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Anthropologists Approve Comprehensive Overhaul of Ethics Code

After a five-year review process, members of the American Anthropological Association have approved a rigorous overhaul of their ethics code.  The code offers guidance to anthropologists as to how they should conduct themselves in professional and academic settings, in collecting and disseminating research data, and in their relationships with research subjects, colleagues and students.  The new document, titled “Statement on Ethics: Principles of Professional Responsibility,” strengthens the previous ethics code, adapts it to the digital age, and makes use of a fundamentally new format.  Members were given six weeks to vote on the code, which was approved by an overwhelming 93 percent of those who voted.

The first AAA ethics code was written in 1971, in response to controversies over the Vietnam War. Where previous AAA ethics codes resembled straightforward legal codes, the new Principles of Professional Responsibility take the form of a hyperlinked living document in a simple, user-friendly format.  While still offering guidance for ethical conduct in the form of general principles, the new document features embedded hypertext links to pertinent case study materials, reference documents, websites and articles. The Statement has a series of references after each defining principle to allow the readers to find further sources of information and data.  These resources give readers a richer sense of the context of the ethics code and of specific dilemmas anthropologists have faced in their work. Continue reading

Cast Your Vote, AAA Members, on the Code of Ethics

Today’s special guest blog post is from AAA President, Leith Mullings.

Dear AAA Member:

After a five-year process, I am pleased to now ask you to vote on revisions to our association’s Code of Ethics. As many of you know, in 2005 the Executive Board (EB) set up the Commission on the Engagement of Anthropology with the US Security and Intelligence Communities (CEAUSSIC) to consider issues raised by efforts to recruit anthropologists to U.S. military and intelligence projects. At the 2007 business meeting, the AAA passed a resolution calling for restoration of four clauses in the 1971 Principles of Professional Responsibility to the AAA Code of Ethics. Subsequently, CEAUSSIC recommended a comprehensive review of the Code.

In 2009, the EB established an eight-person task force to undertake this review. The task force was selected to represent the concerns of all the subfields, academic and practicing anthropologists, anthropologists who consult with the military, as well as those who are critical of it. After extensive consultation, the task force submitted a revised Code to the EB in November 2011. The EB posted the new draft code on the association website and invited comments from the membership. Once the comment period closed on January 30, 2012, a representative subcommittee of the EB made revisions based on members’ comments. This document was then brought before the Executive Board in May, 2012. After extensive discussion and additional revisions the EB voted unanimously to accept the document that is now presented for your vote. In addition, the EB agreed that the 1971 title, “Principles of Professional Responsibility,” better represented the new document, which we also suggest can be referred to as a Statement on Ethics.

As my EB colleagues Hugh Gusterson (George Mason U) and Monica Heller (U Toronto) noted in the September 2012 AN, this version will be placed on the web, is considered to be a living document and has hyperlinks to key background texts, to which we expect members to contribute. Our intent is that the Committee on Ethics be stewards of this document, facilitating on-going discussion.

Your vote will be whether or not to accept the 2012 Principles of Professional Responsibility (with the understanding that the text links to supporting or background materials are expected to be changed and updated over time). The balloting will close on October 25. Many thanks to all of you who helped to create this document.

In order to vote, you can login through the Account/Member Profile LOGIN area at the top of the page of the AAA website. You can access the AAA site (www.aaanet.org) using your favorite browser.  Once you login, you will see a VOTE NOW button. Click on it and you will be taken to the ballot where you can cast your vote. You can review the text of the statement on ethics by clicking on the details button on the ballot. If you have any difficulties or questions, please email us at ethicsfeedback@aaanet.org

With best wishes,

Leith Mullings
AAA President

Anthropologists and the Human Terrain System

In March, the C4ISR Journal, a publication of Defense News, ran the cover story U.S. Army’s Human Terrain Experts May Help Defuse Future Conflicts. In the piece, journalist Jim Hodges wrote:

The HTS (Human Terrain System) also ran afoul of anthropological organizations that believed their scholars were becoming spies and that their work was being used to undermine the population rather than help it. The anthropologists also said their first ethic — “do no harm” — was being violated by the work of the HTS teams.

The American Anthropological Association condemned the program in 2007, and in a letter to Congress in 2010 the Network of Concerned Anthropologists questioned HTS’s effectiveness and called it “dangerous and reckless” and a “waste of taxpayers’ money.”

And went on to say:

The controversy has cooled. The HTS will have a recruiter at the American Anthropological Association’s annual meeting in San Francisco in November.

This misinformation was not taken lightly here at AAA. In working with C4ISR’s editor, we were able to run a two page commentary on sharing the anthropological side of the story. Thanks to members, Hugh Gusterson and Rob Albro, C4ISR readers not only understand that HTS recruiters will not be at AAA’s Annual Meeting this November, but also how HTS contravenes anthropological ethics:

The controversy has died down only insofar as the American Anthropological Association has completed a detailed investigation of HTS, with particular attention to the Human Terrain Teams deployed both in Iraq and Afghanistan to collect socio-cultural information for commanders to aid their decision making.

We want to reinforce that the American Anthropological Association stands by its 2009 conclusion that the U.S. Army-led Human Terrain System contravenes anthropological ethics and incites superficial “windshield ethnography” that falls short of professional standards. That conclusion is detailed in the association’s “Final Report on The Army’s Human Terrain System Proof of Concept Program.”

Sending social scientists to study local populations in the company of armed troops amid active hostilities will not produce scientifically reliable information. Just as important are the long-term consequences of this approach. Embedding anthropologists with combat brigades undermines their independence and duty not to harm populations — requirements that are the linchpins of anthropological ethics. Calling embedded anthropologists “social scientists” does not solve the problem.

Read the entire article and leave your comments on the issue.

Last Call for Comment on AAA’s Posted Draft Code of Ethics

Today is the last day to review the posted Code of Ethics and submit your comments to the subcommittee charged to review the draft code. E-mail ethicsfeedback@aaanet.org to share your comments.

Please Review the Proposed Code of Ethics

Just a reminder – you, the membership at large, are invited to review the posted draft Code of Ethics, and submit your comments by January 30, 2012 to ethicsfeedback@aaanet.org for the subcommittee to consider.  Your input is crucial to this process, and we thank you for your dedication to our association.

In the event you missed it, here’s the background of this revision process:

At the 2011 AAA Annual Meeting recently held in Montréal, Quebec, Canada, the AAA Executive Board (EB) voted to receive a draft revision of the AAA’s Code of Ethics as revised by the Task Force for Comprehensive Ethics Review. The EB also passed a resolution thanking the task force and its chair, Dena Plemmons, for all of their hard work. Beginning in early 2009, the Task Force was commissioned to review the Code of Ethics and consult extensively with relevant AAA committees and commissions, the Section Assembly, the membership at large and other interested parties. The Task Force finished its review in October 2011.

After receiving the draft, the EB appointed a subcommittee to review the draft code which is currently available for review on the AAA website. The subcommittee is chaired by Vice President and President-Elect Monica Heller, and members include Hugh Gusterson, Jean Schensul, Ida Susser, Vilma Santiago, Deb Martin, Sandra Lopez Varela and AAA President Leith Mullings (ex-officio). The subcommittee will present its recommendation to the Executive Board at its May meeting.

Review of the Proposed Code of Ethics – Deadline Approaching

The January 30th deadline to review the posted draft code of ethics and submit your comments is quickly approaching.

At the 2011 AAA Annual Meeting recently held in Montréal, Quebec, Canada, the AAA Executive Board (EB) voted to receive a draft revision of the AAA’s Code of Ethics as revised by the Task Force for Comprehensive Ethics Review. The EB also passed a resolution thanking the task force and its chair, Dena Plemmons, for all of their hard work. Beginning in early 2009, the Task Force was commissioned to review the Code of Ethics and consult extensively with relevant AAA committees and commissions, the Section Assembly, the membership at large and other interested parties. The Task Force finished its review in October 2011.

After receiving the draft, the EB appointed a subcommittee to review the draft code which is currently available for review on the AAA website. The subcommittee is chaired by Vice President and President-Elect Monica Heller, and members include Hugh Gusterson, Jean Schensul, Ida Susser, Vilma Santiago, Deb Martin, Sandra Lopez Varela and AAA President Leith Mullings (ex-officio). The subcommittee will present its recommendation to the Executive Board at its May meeting.

We invite you, the membership at large to review the posted code, and submit your comments by January 30, 2012 to ethicsfeedback@aaanet.org for the subcommittee to consider.  Your input is crucial to this process, and we thank you for your dedication to our association.

Review of the Proposed Code of Ethics

At the 2011 AAA Annual Meeting recently held in Montréal, Quebec, Canada, the AAA Executive Board (EB) voted to receive a draft revision of the AAA’s Code of Ethics as revised by the Task Force for Comprehensive Ethics Review. The EB also passed a resolution thanking the task force and its chair, Dena Plemmons, for all of their hard work. Beginning in early 2009, the Task Force was commissioned to review the Code of Ethics and consult extensively with relevant AAA committees and commissions, the Section Assembly, the membership at large and other interested parties. The Task Force finished its review in October 2011.

After receiving the draft, the EB appointed a subcommittee to review the draft code which is currently available for review on the AAA website. The subcommittee is chaired by Vice President and President-Elect Monica Heller, and members include Hugh Gusterson, Jean Schensul, Ida Susser, Vilma Santiago, Deb Martin, Sandra Lopez Varela and AAA President Leith Mullings (ex-officio). The subcommittee will present its recommendation to the Executive Board at its May meeting.

We invite you, the membership at large to review the posted code, and submit your comments by January 30, 2012 to ethicsfeedback@aaanet.org for the subcommittee to consider.  Your input is crucial to this process, and we thank you for your dedication to our association.

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