Friday, May 7, 2010

Notes from SAS get-together during SAA

Minutes from the SAS General Meeting
75 SAA Annual Meeting (April 14-18, 2010, St. Louis, MO)
Sandra L. López Varela

First, I would like to acknowledge that we had a full room of attendees. During our meeting, I indicated that we have reached a point in which a decision needs to be made, whether SAS should become a formal professional association and leave behind its voluntary status, given the series of events taking place in our surroundings and the trajectory these are shaping for SAS. It was recommended that we should position ourselves as a professional association but structural and organizational changes need to take place that need to be discussed.

Taylor Poster Award 2010
I am pleased to announce that Elizabeth Sonnenburg and Dana Rosenstein have both been awarded the R. E. Taylor Poster Award at the SAA 75th Anniversary Meeting in St Louis, MO.

Membership Development
As of April 15th, Dr. Michael Gregg has officially become our new Vice President for Membership Development. For the SAA meeting, Michael prepared a flyer that he was able to place at different editorial booths, including SRI (the applied sector), inviting colleagues to join SAS by specifying the strengths of our society and the value of becoming a member. Together, we distributed this flyer during key sessions such as the student poster sessions and the well-attended forum he organized, Quiet Crisis in American Archaeology, having Paul Goldberg and David Killick as chairs. During the meeting, Michael circulated the new logo for SAS and it was very welcomed by all attendees. 

The blog and wiki are prominent markers of SAS. Lisa Sonnenburg (one of the Taylor Award Winners this year) is willing to cooperate with Rob.

Still, we are not increasing our membership. Michael and I learned that people in New Zealand and Australia would like to receive information about us. Building our Membership has to be a priority, so we should evaluate how to bring in those members that dropped out and how are we going to reach those that are unaware of us.

Future Plans for SAS
 First, it is necessary to recognize that archaeological sciences have never been more present at the SAA than at this meeting. Their scope was discussed by various symposiums and their uses widely applied in numerous papers, forums and posters. Since we are a society representing archaeological sciences, this trend has made us visible, even if we have lost members. Since I took office as President of SAS, I have been invited to attend the Presidents’ Breakfast, hosted by the on-going president of the SAA. It is indeed a petit committee sharing major concerns surrounding archaeology, our own specific goals, and the making of new initiatives to improve the professional and educational aspects of our discipline.

Ethics committee
At first sight, as I shared during our meeting, it sounds exciting. However, the way SAS is organized right now prevents us from acting when a joint initiative is put together. If I am not wrong, SAS has never had an active role in defending heritage issues. Last year, during the Christie’s auction affair, I realized other societies had an ethics committee with whom to discuss the joining of an initiative to stop the selling, except SAS. I supported the letter on the Board’s behalf as this needed a quick response. But, this was not the only uncomfortable situation. Possibly we would have been called in as experts to determine authenticity, leaving us with a series of rules that we would have had to have follow regarding Native American human remains that not everyone is aware of. Luckily, the letter was enough in this case.

The recent interviews I gave for the MiniGeology blog dealt with ethical issues, as these are part of our bylaws. The position we are in calls for the integration of such committee and this was an idea that was very welcomed by all those present. An ethics committee and guidelines are needed. It was recommended to send this idea for approval to our business meeting and if approved the President would write a proposal.

An SAS conference
I also shared that Patrick Degryse and I have envisioned having a conference exclusively for SAS through a Humboldt Kolleg. In briefly explaining what a Kolleg is the idea was also welcomed, specially, since it has the potential to take place in different parts of the world and support both scholars and students.

An SAS scholarship
I communicated that Patrick Degryse’s future goals, as President of SAS, includes the establishment of a scholarship that could promote a research stay for students. The idea was more than welcome by those present. I took the liberty to share Patrick’s goals at the Presidents’ Meeting as an excellent research opportunity that was welcomed by everyone, especially by RPA and the European Association of Archaeologists.

The Encyclopedia of Archaeological Sciences Project with Wiley-Blackwell
 At the meeting, I was approached by Rosalie M. Robertson, Senior Editor of Anthropology and Archaeology, who asked if I had some interest in collaborating with them to coordinate an Encyclopedia of Archaeological Sciences. The idea that we worked over breakfast is for her to take the proposal we designed to Wiley, send it to us so I can present it to you all. I suggested SAS to endorse the Encyclopedia project that at this stage could include a printed book (covering the basics of archaeological sciences) that could serve as a teaching resource, linked to an A-Z specialized reference source (the Encyclopedia) that will be printed and can be updated on line, and an online resource of basic exercises or experiments. I am working as an international advisor for the Global Archaeology Encyclopedia by Elsevier, with Claire Smith as editor-in-chief, and for which Rob Tykot is responsible for the archaeological sciences sections, so I am aware of the challenges of this project. Rosalie promised to send the proposal in time for the ISA meeting. Again, this also depends on Wiley approving it, but in the mean time, I think this project could address many of the issues raised during the symposium organized by Michael Gregg.

My Concluding Remarks
Although our presence in the field is growing, it appears that our voluntary work is not always enough to meet effectively all the needed tasks. If we really want to see SAS thrive, we need to revise our organization chart, our channels of communication, and our internal procedures. We cannot continue centralizing activities in one person. This has proved to be problematic when this person is absent, is in the field, or goes through an emergency. We simply are unable to act or do the needed tasks. We need to clarify who can make decisions in such cases. If SAS is to become a more visible organization, we need to change it in order to more effectively address these concerns.

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