The events that led to establishing the Register Task Force began at a meeting of the SAA and SOPA ethics committees at Anaheim in April 1994. The members of the two committees jointly discussed their mutual concerns about professional ethics and recommended to their two boards that a joint task force be appointed to review and explore ways to cooperate in promoting principles of professional ethics, performance, and accountability. In setting up the task force, both boards also appointed appropriate members of the Society for Historical Archaeology to ensure SHA participation in the February 1995 discussions in St. Louis. The task force's report was presented to the SAA, SOPA, and SHA boards and was discussed at a joint meeting of these boards at the recent SAA meetings in Minneapolis. Several officers of the AIA also attended, and the AIA Governing Board has expressed interest in that society being a cosponsor of the register, and being represented on the Register Task Force.
The objective of the Register Task Force will be to explore and develop a formal proposal for a Register of Professional Archaeologists, which will be presented to the boards and members of the four societies for discussion and an eventual vote. The task force will consider ways in which the register could enable all four societies to work together to further the best interests of archaeology and the archaeological resource base, with particular emphasis on professional qualifications, ethics, and standards. At the time of this writing, the members of the Register Task Force have not yet been appointed.
The discussion which follows is designed to dispel misinformation and inform the members of all four societies about the recommendations developed to date by the previous SAA-SOPA task force and the boards of the involved societies. No firm decisions have been made and no commitments will be undertaken without full opportunity for input by the memberships. There will be a vote by the membership of each society on the final proposal. Each member is encouraged to give the following discussion thoughtful consideration. The existing SOPA Code of Ethics, Standards of Research Performance, and Grievance Procedures are published below. Members with additional questions are encouraged to submit them to the SAA Office, 900 Second St., NE, Suite 12, Washington, D.C. 20002.
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In the past 25 years, archaeology has grown from a relatively small academic discipline to one with a major daily impact on the public. As economic development programs of all types bring about increased land disturbance, archaeologists have increasingly become involved in public efforts to avoid or mitigate the adverse effects of this development on the archaeological resource base. With this greater public involvement has come an increasing need for a widely accepted code of archaeological ethics and standards of performance, as well as an effective method of sanctions when the code or the standards are transgressed. We all recognize that substandard archaeological work exists and that it causes problems for the archaeological profession and for the public that we serve. One essential remedy is for professional archaeologists to agree to be held accountable to basic professional ethics and standards.
Greater coordination among the primary archaeological organizations is imperative if we are to achieve a higher level of acceptance of adequate standards of professional performance within the archaeological community, gain greater public acceptance of archaeologists as professionals, and improve the overall quality of archaeological work. Only by achieving this will the archaeological profession become properly accountable to itself and to the public. By adapting this approach the profession will gain greater credibility and will be able to maximize its efforts in research, resource conservation, and public education.
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Under the proposed transformation, SOPA would cease to be a professional society but remain an independent, not-for-profit organization under the name "Register of Professional Archaeologists" (ROPA). The register would continue to provide the same services as SOPA does at present, including maintaining a Register of Professional Archaeologists, a code of ethics, standards of research performance, grievance procedures, and requirements for registration. In the transition, all SOPA-certified archaeologists in good standing would become Registered Professional Archaeologists and all elected SOPA officers would continue to serve out their terms of office. The administrative relationship between the sponsoring organizations (SAA, SHA, and AIA) and ROPA would be set forth in memoranda of agreement, jointly approved by the participating societies (including SOPA) prior to their taking effect.
The sponsoring organizations would gain a unified code of ethics, a set of standards of research performance, a grievance procedure, and some form of representation on the ROPA Board of Directors. ROPA would gain the financial support of the sponsoring organizations, as well as their pledge to encourage their professional members to become registered. Sponsorship would also make possible a permanent central office for ROPA, something that SOPA does not now have. The entire discipline of archaeology would benefit from having a greatly increased number of archaeologists who have agreed to adhere to professional ethics and performance standards, and to be held accountable to these principles through participating in a grievance process.
ROPA would be administered by a Board of Directors. Each sponsoring society would be represented on the board, and additional at-large directors would be elected from the ranks of the RPAs. All board members, whether selected to represent the sponsoring societies or elected at-large, would be RPAs. The registered archaeologists would also elect officers, including a grievance officer and a registrar. ROPA would contract with either an independent agency or a sponsoring organization to provide administrative services and a central office. Necessary changes in the bylaws of SOPA would be made as part of its transformation into the Register; the sponsoring societies might wish to make bylaws changes to accommodate the new relationship, but it could also be set up on the basis of memoranda of agreement.
ROPA would be financed by (a) an annual allocation from each sponsoring organization; (b) application fees paid by archaeologists seeking to become registered; and (c) annual renewal fees from the RPAs. The bulk of SOPA's current financial reserves would be transferred to a ROPA grievance fund, using a minimal amount for transition costs. The grievance fund would be maintained by ROPA at an appropriate level.
An individual archaeologist would not have to be a member of any of the sponsoring organizations to become registered. An RPA who was not affiliated with any of the sponsoring organizations would not be required to become a member of one of these organizations. However, application and annual renewal fees would be substantially discounted for archaeologists who belonged to one of the sponsoring organizations. This reflects the financial and organizational support provided by the sponsoring organization in which the RPA is a member.
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Q: Would an RPA be required to joined the SAA, AIA, and/or SHA?
A: No, but application fees and annual registration fees would be higher for RPAs who were not members of any of the sponsoring organizations. It can be expected that the great majority of RPAs would be members of one or more of the sponsoring societies.
Q: Would a member of the SAA, AIA, or SHA with professional
qualifications be required to join ROPA?
A: No. But she/he would be strongly encouraged to do so.
Q: How would this plan benefit archaeology as a discipline?
A: It would enhance archaeology's image as a true profession to the extent that ROPA's unified code and standards is accepted by a majority of professional practitioners. Professional credibility would also be enhanced because RPAs will have pledged to be held publicly accountable for any failure to comply with the code or standards.
Q: Why should an academic or a government archaeologist with
institutional job security want to become an RPA?
A: They are equal partners with all other archaeologists in their responsibility to act as stewards of the resource base, conduct archaeological research in an ethical manner, and behave responsibly toward archaeology's several publics. If a majority of archaeologists accept and become accountable to principles of professional ethics and standards, it will be much easier for the profession to act against unacceptable behavior within its own ranks and to make a case to the public against destruction of the archaeological record and trafficking in looted antiquities.
Q: Would SOPA cease to exist?
A: SOPA would no longer exist as a professional society, but would be transformed into a different not-for-profit organization after bylaw changes entailing a new name (ROPA) and a somewhat different make-up of the board of directors. As ROPA, the new organization would continue offering the same basic services to the profession that SOPA does now.
Q: Would the sponsoring organizations (SAA, SHA, and AIA) control ROPA?
A: No. ROPA would have its own board, and none of the sponsoring societies would have a controlling voice in it. Because each sponsoring society would provide financial and moral support to ROPA, however, each would be represented on the ROPA board. Additional board members would be elected directly by the RPAs; the total size of the board and the means by which the sponsoring organizations would be represented remains to be discussed. All board members, whether elected at-large by the RPAs, or representing the sponsoring societies, would themselves have to be RPAs.
Q: Would SOPA's standards be reduced or compromised?
A: No. The ROPA board of directors would continue to have responsibility for the code, standards and grievance procedures. While it is anticipated that there would be future changes to reflect the concerns of a broader constituency (e.g., archaeologists working outside the U.S., archaeologists whose primary data source is collections rather than fieldwork), there is no reason to doubt that the integrity of the code, standards, and grievance procedures would be protected and retained.
Q: Would there be substantial risk to the sponsoring societies of
financial liability resulting from ROPA-related lawsuits?
A: SOPA's legal counsel has expressed the opinion that it is unlikely that any lawsuit against a sponsoring organization would succeed, even though total immunity can never be guaranteed. Low-cost liability insurance, like that now carried by SOPA, is available to cover any claims that might be assessed against a sponsoring organization. SOPA's nearly 20 years of experience without any such suit being brought attests to the fairness and the viability of its grievance procedures.
Q: Is there any guarantee that an RPA would always perform to the full
satisfaction of employers, granting agencies, and professional
A: Of course not--no more than that a fully qualified, experienced physician will always make an accurate diagnosis or that a licensed barber will always give a client a satisfactory haircut. However, should any member's performance violate the code and/or standards, a grievance may be filed against that individual by anyone, member or nonmember alike, and the RPA charged will voluntarily submit to the grievance process.
Q: What is to prevent the ROPA grievance process from being used to
pursue trivial complaints or personal vendettas?
A: The grievance process would be a multistage one, starting with inquiries and fact-finding by the grievance officer. The process would be modeled on the one successfully developed and implemented by SOPA for nearly 20 years. SOPA's experience has been that only the most serious and well-founded complaints move beyond these initial stages of the process.
Q: Will ROPA actively seek out cases of possible misbehavior to
A: No. The grievance process is triggered only by a complaint, and as noted above, there would have to be clear evidence that a serious issue was involved before the challenged RPA would be asked to appear before a hearings board.
Q: How would this plan benefit individual archaeologists?
A: By public recognition of the individual's qualification to belong to an organization open only to professionals, the individual gains increased self-esteem and professional visibility, and this may also assist in employment and career advancement. For those in secure positions, there are both practical and philosophical benefits in identifying with a major effort to protect the archaeological resource base and to ensure professionalism in its use. As archaeologists, each of us is often both the first and the final "steward of the past." If each of us does not accept full public accountability for our professional actions, how can we expect others to act in a responsible manner?
Q: Have existing SOPA standards been effective outside that
A: A number of public agencies have modeled their requirements for archaeological training and experience on SOPA's standards, and SOPA's code of ethics and standards of research performance have been widely cited as examples of basic principles for archaeological professionalism. With sponsorship by the major archaeological organizations and a greatly increased membership, it can be expected that ROPA will be even more effective in promoting a general understanding and acceptance of what it means to be a professional archaeologist.
Q: I know a certain archaeologist who is a member of SOPA, and in my
opinion, this person is not a very good archaeologist. Why should I
believe that the transformation of SOPA into ROPA will do anything to
increase the level of professionalism in American archaeology?
A: Both SOPA and its proposed successor, ROPA, are designed to establish and enforce minimal basic requirements of archaeological qualifications, ethics, and performance, rather than to identify and reward excellence. ROPA standards will define what is minimally required for someone to be called a professional archaeologist. A core concept is that registered individuals have publicly declared that they will be held accountable through the grievance process should their qualifications, ethics, or research performance be challenged. This is what will give the Register its moral force for defining professionalism both within archaeology and to the general public.
Q: What schedule is anticipated for developing the Register of
A: May 1995: All four boards "support in principle" the proposal Summer/Fall 1995: Information and question-and-answer articles are published by all four societies
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Archaeology is a profession, and the privilege of professional practice requires professional morality and professional responsibility, as well as professional competence, on the part of each practitioner.
I. The Archaeologist's Responsibility to the Public
1.1 An archaeologist shall:
a) Recognize a commitment to represent archaeology and its research results to the public in a responsible manner;
b) Actively support conservation of the archaeological resource base;
c) Be sensitive to, and respect the legitimate concerns of, groups whose culture histories are the subjects of archaeological investigations;
d) Avoid and discourage exaggerated, misleading, or unwarranted statements about archaeological matters that might induce others to engage in unethical or illegal activity;
e) Support and comply with the terms of the UNESCO Convention on the means of prohibiting and preventing the illicit import, export, and transfer of ownership of cultural property, as adopted by the General Conference, 14 November 1970, Paris.
1.2 An archaeologist shall not:
a) Engage in any illegal or unethical conduct involving archaeological matters or knowingly permit the use of his/her name in support of any legal or unethical activity involving archaeological matters;
b) Give a professional opinion, make a public report, or give legal testimony involving archaeological matters without being as thoroughly informed as might reasonably be expected;
c) Engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation about archaeological matters;
d) Undertake any research that affects the archaeological resource base for which she/he is not qualified.
II. The Archaeologist's Responsibility to Colleagues, Employees, and
2.1 An archaeologist shall:
a) Give appropriate credit for work done by others;
b) Stay informed and knowledgeable about developments in her/his field or fields of specialization;
c) Accurately, and without undue delay, prepare and properly disseminate a description of research done and its results;
d) Communicate and cooperate with colleagues having common professional interests;
e) Give due respect to colleagues' interests in, and rights to, information about sites, areas, collections, or data where there is a mutual active or potentially active research concern;
f) Know and comply with all federal, state, and local laws, ordinances, and regulations applicable to her/his archaeological research and activities;
g) Report knowledge of violations of the Code to the proper authorities; h) Honor and comply with the spirit and letter of SOPA's Disciplinary Procedures.
2.2. An archaeologist shall not:
a) Falsely or maliciously attempt to injure the reputation of another archaeologist;
b) Commit plagiarism in oral or written communication;
c) Undertake research that affects the archaeological resource base unless reasonably prompt, appropriate analysis and reporting can be expected;
d) Refuse a reasonable request from a qualified colleague for research data;
e) Submit a false or misleading application for accreditation by or Membership in the Society of Professional Archeologists.
III. The Archaeologist's Responsibility to Employers and Clients
3.1 An Archaeologist shall:
a) Respect the interests of her/his employer or client, so far as is consistent with the public welfare and this Code and Standards;
b) Refuse to comply with any request or demand of an employer or client which conflicts with the Code and Standards;
c) Recommend to employers or clients the employment of other archaeologists or expert consultants upon encountering archaeological problems beyond her/his own competence;
d) Exercise reasonable care to prevent her/his employees, colleagues, associates and others whose services are utilized by her/him from revealing or using confidential information. Confidential information means information of a non-archaeological nature gained in the course of employment which the employer or client has requested be held inviolate, or the disclosure of which would be embarrassing or would be likely to be detrimental to the employer or client. Information ceases to be confidential when the employer or client so indicates or when such information becomes publicly known.
3.2 An archaeologist shall not:
a) Reveal confidential information, unless required by law; b) Use confidential information to the disadvantage of the client or employer;
c) Use confidential information for the advantage of herself/himself or a third person, unless the client consents after full disclosure;
d) Accept compensation or anything of value for recommending the employment of another archaeologist or other person, unless such compensation or thing of value is fully disclosed to the potential employer or client;
e) Recommend or participate in any research which does not comply with the requirements of the Standards of Research Performance.
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The research archaeologist has a responsibility to attempt to design and conduct projects that will add to our understanding of past cultures and/or that will develop better theories, methods, or techniques for interpreting the archaeological record, while causing minimal attrition of the archaeological resource base. In the conduct of a research project, the following minimum standards should be followed:
I. The archaeologist has a responsibility to prepare adequately for any
research project, whether or not in the field.
The archaeologist must:
1.1 Assess the adequacy of her/his qualifications for the demands of the project, and minimize inadequacies by acquiring additional expertise, by bringing in associates with the needed qualifications, or by modifying the scope of the project;
1.2 Inform herself/himself of relevant previous research;
1.3 Develop a scientific plan of research which specifies the objectives of the project, takes into account previous relevant research, employs a suitable methodology, and provides for economical use of the resource base (whether such base consists of an excavation site or of specimens) consistent with the objectives of the project;
1.4 Ensure the availability of adequate and competent staff and support facilities to carry the project to completion, and of adequate curatorial facilities for specimens and records;
1.5 Comply with all legal requirements, including, without limitation, obtaining all necessary governmental permits and necessary permission from landowners or other persons;
1.6 Determine whether the project is likely to interfere with the program or projects of other scholars and, if there is such a likelihood, initiate negotiations to minimize such interference.
II. In conducting research, the archaeologist must follow her/his scientific plan of research, except to the extent that unforeseen circumstances warrant its modification.
III. Procedures for field survey or excavation must meet the following
3.1 If specimens are collected, a system for identifying and recording their proveniences must be maintained.
3.2 Uncollected entities such as environmental or cultural features, depositional strata, and the like, must be fully and accurately recorded by appropriate means, and their location recorded.
3.3 The methods employed in data collection must be fully and accurately described. Significant stratigraphic and/or associational relationships among artifacts, other specimens, and cultural and environmental features must also be fully and accurately recorded.
3.4 All records should be intelligible to other archaeologists. If terms lacking commonly held referents are used, they should be clearly defined.
3.5 Insofar as possible, the interests of other researchers should be considered. For example, upper levels of a site should be scientifically excavated and recorded whenever feasible, even if the focus of the project is on underlying levels.
IV. During accessioning, analysis, and storage of specimens and records in the laboratory, the archaeologist must take precautions to ensure that correlations between the specimens and the field records are maintained, so that provenience, contextual relationships and the like are not confused or obscured.
V. Specimens and research records resulting from a project must be deposited at an institution with permanent curatorial facilities, unless otherwise required by law.
VI. The archaeologist has responsibility for appropriate dissemination
of the results of her/his research to the appropriate constituencies
with reasonable dispatch.
6.1 Results reviewed as significant contributions to substantive knowledge of the past or to advancements in theory, method or technique should be disseminated to colleagues and other interested persons by appropriate means such as publications, reports at professional meetings, or letters to colleagues.
6.2 Requests from qualified colleagues for information on research results directly should be honored, if consistent with the researcher's prior rights to publication and with her/his other professional responsibilities.
6.3 Failure to complete a full scholarly report within 10 years after completion of a field project shall be considered as a waiver of an archaeologist's right of primacy with respect to analysis and publication of data. Upon expiration of such 10-year period, or at such earlier time as the archaeologist shall determine not to publish the results, such data should be made fully accessible to other archaeologists for analysis and publication.
6.4 While contractual obligations in reporting must be respected, archaeologists should not enter into a contract which prohibits the archaeologist from including her or his own interpretations or conclusions in the contractual reports, or from a continuing right to use the data after completion of the project.
6.5 Archaeologists have an obligation to accede to reasonable requests from information from the news media.
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The guidelines for all SOPA grievance investigations and hearings are to be found in the document entitled Disciplinary Procedures of the Society of Professional Archeologists. A copy of the procedures may be found in the Guide to the Society of Professional Archeologists or obtained by writing to the Grievance Coordinator. The following is an abbreviated outline of the usual course of investigations:
Advanced Degree(s): The applicant must have designed and executed an archaeological study as evidenced by a thesis or dissertation, and have been awarded an advanced degree, such as an M.A., M.S., Ph.D., or D.Sc., from an accredited institution in archaeology, anthropology, history, classics, or other germane discipline with a specialization in archaeology. If the thesis or dissertation is not primarily based on field research in archaeology, the applicant must have designed and executed an archaeological study or report(s) based on field research equivalent in scope and quality to an M.A. or M.S. thesis or Ph.D. dissertation. In some cases, an individual may have prepared several smaller reports that cumulatively are comparable to a thesis or dissertation. In such cases, abstracts and tables of contents with pagination or the reports themselves must be submitted. The report(s) must indicate substantive analysis by the applicant based on an explicit theoretical orientation. A purely descriptive report, however long, is not considered equivalent.
Fieldwork Requirements: The applicant must document a minimum of one year of field experience. Experience, both supervised and supervisory, must be acquired in time blocks of at least four weeks' duration. "Field experience" in this context includes survey, excavation, and laboratory processing/analysis. The applicant must specify a total of 24 weeks of excavation and survey experience under the supervision of a professional archaeologist (defined as an individual who is certified or meets the requirements for certification by SOPA), of which no more than 12 weeks can be survey.
Supervised laboratory experience: Eight weeks of laboratory experience must be documented, under the supervision of a professional archaeologist. Experience must be accumulated in 4-week time blocks.
Supervisory experience: Twenty weeks of "in the field" work must be in a supervisory capacity. Please indicate if the work is excavation, survey, or lab work. Also, indicate the institution and location of the supervisory experience.
Report: Please identify a report written by the applicant based on the excavation, survey, and/or laboratory work being cited under "Fieldwork Requirements" above. If the report is different from the thesis/dissertation cited under "Advanced Degrees", please include the title page, table of contents, and abstract. If it is a co-authored report, the applicant must indicate the portions written by him/her.
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Note: This section on Education and Experience Requirements is adapted from SOPA's current instructions to applicants who are seeking to become SOPA-certified. Because of SOPA's concern for conservation and proper treatment of the archaeological record, these requirements are designed to ensure that all SOPA-certified professional archaeologists have the requisite training and experience to capably direct a field project that affects the archaeological record. With the prospect of co-sponsorship of the Register by several archaeological societies, the Register Task Force will undoubtedly be asked to consider ways that the Register could represent a greater diversity of professional interests, e.g., training and experiential requirements for archaeologists who direct only collections-based research projects.
Charles R. McGimsey III, Bill Lipe, and Donna Seifert are presidents of SOPA, SAA, and SHA, respectively.