Wednesday, May 28, 2008

AAA Responds to Proposed Minerva Consortium

In a recent letter (below) to the White House’s Office of Management of Budget, the AAA has called for a redirection of funding and management of the "Minerva Consortia," a Defense Department program which aims to support social science research in critical security areas such as Iraqi and terrorist perspectives and Chinese military and technology studies.

The letter, authored by AAA President Setha M. Low on behalf of the AAA, supports the overall mission of the Minerva program—to use humanities and social science research to promote a reduction in armed conflict. Yet Low argues that organizations such as the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Health and the National Endowment for the Humanities would be more effective in funding and managing the project and in reaching out to key scholars.

“Rigorous, balanced and objective peer review is the bedrock of successful and productive programs that sponsor academic research. Agencies such as NSF, NIH and NEH have decades of experience in building an infrastructure of respected peer-reviewers who referee individual grant proposals and give their time on selected panels,” wrote Low.

Low also warned that a program funded by the Defense Department might accept scholars who are not familiar with disciplinary standards, and might fail to attract some key experts that are unfamiliar with Defense Department funding processes.

Readers are encouraged to voice their thoughts on Project Minerva and our response to the proposed program in the comments section below.

Related Links:
AAA Minerva Letter [pdf]
Chronicle of Higher Ed Blog Posting
Inside Higher Ed Article
Wired Magazine's Danger Room Blog Posting
Savage Minds Blog Posting

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Open Source Conference

The Director of National Intelligence 2008 Open Source Conference will be held September 11-12, 2008 in Washington, DC. Last year’s conference featured panels on the social sciences and human terrain, academic outreach, and academic-open source connections. The conference should prove interesting to those who are seeking a better understanding of the intelligence community and how some segments of this community view and employ the social sciences. Registration is free, but all attendees must register in advance.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

SfAA Passes Motion Regarding HTS

The Society for Applied Anthropology approved the following motion regarding the Human Terrain System:

"The board of the SFAA expresses grave concerns about the potential harmful use of social science knowledge and skills in the HTS project. The SFAA believes that social scientists can be helpful to the military by offering training, analysis, and evaluation so long as these activities are compatible with this organization's code of ethics."

The vote on this motion was:

Yes: 13
No: 0
Abstain: 0

The AAA has also expressed concern about the potential ethical implications of HTS, and our Executive Board, Committee on Ethics, and Ad Hoc Commission on the Engagement of Anthropology with US Security and Intelligence Communities continue to discuss this issue in great detail.

AAA Statement on HTS
Ad Hoc Commission on the Engagement of Anthropology with US Security and Intelligence Communities

Friday, May 16, 2008

Harrison Ford Becomes an Archaeologist

Well, not quite. He has, however, been elected to the board of directors of the Archaeological Institute of America. We hope his celebrity will increase the visibility of archaeology and the importance of preserving our cultural heritage.* Now, if we could only get him to join the AAA.

*We recommend using proper excavation techniques, as opposed to running through archaeological sites and taking off with the most aesthetically pleasing artifacts you happen to see.

AP Story
NPR - Indiana Jones: Saving History or Stealing It?

New Import Restrictions on Iraqi Artifacts

The Department of State announced that it is imposing import restrictions on Iraqi cultural heritage material under the Emergency Protection for Iraqi Cultural Antiquities Act of 2004. The import restrictions apply to cultural property that has been illegally removed from Iraq since 1990. The restrictions will hopefully stem the trade of an estimated 32,000 artifacts looted from Iraqi archaeological sites and 15,000 items stolen from the Baghdad National Museum. Illegal trade continues throughout the US, Europe, and other parts of the world, and additional action is needed to prevent further looting and protect the culture and history of past civilizations.

Dept. Homeland Security Announcement

Monday, May 12, 2008

IUAES Conference Postponed

Members of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences were disappointed to hear that the upcoming conference in Kunming was postponed by Chinese authorities. The Chronicle for Higher Education reported that the People's Republic is concerned about a conference that addresses sensitive topics, such as ethnic diversity and conflict, so close to the start of the Olympics.

Related Articles
The Chronicle for Higher Education

Sign on San Diego

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Minorities and Anthropology: Reflecting on 35 Years

In 1969, the AAA passed a resolution calling for the recruitment of under-represented groups into anthropology and encouraging efforts to hire and facilitate their careers within the discipline. This year, the AAA Executive Board has established the Commission on Race and Racism in Anthropology and the AAA in order to re-evaluate how the discipline’s minority issues have changed over the past 35 years.

The AAA encourages members of the anthropology community or others interested in this subject to reflect on issues of race and racism in professional structures and practices of anthropology. We invite all members of the anthropology community to read the 1973 report and to reflect on what has and has not changed during the past thirty-five years.

1973 Minority Report

Minorities in Anthropology: 1973 versus 2008, Progress or Illusion *As printed in the April 2008 issue of Anthropology News

Commission on Race and Racism in Anthropology and the AAA

Improving Intellectual Property Law

The House Judiciary Committee approved the ‘Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act’ (H.R. 4279) to strengthen the enforcement of laws against intellectual property piracy and counterfeiting. The bill will increase penalties for copyright infringement, improve agencies tasked with enforcing intellectual property, and increase efforts to combat infringement at both the national and international level.

A video webcast of the hearing is available here

Congressional Subcommittees Discuss the Social Sciences and National Security

The Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee held a joint session with the Subcommittee on Research and Science Education to discuss the role of behavioral and social sciences in national security. The hearing—which came a week after Defense Secretary Robert Gates proposed a program (the Minerva Consortium) for Pentagon-funded, university-based social science research—included discussions about the potential contributions that the social sciences can make to national security, most notably in form of language instruction, cross-cultural communication, modeling of social networks, and the human terrain system. Several individuals at the hearing called for closer ties between the Pentagon and the National Science Foundation to support research relevant to national security issues. Col. Martin Schweitzer, a brigade commander in the US Army, received a number of questions regarding the Human Terrain System. Shweitzer admitted the teams were not constructed in the most ideal fashion, he maintained that they are instrumental in reducing violence and building relations with local communities.

Prepared statements and audio transcripts from this hearing are available at