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Conference | Seminar

Discussing ethics and integrity: Anthropological dilemma’s

  • Birgit Meyer
  • Annelies Moors
  • Martijn de Koning
  • Peter Pels
Wednesday 24 January 2018
Nieuwe Achtergracht 166
1018 WV Amsterdam
REC B 5.12

Increasingly confronted with questions about the person of the researcher, the protection of interlocutors and participation in Open Science, anthropologists from LU and other (international) universities feel it is urgent to engage with issues such as disclosure, transparency, anonymity, and data ownership.

The organisers sense a shift from a concern with ethical issues (in terms of engagement with interlocutors and responsibilities vis-à-vis them) to a focus on scientific integrity and data management (the protection of institutions). Policy makers desire to develop centralized directives that can be applied to a broad range of academic disciplines. These are often at odds with the ethical concerns of anthropologists, who tend to underline the need for a case-specific situated ethics rather than for generalized rules.

The organisers intend to use this seminar to start a conversation on these topics. It will begin with an overview of a state of the art at various universities in the Netherlands, and subsequently move to an analysis how external forces (political/state actors, funders, university administrators, media and various publics) attempt to influence academic work, discuss the trouble with transparency, and end with a discussion, together with guests from the UK and Germany, on how to (not) engage with Open Access of ‘research data’.

Topics that could be discussed

Some issues for discussion:

  • The person of the researcher: Anthropologists are critical of the notion of the unbiased, neutral researcher, recognizing that we are all positioned in particular ways and that what matters is that we actively reflect on this. However, currently we are witnessing a shift from arguing for the need to reflect on the researcher’s positionality to the need to publicly report on political perspectives and values for the sake of transparency (with ‘conflict of interest’ stretched from material interests to values). While debates amongst anthropologists center on transparency vis-à-vis one’s interlocutors, policy debates seem more concerned with accountability to the public.
  • The protection of interlocutors: Whereas anonymity is a standard practice in anthropology, based on an ethics of doing no harm, the partial shift ‘from ethics to integrity’ puts a renewed emphasis on ‘controllability’ which translates in an aversion of anonymity. At the same time, whereas we value the ‘doing no harm’ principle, we also face dilemmas, such as when interlocutors themselves argue for disclosure or when disclosure may actually be necessary in order to avert harm being done to others.
  • Demands for ‘Open Science’: Increased pressure to make one’s ‘primary data’ (fieldnotes) available either for re-use by other researchers or as means of control is particularly problematic for anthropologists. The organisers argue against a generalized notion of ‘raw data’ and ‘data sets’, and instead, point out that data are not the private property of researchers (transferable to those who pay the researchers), are always already processed or framed (and hence ‘copyrighted’) with much of our knowledge embodied rather than registered.

Programme (provisional)

  • 09:00 – 09:30 Coffee, tea, and getting comfortable

  • 09:30 – 09:40 Welcome

  • 09:40 – 11:00 Ethic regimes and practices: Anthropologists at Dutch universities, with Annemarie Mol (UvA), Freek Colombijn (VU) Martijn Oosterbaan (UU, Anouk de Koning (RU), Kim Knibbe (Groningen) and Peter Pels (LU), chair Birgit Meyer (UU).

  • 11:00 – 11:30 Break

  • 11:30 – 12.30 The trouble with transparency. A presentation with interventions, Annelies Moors (UvA) with Peter Geschiere (UvA) and Amade M’charek (UvA)

  • 12:30 – 13:30 Lunch

  • 13:30 – 14:45 Round table dilemmas in practice, with Martijn de Koning (UvA, RU,) Erella Grassiani (UvA), Pooyan Tamimi Arab (UU)Annet Pauwelussen (Wageningen University), and others.

  • 14:45 – 15:15 Break

  • 15:15 – 17:15 How can anthropology survive in a world of  Open Science: International perspectives: Peter Pels (LU) Hansjörg Dilger (FU Berlin). Margaret Sleeboom-Faulkner (University of Sussex), Bob Simpson (University of Durham).

  • 17:15 – 18:00 Future plans


Attendance is free, but registering is necessary via: ethicsanthro@gmail.com


This event is organized by Birgit Meyer (UU), Annelies Moors (UvA), Peter Pels (UL) and Martijn de Koning (UvA/RU), and supported by the AISSR, the Religious Matters in an Entangled World research program (Utrecht University) and ERC Project 2013-AdG-324180.

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