As currently drafted, the principles are followed by a brief discussion of the underlying values and beliefs on which the principles are based, as a means of helping foster the vital process of critical thinking about ethical issues in general, and constructing an ethical framework that addresses the specific challenges that are likely to emerge in a particular research project or other pursuit.
We do not address the issues of sanctions or enforcement; a wide range of opinions on such issues are held not only by the members of the Association but by members of the task force as well. Regardless of viewpoint, however, the members of the task force agreed that a workable and appropriate code must be established before determining how it may be implemented or enforced.
When reading through the postings, please keep in mind: rather than incorporating all of the complexities and areas of concern — as well as all the unique concerns and situations particular to a given subdiscipline or context of anthropological practice — into a single document, we have sought to identify broad principles applicable to all anthropologists, principles which will be supported by layers of additional resources–explanatory text, examples from different contexts or areas of practice, case studies, and resources from other disciplines. We are asking for your involvement in drafting and refining these principles. We want to use your feedback to both revise the principles as appropriate and to help us determine how completely we’ve captured the concerns of the members, on the one hand, and the demands placed on the code on the other.
As you read through our blog postings over the next several months, please:
- carefully read each principle as it is posted to the blog, paying attention to the content and thinking about its relevance to your practice
- make relevant comments and suggestions on the blog site in a timely manner. Feel free to share personal stories, case examples, competing interpretations, etc.
- pay attention to the ongoing conversations about the principles and do background reading if you are late to join the discussion of a particular topic.
After all the principles have been posted, please let us know your thoughts about the document as a whole.
Thank you for being part of this important discussion.
-The Task Force
Here is the principle for your review:
Balance competing ethical obligations due collaborators and affected parties
Anthropology is an inherently social enterprise, whether in terms of teaching, inquiry, or professional practice.
Anthropologists develop collaborative and often interdependent relationships with, among others, research participants, students, professional colleagues, employers and funders.
These varying relationships may create conflicting, competing or crosscutting ethical obligations, reflecting both the relative vulnerabilities of different individuals, communities or populations, asymmetries of power implicit in a range of relationships, and the differing ethical frameworks of collaborators representing other disciplines or areas of practice.
Anthropologists have an obligation to distinguish the different kinds of interdependencies and collaborations their work involves, and to consider the real and potential ethical dimensions of these diverse and sometimes contradictory relationships, which may be different in character or change over time. When conflicts between ethical standards or expectations arise, anthropologists should make explicit their ethical obligations, and negotiate an ethical approach. Recognizing that anthropologists work in diverse settings and that research projects are shaped by anthropologists and their collaborators, nevertheless anthropologists remain individually responsible for making ethical decisions.
Collaborations may be defined and understood quite differently by the various participants. The scope of collaboration, rights of the various parties, and issues of credit, acknowledgment and data access should be openly and fairly established at the outset. Collaborations normally involve compromise, and anthropologists must be sensitive to relationships of power and whether such compromise is freely given.