Briefing Paper on The Impact of
Material Assistance to Study Population
AAA Committee on Ethics
Prepared by Hy V. Luong
Preface: In Feburary 2001, the AAA Executive Committee asked the AAA Committee on Ethics to develop a plan for developing draft guidelines and other materials concerning ethical behavior in field situations. Among the issues to be addressed is the impact of material assistance to study populations. In its October 26-28, 2001 meetings, the Committee on Ethics reached the conclusion that it did not see a need for additional guidelines that addressed the first five issues given to the COE by the AAA Executive Committee for consideration in February 2001, including the issue of "the impact of material assistance to study population". The reason is the 1998 AAA Code of Ethic already provides guidance on those five ethical issues. In its October 26-28 meetings, the COE decided instead to submit briefing papers on those ethical issues.
Official Sources of Guidelines: The Committee on Ethics recognizes the need for anthropological researchers to provide some material assistance to individuals and groups in study populations, as well as to avoid the negative impacts of their material assistance on study populations. The AAA Code of Ethics, while not discussing specifically the impact of anthropological researchers' material assistance on study populations, has provided general guidelines regarding the responsibility of anthropological researchers to the people with whom they work and whose lives and cultures they study. The COE recommends that anthropological researchers become familiar with the AAA Code of Ethics and adhere to it during and after their research.
Background information on the Impact of Material Assistance to Study Population: The AAA Code of Ethics states: "Anthropological researchers have primary ethical obligations to the people, species, and materials they study and to the people with whom they work. These ethical obligations include:
How should anthropological researchers provide material assistance to the study population?
Anthropological researchers frequently provide material assistance to study populations as a reciprocity to collective or individual local assistance, or as integral parts of the newly formed/evolving relations with individuals or groups in study populations. The direct material assistance provided by anthropological researchers is normally limited in scope, as it is constrained by researchers' resources.
In conformity with the AAA Code of Ethics, despite its normally limited scope, material assistance to the study population should:
Anthropological researchers may not be able to foresee all the consequences of their material assistance to study populations. But in order to minimize harm and to contribute to the well-being of the study population and the conservation of its environment and heritages, the material assistance should be based on researchers' best professional knowledge of the study population in its historical, social, physical environments, as well as on careful consultation with other experts and with as many potentially affected individuals as possible.
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