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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.

American Anthropological Association Position on Dissemination of Research

The AAA’s role is to be vigilant when it comes to proposed legislation that aims to limit dissemination of research, and that may disproportionately protect private over public interests. At the same time, AAA’s role is to protect the sustainability of our publications program, for anthropology as a whole and for individual authors.  We continue to investigate models that both support broad dissemination of knowledge and a sustainable publishing program.

To this end, the Executive Board has adopted the following motion:

Acknowledging the Association’s commitment to “a publications program that disseminates the most current anthropological research, expertise, and interpretation to its members, the discipline, and the broader society,” but also the need for a sustainable publication strategy, and building on the Association’s support for a variety of publishing models, the AAA opposes any Congressional legislation which, if it were enacted, imposes a blanket prohibition against open access publishing policies by all federal agencies.

Science in Anthropology Session at AAA’s Annual Meeting

Click the play button to listen to the Science in Anthropology: An Open Discussion session (3-0430) at AAA’s Annual Meeting.

This invited roundtable session was sponsored by the Society for Anthropological Sciences, organized by Peter Peregrine (Lawrence U) and chaired by President Virginia Dominguez (U of Illinois). Roundtable presenters included Daniel A. Segal (Pitzer College), H Russell Bernard (U of Florida) and Jonathan M. Marks (U of North Carolina at Charlotte). The session was held on Thursday, November 17, 2011 at 10:15 at the Palais de Congrès in Montréal.

This recording is also located in the American Anthropological Association’s iTunes library.

Additional coverage of the session:
Science in Anthropology: Humanistic Science and Scientific Humanism by Jason Antrosio of Living Anthropologically
Anthropologists Seek A More Nuanced Place for Science by Dan Barret of The Chronicle of Higher Education
Not Feeling the Kinship by Scott Jaschik of Inside Higher Ed
Science and the Ring Species of Anthropology by A.P. Van Arsdale of A.P. Van Arsdale Biological Anthropology Lab
Twitter feed recap of the session by Caroline VanSickle

A special thanks to Augstin Fuentes for recording the session and collaborative effort by Dan Segal and Julienne Rutherford.

Did you write on this session? Leave your blog link as a comment to this post.

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