Anthropology and Human Subjects

Before retirement I was the Director of the Cultural Anthropology program as well as the Human Subjects Research Officer (see below) at the National Science Foundation (NSF) for 20 years.

Anthropology program officer work

The program officer job involved overseeing the peer review of about 200 research proposals from academic anthropologists every year. NSF makes grants for academic research, and the cultural anthropology program gives away about $2.6 million to universities each year to support research. You can see a list of grants that NSF funded through the NSF Fastlane site by clicking on "award search and funding trends" on the left side of the screen.

Human subjects officer work

The Human Subjects job involved overseeing and coordinating NSF's efforts to protect human subjects of research, which is mandated by federal law as well as morally and ethically necessary.

I attended meetings and visit universities to lecture on the importance of protecting research participants from harm while at the same time not limiting or preventing research for bureaucratic, non-substantive reasons. This is especially important for social and behavioral science research, since the regulations were designed mainly for biomedical, clinical research. The regulations are administered on university campuses by Institutional Review Boards (IRBs), who must approve each research project for it to go forward. My papers on this issue discuss what the problems are and my recommended solutions.

My 2002 paper on Anthropology and the human subjects regulations.

My 2004 paper on Excluded, exempt, and other types of research.

Here are some useful links for human subjects protection issues:

The main government office regulating human subjects protections, with an overwhelming focus on biomedical research.

NSF's Frequently Asked Questions about the regulations.

The Human Subjects regulations (caution: jargon ahead!!)

My anthropological research

When I'm doing anthropology instead of administering its support, I do economic anthropology meaning I study economic behavior with an ethnographic methodology. I observe and talk directly to people in their normal life situations, and try to understand and explain their behavior through small scale case studies.

Here is my text on Economic Anthropology, Stanford U. Press 1989.

I'm a co-founder and first President of the Society for Anthropological Sciences (SAS), a part of the American Anthropological Association (AAA). The SAS is devoted to advancing social science in cultural anthropology.

I'm a co-founder, ex-President and current archivist for the Society for Economic Anthropology (SEA), an academic society devoted to advancing the study of economic anthropology.

I've studied how people make economic decisions in various field sites:

San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico

Soulard Public Market, St. Louis

Here's my paper on The market in St. Louis for contemporary art

My book on the St. Louis art market, U. Chicago Press, 1996

Here's my paper on The market for contemporary art in Florence, Italy

Se leggi italiano ecco il mio saggio sul tema del Arte contemporanea a Firenze

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