Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Task Force Named for Comprehensive Ethics Review

As the membership is aware, there have been recent revisions to the AAA's Code of Ethics, in response to a motion put forward at the business meeting of the AAA in 2007. The revisions, on which the membership is now being asked to vote, were specific to only a few sections of the code, and consisted of a very few sentences. In light of the specificity of those revisions, the Executive Board has determined that a more comprehensive review of the entire Code of Ethics is warranted. The EB has convened a task force to undertake such a review over the next two years. The official charge is:

"The Executive Board recommends the formation of a Task Force to review and propose revisions to the AAA Code of Ethics, which: (a) will consist of three (3) members of the Committee on Ethics and five (5) additional members to be chosen by the President in consultation with the Executive Board and the Task Force Chair; (b) be authorized to review the Code of Ethics for a period of no longer than 18 months, and (c) consult extensively over a period of no less than six months with relevant AAA committees and commissions, the Section Assembly, the membership at large and others through presentations and panel discussions at the 2009 annual meeting and articles and reports in Anthropology News. The new code is subject to approval by the Executive Board before being submitted for approval to the AAA membership by email ballot. This Task Force will issue its final report to the Executive Board by Nov. 15, 2010."

Task Force members have been selected and can be viewed here.

Minerva Moves Forward

According to Inside Higher Ed, the first seven Minerva grants were announced this week. Minerva is a Pentagon-funded program that seeks contributions from social scientists on a number of topics of use to the military: religion, terrorism, the Chinese military, etc. The stated goals of the program are “1) to develop the DoD’s social and human science intellectual capital in order to enhance its ability to address future challenges; 2) to enhance the DoD’s engagement with the social science community; and 3) to deepen the understanding of the social and behavioral dimensions of national security issues.”

Hugh Gusterson and Catherine Lutz of the Network of Concerned Anthropologists are featured in the article, and detail some of the implications the program might pose to the social sciences.

Have thoughts about the Minerva program? If so, leave us a comment below.

NSF/DoD Minerva Joint Solicitation

AAA letter regarding Minerva [pdf]

"Military's Social Science Grants Raise Alarm" ~ Washington Post

"When Professors Go to War" ~ Hugh Gusterson

"Pentagon Shift on 'Minerva'" ~ Inside Higher Ed

"Anthropology Association Urges Government to Tread Cautiously With 'Minerva' Project" ~ The Chronicle of Higher Education

"Academics Target Pentagon's Social Science Project" ~ Wired's Danger Room,

"AAA Issues Statement on Minerva" ~ Savage Minds

DoD Defense Bloggers Roundtable Regarding Minerva [pdf]

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Obama Names Science & Technology Advisers

President-elect Obama named four top science and technology advisers over the weekend, while highlighting the importance of restoring science as one of America's top priorities. In his weekly radio broadcast, Obama said, “promoting science isn’t just about providing resources, it’s about protecting free and open inquiry. It’s about ensuring that facts and evidence are never twisted or obscured by politics or ideology. It’s about listening to what our scientists have to say, even when it’s inconvenient—-especially when it’s inconvenient--because the highest purpose of science is the search for knowledge, truth, and greater understanding of the world around us. That will be my goal as President of the United States, and I could not have a better team to guide me in this work.” These are encouraging words, and we sincerely hope that his team will act quickly to change policies governing important environmental and medical issues.

As part of Obama’s new advisory team, John Holdren, a physicist and environmental policy professor at Harvard, will direct the White House Office of Science and Technology. Jane Lubchenco, a marine biologist at Oregon State University, will lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Nobel Prize-winning cancer researcher Harold Varmus and genomic researcher Eric Lander will also join Obama's team of science advisers.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Chicago's Arne Duncan Nominated as Education Secretary

Arne Duncan is President-elect Obama's choice for Secretary of Education. Duncan has administered Chicago's public-school system for the past seven years and is credited with increasing enrollment opportunities, raising test scores, and replacing ineffective teachers. According to the NY Times, "He argued that the nation's schools needed to be held accountable for student progress, but also needed major new investments, new talent and new teacher-training efforts." Duncan's position straddles the two major camps of American educators, and he often strives for compromise between opposing parties. He also helped draft Obama's education platform which emphasizes investments in early childhood education, teacher recruitment, performance-based teacher pay initiatives, training of principals, and the importance of science and math.

Are you satisfied with Obama's choice? How do you think Duncan could address the problems facing higher education? Your comments are welcome.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Steven Chu Nominated as Energy Secretary

President-elect Barack Obama recently nominated Nobel-Prize winning physicist Steven Chu to be Secretary of Energy. Chu has a firm understanding of science policy, climate change, research and energy issues, and we are hopeful that he will revitalize scientific funding and research. Please visit Chu's brief interview with Science Debate 2008 for his thoughts on the role that science has to play in US prosperity.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Pulse of the Planet #8

The next op-ed in CounterPunch's ongoing "Pulse of the Planet" series is Shannon May's "Ecological Crisis and Eco-Villages in China." The series is derived from conference papers that were delivered at the "Pulse of the Planet" panel during AAA's 2008 annual meeting in San Francisco.

In her article, May evaluates an initiative to construct a carbon-neutral sustainable housing development in rural China while bridging the urban-rural economic divide. Her research highlights how government leaders and designers failed to consider the ways in which local rural populations subsist. As a result, income generated from aquaculture and cashmere fiber suffered under the project. A substantial portion of income was also wasted on heating homes during winter, a season when local families have time to provide heating for themselves. May writes, "There is no environmental policy that is not at the same time an economic policy." Global sustainability and development goals can be reached without reinforcing the urban-rural divide, but, in order to do so, eco-friendly projects must first take into account the needs, values, and livelihoods of local populations.

Prior Pulse of the Planet Articles:
"How Dow Chemical Defies Homeland Security and Risks Another 9/11" ~ Brian McKenna
"The Inequities of Climate Change and the Small Island Experience" ~ Holly Barker
"What the Next President Must Do to Save FEMA" ~ Gregory V. Button
"The Clean, Green Nuclear Machine?" ~ Barbara Rose Johnston
"Carbon Offsets: More Harm Than Good?" ~ Melissa Checker
"The Human Right to Eat" ~ Joan P. Mencher
"Dam Legacies, Damned Futures" ~ Barbara Rose Johnston

Monday, December 01, 2008

Pulse of the Planet #7

CounterPunch's Pulse of the Planet Series Returns with Brian McKenna's article, "How Dow Chemical Defies Homeland Security and Risks Another 9/11." The series is derived from the "Pulse of the Planet" panel that was recently held at the 2008 AAA annual meeting in San Francisco.

McKenna details how Dow Chemical has manipulated U.S. politics to its own advantage and the impact that this has had upon the health and security of our nation. He also describes the role of Dow Chemical in two international events that parallel the destruction wrought on 9/11. McKenna urges President-elect Obama to revive the "Chemical Security and Safety Act" (S.2486) of 2006 and join with labor and environmental groups in calling for: "safer and more secure chemicals and processes..., allow states to set more protective security standards if they so wish, require collaboration between the Department of Homeland Security, the EPA and other agencies to circumvent regulatory redundancy, and dramatically protect the rights of industry whistleblowers."