The possibility of transforming SOPA (the Society of Professional Archaeologists) into ROPA (the Register of Professional Archaeologists) was discussed by a joint SAA/SOPA Task Force that met February 3-5 in St. Louis, Mo. The task force will recommend to the SAA and SOPA Boards that ROPA be established as a legally separate but sponsored organization, and that the Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA) be invited to join with SAA as a cosponsor of the register. The task force will also recommend that if the concept is approved by the boards of all three societies, ample information about the proposal and opportunities for discussion be provided to the members of the societies prior to a vote by their respective memberships.
The task force based its recommendations on the premise that concerns about ethics and standards currently widespread in the archaeological community could more effectively be addressed if larger numbers of archaeologists voluntarily declared themselves accountable to a code similar to that maintained by SOPA over the past 19 years. It was felt that this goal could be achieved by replacing SOPA with a register sponsored by the two societies that currently have the largest number of members working in North American archaeology: the SAA and SHA. The name "Register of Professional Archaeologists" was recommended because the new entity would not be a true society, but rather would consist only of a register of professional archaeologists and a board of directors to maintain and administer it. To be registered, archaeologists would voluntarily present their qualifications and subscribe to a code of ethics and a set of professional standards.
The genesis of the task force was a joint meeting of the SAA and SOPA ethics committees at the 1994 SAA Annual Meeting in Anaheim. Because SAA's ethics committee was developing a set of position papers, and SOPA had maintained a detailed Code of Ethics and Standards of Research Performance since 1976, the members of the two ethics committees felt that a closer working relationship between SAA and SOPA should be explored. The committee chairs discussed this idea with their respective boards, and the presidents of the two organizations appointed a task force to study it further. Bill Lipe heads the SAA portion of the task force, and Chip McGimsey, the SOPA portion. SAA members are C. Melvin Aikens, Keith Kintigh, Paul Nickens, and Donna Seifert; SOPA is represented by Charles Cleland, Edward Jelks, William Lees, and Heather McKillop.
William D. Lipe and Charles R. McGimsey III are co-chairs for the SAA SOPA Task Force