You are hereStatement on Ethics (1971)
Statement on Ethics (1971)
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Statement on Ethics, Principles of Professional Responsibility
Statements on Ethics
Principles of Professional Responsibility
Adopted by the Council of the American Anthropological Association May 1971
Note: This statement of principles is not intended to supersede previous statements and resolutions of the Association. Its intent is to clarify professional responsibilities in the chief areas of professional concern to anthropologists.
Anthropologists work in many parts of the world in close personal association with the peoples and situations they study. Their professional situation is, therefore, uniquely varied and complex. They are involved with their discipline, their colleagues, their students, their sponsors, their subjects, their own and host governments, the particular individuals and groups with whom they do their field work, other populations and interest groups in the nations within which they work, and the study of processes and issues affecting general human welfare. In a field of such complex involvements, misunderstandings, conflicts and the necessity to make choices among conflicting values are bound to arise and to generate ethical dilemmas. It is a prime responsibility of anthropologists to anticipate these and to plan to resolve them in such a way as to do damage neither to those whom they study nor, in so far as possible, to their scholarly community. Where these conditions cannot be met, the anthropologist would be well-advised not to pursue the particular piece of research.
The following principles are deemed fundamental to the anthropologist's responsible, ethical pursuit of his profession.
1. Relations with those studied:
In research, an anthropologist's paramount responsibility is to those he studies. When there is a conflict of interest, these individuals must come first. The anthropologist must do everything within his power to protect their physical, social and psychological welfare and to honor their dignity and privacy.
- Where research involves the acquisition of material and information transferred on the assumption of trust between persons, it is axiomatic that the rights, interests, and sensitivities of those studied must be safeguarded.
- The aims of the investigation should be communicated as well as possible to the informant.
- Informants have a right to remain anonymous. This right should be respected both where it has been promised explicitly and where no clear understanding to the contrary has been reached. These strictures apply to the collection of data by means of cameras, tape recorders, and other data-gathering devices, as well as to data collected in face-to-face interviews or in participant observation. Those being studied should understand the capacities of such devices; they should be free to reject them if they wish; and if they accept them, the results obtained should be consonant with the informant's right to welfare, dignity and privacy.
- There should be no exploitation of individual informants for personal gain. Fair return should be given them for all services.
- There is an obligation to reflect on the foreseeable repercussions of research and publication on the general population being studied.
- The anticipated consequences of research should be communicated as fully as possible to the individuals and groups likely to be affected.
- In accordance with the Association's general position on clandestine and secret research, no reports should be provided to sponsors that are not also available to the general public and, where practicable, to the population studied.
- Every effort should be exerted to cooperate with members of the host society in the planning and execution of research projects.
- All of the above points should be acted upon in full recognition of the social and cultural pluralism of host societies and the consequent plurality of values, interests and demands in those societies. This diversity complicates choice-making in research, but ignoring it leads to irresponsible decisions.
2. Responsibility to the public:
The anthropologist is also responsible to the public-all presumed consumers of his professional efforts. To them he owes a commitment to candor and to truth in the dissemination of his research results and in the statement of his opinions as a student of man.
- He should not communicate his findings secretly to some and withhold them from others.
- He should not knowingly falsify or color his findings.
- In providing professional opinions, he is responsible not only for their content but also for integrity in explaining both these opinions and their bases.
- As people who devote their professional lives to understanding man, anthropologists bear a positive responsibility to speak out publicly, both individually and collectively, on what they know and what they believe as a result of their professional expertise gained in the study of human beings. That is, they bear a professional responsibility to contribute to an "adequate definition of reality" upon which public opinion and public policy may be based.
- In public discourse, the anthropologist should be honest about his qualifications and cognizant of the limitations of anthropological expertise.
3. Responsibility to the discipline:
An anthropologist bears responsibility for the good reputation of his discipline and its practitioners.
- He should undertake no secret research or any research whose results cannot be freely derived and publicly reported.
- He should avoid even the appearance of engaging in clandestine research, by fully and freely disclosing the aims and sponsorship of all his research.
- He should attempt to maintain a level of integrity and rapport in the field such that by his behavior and example he will not jeopardize future research there. The responsibility is not to analyze and report so as to offend no one, but to conduct research in a way consistent with a commitment to honesty, open inquiry, clear communication of sponsorship and research aims, and concern for the welfare and privacy of informants.
4. Responsibility to students:
In relations with students an anthropologist should be candid, fair, nonexploitative and committed to their welfare and academic progress.
As Robert Lekachman has suggested, honesty is the essential quality of a good teacher, neutrality is not. Beyond honest teaching, the anthropologist as a teacher has ethical responsibilities in selection, instruction in ethics, career counseling, academic supervision, evaluation, compensation and placement.
- He should select students in such a way as to preclude discrimination on the basis of sex, race, ethnic group, social class and other categories of people indistinguishable by their intellectual potential.
- He should alert students to the ethical problems of research and discourage them from participating in projects employing questionable ethical standards. This should include providing them with information and discussions to protect them from unethical pressures and enticements emanating from possible sponsors, as well as helping them to find acceptable alternatives (see point i below).
- He should be receptive and seriously responsive to students' interests, opinions and desires in all aspects of their academic work and relationships.
- He should realistically counsel students regarding career opportunities.
- He should conscientiously supervise, encourage and support students in their anthropological and other academic endeavors.
- He should inform students of what is expected of them in their course of study. He should be fair in the evaluation of their performance. He should communicate evaluations to the students concerned.
- He should acknowledge in print the student assistance he uses in his own publications, give appropriate credit (including co-authorship) when student research is used in publication, encourage and assist in publication of worthy student papers, and compensate students justly for the use of their time, energy and intelligence in research and teaching.
- He should energetically assist students in securing legitimate research support and the necessary permissions to pursue research.
- He should energetically assist students in securing professional employment upon completion of their studies.
- He should strive to improve both our techniques of teaching and our techniques for evaluating the effectiveness of our methods of teaching.
5. Responsibility to sponsors:
In his relations with sponsors of research, an anthropologist should be honest about his qualifications, capabilities and aims. He thus faces the obligation, prior to entering any commitment for research, to reflect sincerely upon the purposes of his sponsors in terms of their past behavior. He should be especially careful not to promise or imply acceptance of conditions contrary to his professional ethics or competing commitments. This requires that he require of the sponsor full disclosure of the sources of funds, personnel, aims of the institution and the research project, disposition of research results. He must retain the right to make all ethical decisions in his research. He should enter into no secret agreement with the sponsor regarding the research, results or reports.
6. Responsibilities to one's own government and to host governments:
In his relation with his own government and with host governments, the research anthropologist should be honest and candid. He should demand assurance that he will not be required to compromise his professional responsibilities and ethics as a condition of his permission to pursue the research. Specifically, no secret research, no secret reports or debriefings of any kind should be agreed to or given. If these matters are clearly understood in advance, serious complications and misunderstandings can generally be avoided,
In the final analysis, anthropological research is a human undertaking, dependent upon choices for which the individual bears ethical as well as scientific responsibility. That responsibility is a human, not superhuman responsibility. To err is human, to forgive humane. This statement of principles of professional responsibility is not designed to punish, but to provide guidelines which can minimize the occasions upon which there is a need to forgive. When an anthropologist, by his actions, jeopardizes peoples studied, professional colleagues, students or others, or if he otherwise betrays his professional commitments, his colleagues may legitimately inquire into the propriety of those actions, and take such measures as lie within the legitimate powers of their Association as the membership of the Association deems appropriate.
The following amendments to the Principles of Professional Responsibility have been approved by the Council of the American Anthropological Association:
1. Relations with those studied:
1.c.(1) Despite every effort being made to preserve anonymity it should be made clear to informants that such anonymity may be compromised unintentionally. (November 1975)
3. Responsibility to the discipline:
3.d. He should not present as his own work, either in speaking or writing, materials directly taken from other sources. (October 1974)
3.e. When he participates in actions related to hiring, retention and advancement, he should ensure that no exclusionary practices be perpetuated against colleagues on the basis of sex, marital status, color, social class, religion, ethnic background, national origin, or other non-academic attributes. He should, furthermore, refrain from transmitting and resist the use of information irrelevant to professional performance in such personal actions (November 1975).