For the past 6 months the Committee on Practicing, Applied and Public Interest Anthropology (CoPAPIA) has been engaged in a study to better understand the relationships between practicing anthropologists not employed in tenure track positions and academic institutions. While CoPAPIA has several missions, much of it centers on strengthening the relationships between non-academic based anthropologists and the AAA, as well as improving of training for students who will be working outside of the academy. To this end, CoPAPIA has conducted several studies and led roundtables and session discussions at the AAA’s annual meetings to generate recommendations for improving student training. Much of the feedback we received has focused on the need of students to learn from practitioners who are not primarily university based. There is recognition of the unique set of skills that practitioners of anthropology bring as well as the increasing need for their perspective. While the incentive for students as well as faculty is very clear in these discussions, it is not clear what the incentive for the practicing anthropologists is. This observation was the starting point for CoPAPIA’s most recent study to explore what current relationships look like, how they are advantageous to the different parties involved, and how they could be improved.

After several months of discussion it was determined that we would develop a project that would contain a couple of major stages. The first stage would focus on short interviews with practitioners about their education and work background, various relationships with universities in departments and other academic settings, forms of compensation and the costs and benefits of maintaining these relationships. The next stage will focus on interviews with full-time faculty and others in academic institutions about their perceptions of these relationships. In May 2013 the research team, developed the survey instrument. We tested it in June 2013 and then revised questions based on feedback from the test group. We are currently mid-way through data collection for Stage 1 and have been interested in learning more about the range of models of engagement between academic departments and practitioners. The research team considers these relationships important as more and more anthropology students are becoming full-time practitioners, and as departments lean more and more on practitioners in critical aspects of training their students. We will follow stage 1 data collection with an analysis phase which will inform Stage 2: focused interviews with academic institutions and their perceptions of the relationships they have with practicing anthropologists.

While the data collected will determine what the study products will be, there are a number of things that the research team is considering as tangible products of the study, including a final report posted to the CoPAPIA website, an Anthropology News article reporting the major findings, and a session at the AAA annual meetings. The committee also intends to use the data to offer a set of recommendations and standards for academic departments to use in working with applied and practicing anthropologists that recognizes their value in supporting the training of practicing anthropologists.

We hope that the final outcome encourages overt acknowledgment of not only the need for and value of these relationships, but that everyone involved in these relationships is compensated—either financially or through other benefits—in a way that recognizes the high level of value of the resources that practicing and applied anthropologists bring to academic departments.

Because of a history of division between the AAA and anthropologists working primarily outside of the academy it is extremely difficult to identify and reach those who are no longer part of AAA and to demonstrate to them that there is value in participating in an interview to share experiences. While this short column is to inform people about what we are currently working on, it is also a recruitment tool. We are asking that if you are a non-tenure track anthropologist who has any relationship with a university (occasional guest lecturer, adjunct, researcher, serving on graduate committees, overseeing internships, etc.) or if you know of anyone who fits this description; please contact us so that you and/or your colleague can be a part of this discussion.

The American Anthropological Association’s (AAA) Committee on Practicing, Applied and Public Interest Anthropology (CoPAPIA) is seeking volunteers to share their experiences and views on this issue in a 30-minute phone interview. We will draw on the data we collect to make available various models for department-practitioner collaboration and offer recommendations for appropriate compensation. Please contact Sanne Roijmans at srijmans@memphis.edu if you would like to know more. We will follow up with more information on the survey and how you can participate. Please share this announcement with friends and colleagues who might be interested in the study.

We recognize that these are complicated issues which are why we have chosen to address them, and we hope that you will join us in this dialogue.

Mary Odell Butler and Barbara Rylko-Bauer are contributing editors of Anthropology Works, the AN column of the AAA Committee on Practicing, Applied and Public Interest Anthropology.

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