Public Policy/Advocacy

Friends of the Committee on Ethics Group Launched

We’d like to introduce to the membership the Friends of the Committee on Ethics. This newly established ad hoc consultative body is now convened to provide expertise and informal consultation to the membership of the AAA about ethical implications of anthropological research / practice decisions.  Some background about the creation and expected contributions of this body might be helpful here. In 2006, Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban and Kathleen Martin, both past Chairs of the AAA’s CoE, proposed the creation of Friends of the Committee on Ethics, an ad hoc body that could provide informal consultation to the CoE members regarding matters of ethical practice. Simultaneous with discussions of this proposal by the Committee on Ethics, in early 2008, the Executive Board of the AAA instructed the Committee on Ethics to discuss the advisability of “setting up a permanent mode of member counseling on ethical dilemmas, and what form such counseling might take.” Thus, the proposal to expand on the ideas found in the initial Friends of the Committee on Ethics and create a consultative body for the membership (not just the Committee on Ethics) was submitted to the Executive Board, and approved, in late 2008.

The Mission Statement of the Friends is as follows:

The Friends of the Committee on Ethics will be an ad hoc consultative body of anthropologists who have agreed to serve the membership in an advisory capacity on questions about the ethical implications of research and practice decisions/choices /issues. The benefit of such a body to the membership is the availability of a dynamic and diverse network of practitioners who can provide multiple viewpoints on both broad and specific issues that concern the membership regarding ethical considerations in anthropological research and practice. They complement the Committee on Ethics by providing continuity and institutional memory, as well as bringing to bear their own experience, professional expertise and contacts with practitioners  representing a tremendous breadth of theoretical orientation, methodological approach, fieldsites, disciplinary focus and research experience. The Friends of the CoE will not be a standing committee of the AAA, but rather a committed group of anthropologists with relevant experience and willingness to share that experience as needed.  In many instances the Friends can address the implications of ethical issues based on their own experience and competency; in others they can offer access to a broader group of contacts with relevant training, experience or concerns.

The Friends will be comprised of past Chairs of the Committee on Ethics; as this body is being newly formed, all past Chairs who are members of the AAA will be invited to become part of the group. In the future, the immediate past Chair of the CoE will automatically become part of the advisory body; should a past Chair be unable or unwilling to be part of the advisory body, he/she should make a request of the sitting Chair of the CoE to have his/her name withdrawn.

Questions about the ethical implications of research / practice will come first to the Committee on Ethics (as this has long been the case). Neither the CoE nor the Friends group will investigate or adjudicate complaints against individual members; as has also been the case since the last code of ethics was ratified in 1998, the Committee has a common response to concerns submitted that are beyond the mandate of the Committee (individual disputes between scholars, tenure/hiring disagreements, legal issues)Questions which concern discipline-wide issues of ethical practice, responsibility, diligence and accountability, and which would benefit from review by the Friends, will be sent on to the Friends listserv;  individual members of the Friends group may separately choose whether to respond to a given issue or topic.

In addition to working with the other members of the body, it is expected that each Friend will also rely on his/her own professional and personal network in addressing any questions or issues. The Friends do not make determinations about practice or research; rather, the Friends will offer, to the CoE and/or to individual anthropologists referred by the CoE, collegial advice and access to the views of a broader and more diverse range of constituencies and stakeholders.

The Friends will have quarterly meetings by conference call to have the opportunity to discuss questions/issues which have been sent to them. In the interests of transparency, it is expected that the Friends will write a quarterly column for the AAA noting the issues (anonymously, unless otherwise negotiated) that have come to them for response and to share with the wider membership the resources and opinions generated.

Questions for the Friends should be submitted to the Chair of the Committee on Ethics, Dena Plemmons, at