7. Maintain Respectful and Ethical Professional Relationships

There is an ethical dimension to all professional relationships.1 Whether working in academic or applied settings, anthropologists have a responsibility to maintain respectful relationships with others. In mentoring students, interacting with colleagues, working with clients, acting as a reviewer or evaluator, or supervising staff, anthropologists should comport themselves in ways that promote an equitable, supportive2 and sustainable workplace environment. They should at all times work to ensure that no exclusionary practices be perpetrated on the basis of any nonacademic attributes.

Anthropologists may gain personally from their work, but they must not exploit individuals, groups, animals, or cultural or biological materials. Further, when they see evidence of research misconduct, they are obligated to report it to the appropriate authorities.3

Anthropologists must not obstruct the scholarly efforts of others when such efforts are carried out responsibly. In their role as teachers and mentors, anthropologists are obligated to provide instruction on the ethical responsibilities associated with every aspect of anthropological work. They should facilitate, and encourage their students and research staff to engage in dialogue on ethical issues, and discourage their participation in ethically questionable projects. Anthropologists should appropriately acknowledge all contributions to their research, writing, and other related activities, and compensate contributors justly for any assistance they provide. They are obligated to give students and employees appropriate credit for the authorship of their ideas,4 and encourage the publication of worthy student and employee work.

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AAA Member Discussion of Code Draft on Statement Draft
Supporting Resources

AAA Ethics Committee. 2014. “Ethics Resources.”

American Association of University Professors. N.d. “AAUP Policies and Reports.”

Cassell, Joan, and Sue-Ellen Jacobs, eds. 1987. Handbook on Ethical Issues in Anthropology. Special Publication of the American Anthropological Association 23. Washington, D.C.: American Anthropological Association.

Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions. 2012. Ethics Education Library. Illinois Institute of Technology.

Council of Graduate Schools. 2014. Project for Scholarly Integrity.

Fostering Integrity in Research, Scholarship and Teaching (FIRST). 2004. “Teaching Ethics for Research, Scholarship, and Practice.” University of Minnesota.

Macquarie University. 201o. “Human Research Ethics for the Social Sciences and Humanities.” (Online ethics training module.)

National Academy of Engineering. 2013. Online Ethics Center for Engineering and Science.

National Center for Professional and Research Ethics. 2013. Ethics CORE: Collaborative Online Resource Environment. (RCR modules from the Center on Materials and Devices for Information Technology Research [CMDITR].)

National Postdoctoral Association. 2014. “Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) for Postdocs.”

Office of Research Integrity. 2011. “General Resources.” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Research Ethics Program. 2013. Resources for Research Ethics Education. University of California San Diego.

Science, Technology and Society Initiative. N.d. “IDEESE: International Dimensions of Ethics Education in Science and Engineering.” University of Massachusetts Amherst.


  1. Sue-Ellen Jacobs, “Case 12: Possible Conflict of Interest,” in Handbook on Ethical Issues in Anthropology, ed. Joan Cassell and Sue-Ellen Jacobs, Special Publication of the American Anthropological Association 23 (Washington, D.C.: American Anthropological Association, 1987).  (back)
  2. American Association of University Professors, “Statement on Professional Ethics” (2009).  (back)

  3. C. K. Gunsalus, “How to Blow the Whistle and Still Have a Career Afterwards,” Science and Engineering Ethics 4, no. 1(1998):51-64).  (back)

  4. Sue-Ellen Jacobs, “Case 10: Professor Purloins Student’s Work: Her Recourse?” in Handbook on Ethical Issues in Anthropology, ed. Joan Cassell and Sue-Ellen Jacobs, Special Publication of the American Anthropological Association 23 (Washington, D.C.: American Anthropological Association, 1987).  (back)

2 Responses to “7. Maintain Respectful and Ethical Professional Relationships”

  1. To do no harm sounds like a wonderful fairytale. Doing no harm to people is sometimes an impossible task. As an anthropologist, they must decide at some point to take action or not take action with the information they have obtained during their studies. Choosing either could result in possible harm. Such as a subject that is already in a harmful situation and the anthropologist choosing not to take action by reporting it.
    Everyone should be held accountable for their choices and actions. In the real world, doing no harm, is an almost impossible task. As a nurse, I myself choosing to not turn in the mother who just tested positive for methamphetamines and then letting her leave with her newborn infant who is also addicted is causing harm. In turn, choosing to involve the proper authorities and the mother having her infant taken from her and possibly her other children removed also causes harm.
    We have implemented a code of ethics to subordinate an individual to a certain set of standards. This standard is what stands on the fine line of what is good or bad, right or wrong.

  2. Thanks for the helpful guide, it is very much informative. I often lack in maintaining a relationship with people. thanks for the article.

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