October 4, 2008

Ethics in academia; Duncan Fuller

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — ubikcan @ 9:09 am

Following on from my previous post about open debate about ethics in anthropology, but not so much in geography, I’ve come across the Network of Concerned Anthropologists (NCA).

The issue here revolves around the proposed new code of ethics in the AAA, and more specifically the ban on doing secret research. (Secret research is either clandestine research, or research that is not released to its subjects but is released to other parties.) A ban on this is included in the new proposed code for the AAA, which the NA was instrumental in winning during earlier negotiations.

What is interesting to me as a professional geographer and a member of the AAG for 20 years or so is that anthropologists are having this debate about ethics in the open. Second, that “ethics” here is more than strictures on using good data, treating people professionally and so on (professional ethics) but ethics as a way of being–a more Foucauldian understanding if you like. And thirdly, you can’t help but be struck by the fact that an independent, ad-hoc network of concerned anthropologists was invited to have a seat at the negotiation table.

In geography, matters are quite different. We do not have a Network of Concerned Geographers who are invited to hammer out position statements in the AAG. Partly this is because the AAG absents itself from making position statements (largely, I suspect because it wants to be taken seriously by DC powers and agencies, and to not scare off funders, and partly because it is institutionally very conservative). For example the AAG has never issued a public statement about: using race-based data; geographers and the military; DoD funding of geographical research; or ethical conduct and society.

There is a call for papers on geographic information ethics and GIScience for the 2009 AAG meeting (sorry, no link, but contact either Francis Harvey or Dawn Wright) which continues the panel discussion at last year’s conference in Boston. This work has been focused on developing ethics in the GIS curriculum.

The closest we’ve come is a more nascent and informal interest in public geographies which is largely being carried out at the individual level. One of the leaders here was Duncan Fuller (see his first progress report in Progress in Human Geography, last article on the page). Yesterday his colleague Kye Askins sent a message to say that Duncan had died that morning. I had never met Duncan, just corresponded with him, but it is shocking and sad news. There will likley be a memorial service for him, but I know he is going to be terribly missed.

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