Congratulations to the
10 Public Anthropology Award Winners
at the University of Illinois
in Prof. Alejandro Lugo’s ANTH 103
Anthropology in a Changing World

Elizabeth Abolt , Olivia CangellarisEric LebowJonathan Weisman,
Austin LinCourtney O’ConnorStephen JumicChristina Menconi,
Cassie Menkeand Chia-Wei Chan

Topic the Students Wrote On: 
Are the National Science Foundation’s efforts at greater accountability — by having a statement regarding the benefits and outcomes of a funded project after the project’s completion — to be applauded or criticized? Please explain why.

________________________________________

Accountability is Key
by Elizabeth Abolt

The recent debacle of Andrew Wakefield has shed an enormous light on the research field. When Wakefield, a medical researcher, came to the conclusion that certain vaccines caused children to develop autism, numerous families began intensely avoiding those specific vaccinations. However, although he had completed decades of research,his findings proved to be faulty, and in actuality, those vaccines did not cause autism at all. Because of this one faulty claim, children immediately stopped taking certain beneficial vaccines that actually prevented illnesses and diseases, rather than causing them. This single case represents one of many instances where a researcher does a plethora of research, makes a bold statement, and the public automatically deems it to be true. In order for situations like these to no longer occur, it is important for the National Science Foundation to facilitate greater accountability.

In modern-day America, approximately $7 billion is spent on funding basic research each year. In hopes that the research will result in both positive benefits to society, and also a greater overall knowledge of the subject matters being studied, the National Science Foundation financially backs the majority of research done nationwide. Though researchers do have the option to work independently and fund their own research, it is rarely done due to the fact that most researchers hope to gain something in return for their hard work. It is completely reasonable for researchers to expect some type of reward for investing their time and energy to, hopefully, present findings that prove to be valuable to society as a whole. However, at the same time, it is just as reasonable to increase researchers’ accountability to ensure that the research being done is meaningful and legitimate. While researchers may initially object to increasing accountability, the positive effects of these changes outweigh the negative.

Due to the fact that researchers are responsible for using their findings to make a substantial impact on both the anthropological world and human society as whole, it is important for their studies to be readily available for the public. By doing so, the public is able to use researchers’ data and knowledge and apply it to real-life situations, which will ultimately prove to be much more valuable and constructive to humanity. At the same time, to ensure that research has a substantial, positive effect on society, it is also crucial for all the work done by researchers to be dependable and consistent. By requiring a brief project description of the outcomes and findings of all research, researchers’ accountability will be raised, and the chance of faulty information leaking into the public will drastically decrease.

Due to the National Science Foundation implementing greater accountability, situations similar to Wakefield’s will be much less likely to occur. Researchers will have to be more certain than ever that their findings contribute to the greater good of society, and do not misinform or mislead the public in any way. Additionally, because money from taxpayers federally funds most research being conducted, the success rates of the studies being done, as well as specific findings and conclusions, should automatically be available to the public. With tangible results and data readily accessible by the public via project reports and summaries, society will be able to analyze and interpret conclusions made by researchers in order to increase the overall understanding of human variation and universals.

________________________________________

A Step Towards Accountability:
Fostering Connections Across the Social Network
by Olivia Cangellaris

As an engineering student, my courses, particularly those over the past two years, have emphasized the importance of accountability. If one thinks about the responsibility and power an engineer is charged with, accountability necessarily follows at least as a desired, if not required responsibility. Take a civil engineer for example: civil engineers sign off on designs for elevators, bridges and buildings to name just a few examples. If the civil engineer overlooks a design flaw and the weight capacity of an elevator is overestimated, an instance of a system failure due to this oversight becomes increasingly probable. If, three years down the road, the elevator at a hotel crashes down ten floors, who is responsible, the hotel or the engineer?

We, as individuals in the social network that provides the true infrastructure of our national and global societies, expect that everyone is held accountable for their actions. Collectively, we hold each other accountable, because the framework that holds together our national and global economies and related networks is dependent upon a strong sense of responsibility. In the case of the National Science Foundation, the funding that is awarded to scientists and researchers by the NSF comes from the federal budget; but this budget is contributed to, in part, by the taxpayers’ money. The implication then is that we, as individuals, are partly responsible for the research being conducted by various NSF grantees each year. Therefore, the request that NSF demonstrate a greater sense of accountability is not unfounded.

It seems that the NSF has taken a great step towards increasing its accountability by making its processes more transparent. Since we, in some capacity, are paying for the research being conducted under the support of NSF grants, we deserve to know the nature of the research, especially who it benefits and how, ultimately, we want to know where the impact of the research will be felt and in some cases, how quickly. The requirement that grantees submit a brief report outlining, in laymen’s terms, the purpose of their project as well as the impact it is expected to have, effectively opens the lines of communication. This transparency raises the velvet curtain and eases the nerves of the citizens while pushing the researchers to be more diligent about their work so they can deliver on their promises. The sense of accountability is greatly strengthened.

I think the fact that this change was advocated for by students speaks to the importance of transparency and accountability by researchers and various government agencies. The interest paid to this topic by students, highlights the fact that accountability is expected from everyone, by everyone, regardless of age, experience or occupation. These students’ initiative further demonstrates the power of the social network and its influence on society. Additionally, the changes initiated by the Director and Acting Deputy Director, Dr. Subra Suresh and Dr. Cora B. Marrett, at the NSF were outlined in such a way as to appeal to the laymen as well as the researchers and scientists. Even though grantees are now expected to keep the public informed about their projects, the NSF still protects the grantees’ research and intellectual property. This protection is extended by including the stipulation that sensitive information or data, which, if published in these reports, would affect the researcher’s ability to publish in journals or other, noted publication, does not need to be disclosed. NSF is protecting the researchers while simultaneously responding to the request from the public for inclusiveness when it comes to an understanding of the purpose and reach of a research initiative.

The inclusion of this change to the NSF grant process should be integrated into the system as soon as possible. As grants are awarded, beginning immediately, the grantees will be required to observe and enact the changes as determined by Drs. Suresh and Marrett. All existing NSF grants should be given a six-month grace period to draft and post their project descriptions. By the end of two years, all projects should be inline with the new expectations set forth by the NSF.

As I have mentioned previously, our society operates based on a mutual sense of trust among, and accountability and responsibility to, others. By listening to the requests made by the students, which most likely echo the sentiments of many citizens, the NSF is helping to further the connection between the public and the federal government. If the NSF serves as a role model for other federal organizations, the potential to further promote the concept of accountability has a strong potential to spread.

________________________________________

The Importance of Making Information
Available to the General Public
by Eric Lebow

I paid my taxes a few days ago. I worked hard to earn the money that is being taxed. Part of our tax dollars goes to the National Science Foundation and so it is important for me to know how this money is being used. Are public funds being spent for public good? Are these projects genuine research or are they promoting someone’s social or political agenda? Is this research fair or exploitative? The National Science Foundation’s efforts at accountability through greater transparency, which was urged on by various students’ Op-Eds, are to be applauded. If researchers are accepting public funding, then they should be accountable to the public. The researchers should explain what they are doing and make this information available to the general public.

According to nsf.gov, the National Science Foundation received 6.9 billion dollars from taxpayers in 2010. The changes in the policy require that the researchers who receive funding from the National Science Foundation make certain information available to the general public. According to nsf.gov, this information includes, “describing the project outcomes or findings that address the intellectual merit and broader impacts of the work as defined in the NSF merit review criteria. This description should be a brief (generally, two to three paragraphs) summary of the project’s results that is written for the lay reader. Principal Investigators are strongly encouraged to avoid use of jargon, terms of art, or acronyms.” This is the correct approach. Scientific research can be extremely complicated. By requiring this information to be brief and to avoid use of jargon and acronyms, they are making it so that an ordinary person who does not know much about the particular research is still able to understand what his tax money is being used for. Therefore, the NSF Director, Dr. Subra Suresh, and the NSF Acting Deputy Director, Dr. Cora B. Marrett should be complimented for their decision. The students who urged this change did the right thing.

There is a downside to this new policy. Researchers should spend their time on research, not on funding requirements. Nonetheless, there must be a balance between access to funds and accountability for the use of these funds. The new policy is the proper balance.

This change should go into effect as quickly as it can reasonably be implemented with consideration given to projects that are already in progress. The intent should not be to impose additional burdens on ongoing projects, but if these projects are still being funded, they should meet current policy standards. Therefore, all new researchers should be required to adhere to this new policy and all of the researchers who have already started doing their work and receiving funding from the NSF should be required to slowly phase into this new policy.

In conclusion, the National Science Foundation is receiving billions of dollars from tax payers each year. Therefore, the taxpayers and the media have a right to have access to the information about how this money is being used in a format that ordinary people can understand.

________________________________________

Reading Relevant Research: NSF Research Summaries
by Jonathan Weisman

I do not like to read. I avoid my school reading like the plague and pretend that my thousand page biochemistry textbook is just a picture book. However, I thrive on news publications and short articles on technology development. Like most young and working class adults, short headlines and articles are a brief respite from the hustle and bustle of the day. Relevant information intake in this manner is succinct and therefore applicable to a wide audience. Similarly, the National Science Foundation’s new requirements for public research reports is a significant development toward distributing pertinent research information to a broad audience. Though a few more guidelines would help, the NSF’s steps toward accountability are immensely beneficial and necessary.

Research publications are characteristically lengthy and voluminous works that are incomprehensible to the average reader. Normal research findings are presented with abbreviations, terminology, and slang that are not immediately understandable to non-industry individuals. For example, a random journal article retrieved on “drug delivery” from databases revealed the following in the abstract alone: seven abbreviations and an average sentence length of 26 words. The article itself is 4,394 words long. Therefore, it is obvious to see that typical research reporting is long-winded and way too complex for the lay reader. Therefore, the NSF’s emphasis on brevity and simplicity is paramount for the distribution of research findings for public information.

Project summaries for public research should be implemented immediately. A simple website with database system would allow for these articles to be distributed; therefore, quick execution is feasible. As demonstrated by the work of students that accomplished these changes in research through their op-eds, there is a need for research information to be made available. Since the means to do so are simple, this should be done right away.

The basis for the distribution of public research to the community is based off the mere fact that it is government sponsored. Projects sponsored through NSF grants and other monetary funds fall under the constraints of government activity. Our democracy is one, “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” as stated by President Abraham Lincoln at the Gettysburg Address. Publicly funded research, then, should follow these same requirements; research should be done for the betterment of our society. It goes in hand that grants given by the NSF should be publicly accessible and available. Therefore, the recent regulations adopted by the NSF for project summaries for the public tie in directly to the responsibilities of our government and therefore the work of NSF leaders has been in the correct direction.

Despite the positive aspects of the aforementioned developments, the application of research summaries should be more directed and organized. For example, on the NSF website articles should be sorted by topic and relevance so that the public can quickly find important articles. In addition, a discussion feature should be included on the website for people to converse about the document. The findings in the report only become applicable and accepted by society once the community has been able to confer amongst itself. Finally, it would be beneficial for the NSF to partner with mass media outlets when research is released; closer partnership with media would allow for wider distribution of information. Above all, the NSF’s new regulations are much needed steps toward accountability and will be excellent public tools, with some minor tweaking.

________________________________________

Accountability and the NSF’s Project Outcomes Reports
by Austin Lin

In news coverage for events ranging from the 2008 Election season to the Japanese Nuclear Crisis the idea of accountability has been center stage. Responding to this political climate as well as to letters from the public, the National Science Foundation (NSF) added a new requirement to its grant process, grant recipients must write a Project Outcomes Report[s] for the General Public after the project/research is complete. The goal of these reports is to present a clear outline of how the project was productive and meet NSF standards in language understandable to the ‘lay reader’, the term the NSF uses. As a result a ‘lay reader’ might logically assume that the NSF reviews the Project Outcomes Reports to ensure that the information presented is accurate. In reality however the NSF places a disclaimer above the report, which reads:

This Project Outcomes Report for the General Public is displayed verbatim as submitted by the Principal Investigator (PI) for this award. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this Report are those of the PI and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation; NSF has not approved or endorsed its content.

The NSF is effectively requiring researchers to self-evaluate their research against the ‘NSF merit review criteria’. This evaluation is accepted as is by the NSF without any type of verification or validation. Because of this the Project Outcomes Reports are nothing more than a book report, by the researcher, on the results of the project/research. While such a report might be useful to students or others looking for research projects to reference in papers or reports, it has limited value in ensuring accountability. Members of the public, including students from the Center for A Public Anthropology, who urged the NSF to adopt additional policies for enhancing accountability, are certainly to be commended for their efforts. There is no question that additional accountability through transparency is not only desirable but in fact, imperative to ensuring the quality of scientific research in this country. However those who support the Project Outcomes Reports fail to recognize that significant rules and checks to hold researchers accountable already exist. The first major check on research is a review of the research proposal by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) of the institution at which research is being performed. IRB permission is required to conduct research regardless of funding sources.

Additionally IRBs have an inherent interest in ensuring that all research is done in a responsible manner at a given institution. The next major check is done by the NSF, which requires all proposals for funding to be vetted through an exhaustive six-month review process, which includes peer-review. Peer-review is a process by which academic and scientific work is vetted. This process enhances accountability because the reviewers are experts in the field of which the research is concerned with and as a result are able to provide educated opinions about the research and the manner in which it was conducted. The publisher of the Journal in which the researcher is seeking publication provides the final check. Most academic research is done with the goal of publication in an academic or professional journal these journals, by definition, are peer-reviewed. Research not published in peer-review journals is general held to be suspect and/or of a lesser quality. These three checks provide significant oversight of research and accountability in addition to providing strong incentives for researchers to conduct research in a professional, ethical and scientific manner. The NSF should immediately rescind the regulation and work to support and raise awareness about the checks already in place.

________________________________________

Accountablity for Safety and Knowledge
by Courtney O’Connor

Research can impact humanity and is vital for the human race to evolve and learn. Without research, our lives would be very different than they are today. A good example of the benefits of research are vaccines, without them our life expectancy today would drastically decrease. Since research is essential, funding is required. Research can be funded publicly and is the source of debate. If tax dollars and the American government are founding foundations that allocate research funds, the public has a right to know where their money is going.

All researchers need to be held accountable for performing research that will give back to the community. For example if a researcher is experimenting with bio-weapons, and is not held accountable, a disaster could occur. If bio-weapons are not properly secured, the wrong people could gain possession of these weapons. This fear was realized in 2010 when the U.S. was concerned that terrorists could gain access to labs in India with weak security. This shows that not only in America, but around the world more actions need to be taken to ensure the safety of lives everywhere. If it is assumed that researches take on a necessary measures to inform the public and make positive contributions to humans, then scares like those about bio-weapons can and will occur. All research should be strictly monitored and conveyed to the public in its entirety.

In past years, publicly funded research was encouraged to reveal their motives and methods of their research and the benefits. However, this practice was not mandatory. Recently, there has been measures taken to increase the accountability of researchers by the American National Science Foundation (NSF). Any research conducted through NSF funding is required to submit progress reports every ninety days along with several other regulations. The NSF increased accountability measures to satisfy the public. Today, all the research is on the NSF website and tax payers can quantify what government money is funding. Without these regulations, the money researchers are granted could be used for different items. The NSF requires that every expenditure be documented. Now, not only can the goals of the research be monitored, but also the funds. It is important to make sure that all the funds allocated are being spent on what they were meant for, but also that the research is making progress. With the required progress reports, the NSF can evaluate their funding allocations.

If research is publicly funded, they should be held to requirements like the NSF mandates. They should be complimented and all organizations should follow this precedent to inform the public and increase safety. Accountability gives the public peace of mind and the ability to be involved with the spending of their money. Researchers should strive to inform the public, push to finish their goal, and reach their goal with integrity.

________________________________________

Do You Want to be Informed?
by Stephen Jumic

What is it about books and movies that we find enjoyable? If I were to tell you how a book began and how it ended would that be entertaining or even interesting? Most people would rather see how the story progressed from point A to point B instead of being told what point A and B are. It is the route between the points that allows us gain better insight into what is happening, and to also feel affected by the story. This same idea should be applied to any sort of publicly funded research that is being done. If we as the public are only told the outcome of a study then we are losing out on what means the researcher used to get to that outcome. The means that were used may change our perspective about the outcome or they may enhance our understanding even more.

The additions to allow for greater accountability of research funded by the NSF is a good start to allow research to be more accessible to the general public, who are funding the NSF. We should know what our money is going toward and if it is valuable and impactful. This does not give the full amount of transparency though, since people will not be able to see what the researchers did in order to get those results. Since anthropology and other sciences use people as the subjects of their research we should know what researchers have done to their subjects in order to get results. By knowing the means that were used the general public would be able to see if their money is going towards research they agree with. Even though most people are not familiar with the methods that scientists use these methods could be generalized just as much as the results will be generalized in the summary.

The key decisions makers who were involved in addressing the concerns of the op-eds dealt with the concerns well. Their acceptance of the fact that the general public is not informed enough about the studies that the NSF funds is a good step forward. They should also be complimented because they want the researcher to give the summary in their own words without any intervention by the NSF itself. Since this seems like it should be very simple it should be implemented very soon. This way people would know what studies are going on and how important or impactful they are. If people disagree with the studies they would be able to address their concerns, and if they wanted to see more of a particular study they could voice their opinion.

In modern day society people are able to question more of the things that the government and businesses do. We are able to do this because, in the case of the government, we invest our money and ourselves into the organization. Since we are giving up things that are ours we should be able to know what they are going towards. Just being given the summary of a project is not sufficient in giving us all the details of where our resources are going. This is why we should also be informed about the methods that were used, so that we get a more full picture about the research that NSF is funding.

________________________________________

Accountable Research for the Future
by Christina Menconi

As a business major, I tend to look at situations with an analytical and logical perspective. The issue of accountability with researchers reminded me of some common financial transactions that I, and most people, deal with on a daily basis. When I put my money in a bank account, I trust it to be there if I need to withdraw it. Because I am technically loaning my money for the bank to use, I also expect that it will grow in value by gaining interest. In order to feel comfortable giving the bank my money, I have to trust that the bank will be accountable. To choose what bank to put my money into, I might research past history, interest rates and financial policies the bank offers. This real-world example has helped me realize that the regulations and requirements the National Science Foundation is putting into action are a very good thing for the funders of research, the general public and the researchers themselves.

In order for a project to be funded, I believe that researchers should definitely have to prove that the results of their research would lead to intellectual growth and have a positive impact for society. The National Science Foundation has limited funds, and can only sponsor the research projects that are most relevant and have the greatest potential to benefit society. For example, a researcher who is able to demonstrate that their project could lead to a quick solution for solving oil spills should receive priority funding over other projects. The results from this researcher’s project would have an extremely positive effect on the entire global population, as well as the environment and many different animal species.

I also strongly agree that researchers should have to have their project approved by an ethics board, such as the Institutional Review Board in the United States. Continuing from the oil spill example, suppose the research project consists of duplicating an oil spill in a section of the ocean in order to test the new clean-up method. This could harm the entire ecosystem that is in the area, as well as the nearby shores. The funders of the research should be aware of this information before they invest money in a project that is harmful, even though it might benefit society in the long run. In this sense, the efforts made by the National Science Foundation to increase accountability should be recognized as a very good thing.

Even though there are rules in place to try and assure accountability, it is not assured that researches are telling the truth. Because of this, I think that it is important for researchers to be monitored throughout their research. There are already some regulations in place to try and monitor research, but I think there should be more deadlines put in place in order to assure that research is following guidelines. Annual reports of research are required for all projects that are offered an award. I think this is an excellent way to monitor the progress of research, but I think that it should also be required to submit a report every six months in addition to the yearly reports. A lot can happen in a years time, but by monitoring the project semi-annually, the foundation can make sure the project is complying with ethical guidelines and is striving to benefit the greater good of society. This does not mean that the National Science Foundation should be interfering with running the project, which might taint the results. The monitoring should be from the outside only and should never disturb the actual research process.

One of the main reasons for research to be conducted is that the results will hopefully benefit society. I think it is extremely important for the public to be aware of different research results, whether they are medical miracles or just common analysis. It is necessary for these reports to be written in a style that the general public will be able to understand, so they can correctly interpret the results. For these reasons, I believe that the key decision-makers at the National Science Foundation as well as the students who urged a change should be applauded for tightening regulations on research. It makes the process of funding for research much more controlled and efficient.

I believe that in order for these changes to be put into place effectively, they should be implemented gradually. If too many changes are put into place at once, researchers might get frustrated and not follow the new changes. If a couple changes are put into place immediately, followed by the rest of the changes implemented over time, researchers will be more likely to be supportive of the changes. It is key that researchers are not in protest of the changes, otherwise they will not be willing to work cooperatively with the National Science Foundation. Cooperation is key in order for research to be of high quality and produce positive results for society. I believe that the changes the National Science Foundation have made and want to put into action will result in superior scientific progress as well as more efficient research that will have an extremely beneficial impact on society in the future.

________________________________________

Research Accountability
by Cassie Menke

Any program with a budget of $6.87 billion US dollars is going to have some controversial issues involved with it. The United States’ National Science Foundation (NSF) spends this amount on funding 20 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by US colleges and universities.
The majority of the people involved in NSF are the researchers: those who spend endless hours at a lab bench slaving over data and repeating weeks of failed experiments. Is it fair to give these persistent scientists deadlines and ‘paperwork’ to submit when they may be on the brink of scientific triumph? My answer is YES. With this amount of money invested in the NSF program, I believe there should be a system in place to make sure all involved are held accountable.

People who are donating to the NSF fund expect results. By holding researchers accountable for their work, the public’s confidence will increase. The increase in confidence will therefore lead to more donations, a recurring cycle. People who contribute to the fund generally have a specific personal reason for donating. For example, if one has a brother with muscular dystrophy, he or she may choose to donate to a researcher involved with investigating cures to muscular dystrophy. If researchers were held accountable to publish more results of their studies, they would be showing the donating public their progress and insuring subsequent donations.

By making researchers accountable for their own work, NSF ensures there is no alternative. Therefore, there is no variation between research groups. This form of accountability may induce a form of self-empowerment to each researcher. Working in a microbiology lab myself, I can attest to this. Knowing that every experiment I perform will be critiqued, I make sure that I do everything as accurately as possible: I double-check calculations, clean glassware twice, etc. I realize that in the event of an error, I- and only I- will be approached and questioned. Fear of criticism is a great driving force for precision. Insuring accuracy leads to better experiments, faster conclusions and less money spent.
The topic of accountability may be frustrating for many researchers. To lessen the overall impact, I believe accountability should begin at the earliest stage of research. All new researchers should be well-versed in the procedures in which they submit their work. Therefore, these new researchers will have never known a research world where paperwork was able to be forgotten.

With the consideration of money, public confidence, and self-empowered advancement, NSF’s decision on researcher accountability should remain. The 90 day period that the NSF directors implemented should be complimented; the directors are moving in the right direction. Critics of the program may say that researchers would waste time arguing the reasonableness of their behavior with the scientific behavior. I believe this time is not wasted. The scientific community may find a flaw early on and halt further experimentation on a topic that would have used up valuable dollars to produce no results. The positives of the research accountability system ensure that the $6.87 billion US dollars are put to good use.

________________________________________

Clear as Water
by Chia-Wei Chan

Just this semester, I have joined a research team on campus that study and make bio-sand filters. The team is part of Engineers Without Borders, an organization of engineers, much like Doctors Without Borders, that go to countries in need and help solve their problems. The goal of this particular research project and EWB group is to ensure clean and cheap drinking water to the people in Socorro, Guatemala.

The general process of these projects begin with students addressing a problem and determining a path to solve this problem. In our case, the bio-sand filter was chosen as the most fit solution for the people of Socorro a few years back. The next step is to actually make, run, test and improve the filters. People from all levels of academia work on the team, from undergraduate students to professors. When the filters are ready, the team brings them to village and work with the people there to implement the filters into their daily lives. The team works with the people of Socorro to educate them in the importance of clean water, the functionality of the filters and how to make them. Each step is crucial for the success of this complicated project, a lot of time, money and hard work is used to achieve the final goal.

The professors and graduate students in charge of the project require updates on how filters work and all the data collected. Sponsors who give us money also require the team to present specific presentations on what will be done, how the money they give the team will be used. We also update the people we have trained in Guatemala of the findings and improvements we are making to the filters, so that they are in the know of the current status of the research. All of these are examples of transparency; without transparency, a project of this scale will not be able to function and communicate properly, leaving no one responsible for anything.

NSF’s initiative for increased transparency is a big step in not only creating greater accountability but in achieving their mission to “promote the progress of science; advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; and secure the national defense…”. With transparency, there will be no hiding of information, everything will be open to the public thus creating trust and accountability, and also reminding the researchers that their work can be seen by the public.

Not only do I applaud what the NSF and its directors decisions in implementing greater transparency, I believe that complete transparency should eventually be administered. Understandably there will be arguments of sensitive information that cannot be posted for the public to read, complete transparency could still be achieved without sacrificing security of the project. I believe that the greatest accountability will be achieved when the research groups have nothing to hide, and that the current decision for transparency should be implemented immediately with plans to increasing transparency in the near future.

Congratulations to the
10 Public Anthropology Award Winners
at the University of Illinois
in Prof. Alejandro Lugo’s ANTH 103
(Anthropology in a Changing World)

Elizabeth Abolt , Olivia CangellarisEric LebowJonathan Weisman,
Austin LinCourtney O’ConnorStephen JumicChristina Menconi,
Cassie Menkeand Chia-Wei Chan

Topic the Students Wrote On: 
Are the National Science Foundation’s efforts at greater accountability — by having a statement regarding the benefits and outcomes of a funded project after the project’s completion — to be applauded or criticized? Please explain why.   

Here are their award-winning responses:

________________________________________

Accountability is Key
by Elizabeth Abolt

The recent debacle of Andrew Wakefield has shed an enormous light on the research field. When Wakefield, a medical researcher, came to the conclusion that certain vaccines caused children to develop autism, numerous families began intensely avoiding those specific vaccinations. However, although he had completed decades of research,his findings proved to be faulty, and in actuality, those vaccines did not cause autism at all. Because of this one faulty claim, children immediately stopped taking certain beneficial vaccines that actually prevented illnesses and diseases, rather than causing them. This single case represents one of many instances where a researcher does a plethora of research, makes a bold statement, and the public automatically deems it to be true. In order for situations like these to no longer occur, it is important for the National Science Foundation to facilitate greater accountability.

In modern-day America, approximately $7 billion is spent on funding basic research each year. In hopes that the research will result in both positive benefits to society, and also a greater overall knowledge of the subject matters being studied, the National Science Foundation financially backs the majority of research done nationwide. Though researchers do have the option to work independently and fund their own research, it is rarely done due to the fact that most researchers hope to gain something in return for their hard work. It is completely reasonable for researchers to expect some type of reward for investing their time and energy to, hopefully, present findings that prove to be valuable to society as a whole. However, at the same time, it is just as reasonable to increase researchers’ accountability to ensure that the research being done is meaningful and legitimate. While researchers may initially object to increasing accountability, the positive effects of these changes outweigh the negative.

Due to the fact that researchers are responsible for using their findings to make a substantial impact on both the anthropological world and human society as whole, it is important for their studies to be readily available for the public. By doing so, the public is able to use researchers’ data and knowledge and apply it to real-life situations, which will ultimately prove to be much more valuable and constructive to humanity. At the same time, to ensure that research has a substantial, positive effect on society, it is also crucial for all the work done by researchers to be dependable and consistent. By requiring a brief project description of the outcomes and findings of all research, researchers’ accountability will be raised, and the chance of faulty information leaking into the public will drastically decrease.

Due to the National Science Foundation implementing greater accountability, situations similar to Wakefield’s will be much less likely to occur. Researchers will have to be more certain than ever that their findings contribute to the greater good of society, and do not misinform or mislead the public in any way. Additionally, because money from taxpayers federally funds most research being conducted, the success rates of the studies being done, as well as specific findings and conclusions, should automatically be available to the public. With tangible results and data readily accessible by the public via project reports and summaries, society will be able to analyze and interpret conclusions made by researchers in order to increase the overall understanding of human variation and universals.

________________________________________

A Step Towards Accountability:
Fostering Connections Across the Social Network
by Olivia Cangellaris

As an engineering student, my courses, particularly those over the past two years, have emphasized the importance of accountability. If one thinks about the responsibility and power an engineer is charged with, accountability necessarily follows at least as a desired, if not required responsibility. Take a civil engineer for example: civil engineers sign off on designs for elevators, bridges and buildings to name just a few examples. If the civil engineer overlooks a design flaw and the weight capacity of an elevator is overestimated, an instance of a system failure due to this oversight becomes increasingly probable. If, three years down the road, the elevator at a hotel crashes down ten floors, who is responsible, the hotel or the engineer?

We, as individuals in the social network that provides the true infrastructure of our national and global societies, expect that everyone is held accountable for their actions. Collectively, we hold each other accountable, because the framework that holds together our national and global economies and related networks is dependent upon a strong sense of responsibility. In the case of the National Science Foundation, the funding that is awarded to scientists and researchers by the NSF comes from the federal budget; but this budget is contributed to, in part, by the taxpayers’ money. The implication then is that we, as individuals, are partly responsible for the research being conducted by various NSF grantees each year. Therefore, the request that NSF demonstrate a greater sense of accountability is not unfounded.

It seems that the NSF has taken a great step towards increasing its accountability by making its processes more transparent. Since we, in some capacity, are paying for the research being conducted under the support of NSF grants, we deserve to know the nature of the research, especially who it benefits and how, ultimately, we want to know where the impact of the research will be felt and in some cases, how quickly. The requirement that grantees submit a brief report outlining, in laymen’s terms, the purpose of their project as well as the impact it is expected to have, effectively opens the lines of communication. This transparency raises the velvet curtain and eases the nerves of the citizens while pushing the researchers to be more diligent about their work so they can deliver on their promises. The sense of accountability is greatly strengthened.

I think the fact that this change was advocated for by students speaks to the importance of transparency and accountability by researchers and various government agencies. The interest paid to this topic by students, highlights the fact that accountability is expected from everyone, by everyone, regardless of age, experience or occupation. These students’ initiative further demonstrates the power of the social network and its influence on society. Additionally, the changes initiated by the Director and Acting Deputy Director, Dr. Subra Suresh and Dr. Cora B. Marrett, at the NSF were outlined in such a way as to appeal to the laymen as well as the researchers and scientists. Even though grantees are now expected to keep the public informed about their projects, the NSF still protects the grantees’ research and intellectual property. This protection is extended by including the stipulation that sensitive information or data, which, if published in these reports, would affect the researcher’s ability to publish in journals or other, noted publication, does not need to be disclosed. NSF is protecting the researchers while simultaneously responding to the request from the public for inclusiveness when it comes to an understanding of the purpose and reach of a research initiative.

The inclusion of this change to the NSF grant process should be integrated into the system as soon as possible. As grants are awarded, beginning immediately, the grantees will be required to observe and enact the changes as determined by Drs. Suresh and Marrett. All existing NSF grants should be given a six-month grace period to draft and post their project descriptions. By the end of two years, all projects should be inline with the new expectations set forth by the NSF.

As I have mentioned previously, our society operates based on a mutual sense of trust among, and accountability and responsibility to, others. By listening to the requests made by the students, which most likely echo the sentiments of many citizens, the NSF is helping to further the connection between the public and the federal government. If the NSF serves as a role model for other federal organizations, the potential to further promote the concept of accountability has a strong potential to spread.

________________________________________

The Importance of Making Information
Available to the General Public
by Eric Lebow

I paid my taxes a few days ago. I worked hard to earn the money that is being taxed. Part of our tax dollars goes to the National Science Foundation and so it is important for me to know how this money is being used. Are public funds being spent for public good? Are these projects genuine research or are they promoting someone’s social or political agenda? Is this research fair or exploitative? The National Science Foundation’s efforts at accountability through greater transparency, which was urged on by various students’ Op-Eds, are to be applauded. If researchers are accepting public funding, then they should be accountable to the public. The researchers should explain what they are doing and make this information available to the general public.

According to nsf.gov, the National Science Foundation received 6.9 billion dollars from taxpayers in 2010. The changes in the policy require that the researchers who receive funding from the National Science Foundation make certain information available to the general public. According to nsf.gov, this information includes, “describing the project outcomes or findings that address the intellectual merit and broader impacts of the work as defined in the NSF merit review criteria. This description should be a brief (generally, two to three paragraphs) summary of the project’s results that is written for the lay reader. Principal Investigators are strongly encouraged to avoid use of jargon, terms of art, or acronyms.” This is the correct approach. Scientific research can be extremely complicated. By requiring this information to be brief and to avoid use of jargon and acronyms, they are making it so that an ordinary person who does not know much about the particular research is still able to understand what his tax money is being used for. Therefore, the NSF Director, Dr. Subra Suresh, and the NSF Acting Deputy Director, Dr. Cora B. Marrett should be complimented for their decision. The students who urged this change did the right thing.

There is a downside to this new policy. Researchers should spend their time on research, not on funding requirements. Nonetheless, there must be a balance between access to funds and accountability for the use of these funds. The new policy is the proper balance.

This change should go into effect as quickly as it can reasonably be implemented with consideration given to projects that are already in progress. The intent should not be to impose additional burdens on ongoing projects, but if these projects are still being funded, they should meet current policy standards. Therefore, all new researchers should be required to adhere to this new policy and all of the researchers who have already started doing their work and receiving funding from the NSF should be required to slowly phase into this new policy.

In conclusion, the National Science Foundation is receiving billions of dollars from tax payers each year. Therefore, the taxpayers and the media have a right to have access to the information about how this money is being used in a format that ordinary people can understand.

________________________________________

Reading Relevant Research: NSF Research Summaries
by Jonathan Weisman

I do not like to read. I avoid my school reading like the plague and pretend that my thousand page biochemistry textbook is just a picture book. However, I thrive on news publications and short articles on technology development. Like most young and working class adults, short headlines and articles are a brief respite from the hustle and bustle of the day. Relevant information intake in this manner is succinct and therefore applicable to a wide audience. Similarly, the National Science Foundation’s new requirements for public research reports is a significant development toward distributing pertinent research information to a broad audience. Though a few more guidelines would help, the NSF’s steps toward accountability are immensely beneficial and necessary.

Research publications are characteristically lengthy and voluminous works that are incomprehensible to the average reader. Normal research findings are presented with abbreviations, terminology, and slang that are not immediately understandable to non-industry individuals. For example, a random journal article retrieved on “drug delivery” from databases revealed the following in the abstract alone: seven abbreviations and an average sentence length of 26 words. The article itself is 4,394 words long. Therefore, it is obvious to see that typical research reporting is long-winded and way too complex for the lay reader. Therefore, the NSF’s emphasis on brevity and simplicity is paramount for the distribution of research findings for public information.

Project summaries for public research should be implemented immediately. A simple website with database system would allow for these articles to be distributed; therefore, quick execution is feasible. As demonstrated by the work of students that accomplished these changes in research through their op-eds, there is a need for research information to be made available. Since the means to do so are simple, this should be done right away.

The basis for the distribution of public research to the community is based off the mere fact that it is government sponsored. Projects sponsored through NSF grants and other monetary funds fall under the constraints of government activity. Our democracy is one, “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” as stated by President Abraham Lincoln at the Gettysburg Address. Publicly funded research, then, should follow these same requirements; research should be done for the betterment of our society. It goes in hand that grants given by the NSF should be publicly accessible and available. Therefore, the recent regulations adopted by the NSF for project summaries for the public tie in directly to the responsibilities of our government and therefore the work of NSF leaders has been in the correct direction.

Despite the positive aspects of the aforementioned developments, the application of research summaries should be more directed and organized. For example, on the NSF website articles should be sorted by topic and relevance so that the public can quickly find important articles. In addition, a discussion feature should be included on the website for people to converse about the document. The findings in the report only become applicable and accepted by society once the community has been able to confer amongst itself. Finally, it would be beneficial for the NSF to partner with mass media outlets when research is released; closer partnership with media would allow for wider distribution of information. Above all, the NSF’s new regulations are much needed steps toward accountability and will be excellent public tools, with some minor tweaking.

________________________________________

Accountability and the NSF’s Project Outcomes Reports
by Austin Lin

In news coverage for events ranging from the 2008 Election season to the Japanese Nuclear Crisis the idea of accountability has been center stage. Responding to this political climate as well as to letters from the public, the National Science Foundation (NSF) added a new requirement to its grant process, grant recipients must write a Project Outcomes Report[s] for the General Public after the project/research is complete. The goal of these reports is to present a clear outline of how the project was productive and meet NSF standards in language understandable to the ‘lay reader’, the term the NSF uses. As a result a ‘lay reader’ might logically assume that the NSF reviews the Project Outcomes Reports to ensure that the information presented is accurate. In reality however the NSF places a disclaimer above the report, which reads:

This Project Outcomes Report for the General Public is displayed verbatim as submitted by the Principal Investigator (PI) for this award. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this Report are those of the PI and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation; NSF has not approved or endorsed its content.

The NSF is effectively requiring researchers to self-evaluate their research against the ‘NSF merit review criteria’. This evaluation is accepted as is by the NSF without any type of verification or validation. Because of this the Project Outcomes Reports are nothing more than a book report, by the researcher, on the results of the project/research. While such a report might be useful to students or others looking for research projects to reference in papers or reports, it has limited value in ensuring accountability. Members of the public, including students from the Center for A Public Anthropology, who urged the NSF to adopt additional policies for enhancing accountability, are certainly to be commended for their efforts. There is no question that additional accountability through transparency is not only desirable but in fact, imperative to ensuring the quality of scientific research in this country. However those who support the Project Outcomes Reports fail to recognize that significant rules and checks to hold researchers accountable already exist. The first major check on research is a review of the research proposal by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) of the institution at which research is being performed. IRB permission is required to conduct research regardless of funding sources.

Additionally IRBs have an inherent interest in ensuring that all research is done in a responsible manner at a given institution. The next major check is done by the NSF, which requires all proposals for funding to be vetted through an exhaustive six-month review process, which includes peer-review. Peer-review is a process by which academic and scientific work is vetted. This process enhances accountability because the reviewers are experts in the field of which the research is concerned with and as a result are able to provide educated opinions about the research and the manner in which it was conducted. The publisher of the Journal in which the researcher is seeking publication provides the final check. Most academic research is done with the goal of publication in an academic or professional journal these journals, by definition, are peer-reviewed. Research not published in peer-review journals is general held to be suspect and/or of a lesser quality. These three checks provide significant oversight of research and accountability in addition to providing strong incentives for researchers to conduct research in a professional, ethical and scientific manner. The NSF should immediately rescind the regulation and work to support and raise awareness about the checks already in place.

________________________________________

Accountablity for Safety and Knowledge
by Courtney O’Connor

Research can impact humanity and is vital for the human race to evolve and learn. Without research, our lives would be very different than they are today. A good example of the benefits of research are vaccines, without them our life expectancy today would drastically decrease. Since research is essential, funding is required. Research can be funded publicly and is the source of debate. If tax dollars and the American government are founding foundations that allocate research funds, the public has a right to know where their money is going.

All researchers need to be held accountable for performing research that will give back to the community. For example if a researcher is experimenting with bio-weapons, and is not held accountable, a disaster could occur. If bio-weapons are not properly secured, the wrong people could gain possession of these weapons. This fear was realized in 2010 when the U.S. was concerned that terrorists could gain access to labs in India with weak security. This shows that not only in America, but around the world more actions need to be taken to ensure the safety of lives everywhere. If it is assumed that researches take on a necessary measures to inform the public and make positive contributions to humans, then scares like those about bio-weapons can and will occur. All research should be strictly monitored and conveyed to the public in its entirety.

In past years, publicly funded research was encouraged to reveal their motives and methods of their research and the benefits. However, this practice was not mandatory. Recently, there has been measures taken to increase the accountability of researchers by the American National Science Foundation (NSF). Any research conducted through NSF funding is required to submit progress reports every ninety days along with several other regulations. The NSF increased accountability measures to satisfy the public. Today, all the research is on the NSF website and tax payers can quantify what government money is funding. Without these regulations, the money researchers are granted could be used for different items. The NSF requires that every expenditure be documented. Now, not only can the goals of the research be monitored, but also the funds. It is important to make sure that all the funds allocated are being spent on what they were meant for, but also that the research is making progress. With the required progress reports, the NSF can evaluate their funding allocations.

If research is publicly funded, they should be held to requirements like the NSF mandates. They should be complimented and all organizations should follow this precedent to inform the public and increase safety. Accountability gives the public peace of mind and the ability to be involved with the spending of their money. Researchers should strive to inform the public, push to finish their goal, and reach their goal with integrity.

________________________________________

Do You Want to be Informed?
by Stephen Jumic

What is it about books and movies that we find enjoyable? If I were to tell you how a book began and how it ended would that be entertaining or even interesting? Most people would rather see how the story progressed from point A to point B instead of being told what point A and B are. It is the route between the points that allows us gain better insight into what is happening, and to also feel affected by the story. This same idea should be applied to any sort of publicly funded research that is being done. If we as the public are only told the outcome of a study then we are losing out on what means the researcher used to get to that outcome. The means that were used may change our perspective about the outcome or they may enhance our understanding even more.

The additions to allow for greater accountability of research funded by the NSF is a good start to allow research to be more accessible to the general public, who are funding the NSF. We should know what our money is going toward and if it is valuable and impactful. This does not give the full amount of transparency though, since people will not be able to see what the researchers did in order to get those results. Since anthropology and other sciences use people as the subjects of their research we should know what researchers have done to their subjects in order to get results. By knowing the means that were used the general public would be able to see if their money is going towards research they agree with. Even though most people are not familiar with the methods that scientists use these methods could be generalized just as much as the results will be generalized in the summary.

The key decisions makers who were involved in addressing the concerns of the op-eds dealt with the concerns well. Their acceptance of the fact that the general public is not informed enough about the studies that the NSF funds is a good step forward. They should also be complimented because they want the researcher to give the summary in their own words without any intervention by the NSF itself. Since this seems like it should be very simple it should be implemented very soon. This way people would know what studies are going on and how important or impactful they are. If people disagree with the studies they would be able to address their concerns, and if they wanted to see more of a particular study they could voice their opinion.

In modern day society people are able to question more of the things that the government and businesses do. We are able to do this because, in the case of the government, we invest our money and ourselves into the organization. Since we are giving up things that are ours we should be able to know what they are going towards. Just being given the summary of a project is not sufficient in giving us all the details of where our resources are going. This is why we should also be informed about the methods that were used, so that we get a more full picture about the research that NSF is funding.

________________________________________

Accountable Research for the Future
by Christina Menconi

As a business major, I tend to look at situations with an analytical and logical perspective. The issue of accountability with researchers reminded me of some common financial transactions that I, and most people, deal with on a daily basis. When I put my money in a bank account, I trust it to be there if I need to withdraw it. Because I am technically loaning my money for the bank to use, I also expect that it will grow in value by gaining interest. In order to feel comfortable giving the bank my money, I have to trust that the bank will be accountable. To choose what bank to put my money into, I might research past history, interest rates and financial policies the bank offers. This real-world example has helped me realize that the regulations and requirements the National Science Foundation is putting into action are a very good thing for the funders of research, the general public and the researchers themselves.

In order for a project to be funded, I believe that researchers should definitely have to prove that the results of their research would lead to intellectual growth and have a positive impact for society. The National Science Foundation has limited funds, and can only sponsor the research projects that are most relevant and have the greatest potential to benefit society. For example, a researcher who is able to demonstrate that their project could lead to a quick solution for solving oil spills should receive priority funding over other projects. The results from this researcher’s project would have an extremely positive effect on the entire global population, as well as the environment and many different animal species.

I also strongly agree that researchers should have to have their project approved by an ethics board, such as the Institutional Review Board in the United States. Continuing from the oil spill example, suppose the research project consists of duplicating an oil spill in a section of the ocean in order to test the new clean-up method. This could harm the entire ecosystem that is in the area, as well as the nearby shores. The funders of the research should be aware of this information before they invest money in a project that is harmful, even though it might benefit society in the long run. In this sense, the efforts made by the National Science Foundation to increase accountability should be recognized as a very good thing.

Even though there are rules in place to try and assure accountability, it is not assured that researches are telling the truth. Because of this, I think that it is important for researchers to be monitored throughout their research. There are already some regulations in place to try and monitor research, but I think there should be more deadlines put in place in order to assure that research is following guidelines. Annual reports of research are required for all projects that are offered an award. I think this is an excellent way to monitor the progress of research, but I think that it should also be required to submit a report every six months in addition to the yearly reports. A lot can happen in a years time, but by monitoring the project semi-annually, the foundation can make sure the project is complying with ethical guidelines and is striving to benefit the greater good of society. This does not mean that the National Science Foundation should be interfering with running the project, which might taint the results. The monitoring should be from the outside only and should never disturb the actual research process.

One of the main reasons for research to be conducted is that the results will hopefully benefit society. I think it is extremely important for the public to be aware of different research results, whether they are medical miracles or just common analysis. It is necessary for these reports to be written in a style that the general public will be able to understand, so they can correctly interpret the results. For these reasons, I believe that the key decision-makers at the National Science Foundation as well as the students who urged a change should be applauded for tightening regulations on research. It makes the process of funding for research much more controlled and efficient.

I believe that in order for these changes to be put into place effectively, they should be implemented gradually. If too many changes are put into place at once, researchers might get frustrated and not follow the new changes. If a couple changes are put into place immediately, followed by the rest of the changes implemented over time, researchers will be more likely to be supportive of the changes. It is key that researchers are not in protest of the changes, otherwise they will not be willing to work cooperatively with the National Science Foundation. Cooperation is key in order for research to be of high quality and produce positive results for society. I believe that the changes the National Science Foundation have made and want to put into action will result in superior scientific progress as well as more efficient research that will have an extremely beneficial impact on society in the future.

________________________________________

Research Accountability
by Cassie Menke

Any program with a budget of $6.87 billion US dollars is going to have some controversial issues involved with it. The United States’ National Science Foundation (NSF) spends this amount on funding 20 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by US colleges and universities.
The majority of the people involved in NSF are the researchers: those who spend endless hours at a lab bench slaving over data and repeating weeks of failed experiments. Is it fair to give these persistent scientists deadlines and ‘paperwork’ to submit when they may be on the brink of scientific triumph? My answer is YES. With this amount of money invested in the NSF program, I believe there should be a system in place to make sure all involved are held accountable.

People who are donating to the NSF fund expect results. By holding researchers accountable for their work, the public’s confidence will increase. The increase in confidence will therefore lead to more donations, a recurring cycle. People who contribute to the fund generally have a specific personal reason for donating. For example, if one has a brother with muscular dystrophy, he or she may choose to donate to a researcher involved with investigating cures to muscular dystrophy. If researchers were held accountable to publish more results of their studies, they would be showing the donating public their progress and insuring subsequent donations.

By making researchers accountable for their own work, NSF ensures there is no alternative. Therefore, there is no variation between research groups. This form of accountability may induce a form of self-empowerment to each researcher. Working in a microbiology lab myself, I can attest to this. Knowing that every experiment I perform will be critiqued, I make sure that I do everything as accurately as possible: I double-check calculations, clean glassware twice, etc. I realize that in the event of an error, I- and only I- will be approached and questioned. Fear of criticism is a great driving force for precision. Insuring accuracy leads to better experiments, faster conclusions and less money spent.
The topic of accountability may be frustrating for many researchers. To lessen the overall impact, I believe accountability should begin at the earliest stage of research. All new researchers should be well-versed in the procedures in which they submit their work. Therefore, these new researchers will have never known a research world where paperwork was able to be forgotten.

With the consideration of money, public confidence, and self-empowered advancement, NSF’s decision on researcher accountability should remain. The 90 day period that the NSF directors implemented should be complimented; the directors are moving in the right direction. Critics of the program may say that researchers would waste time arguing the reasonableness of their behavior with the scientific behavior. I believe this time is not wasted. The scientific community may find a flaw early on and halt further experimentation on a topic that would have used up valuable dollars to produce no results. The positives of the research accountability system ensure that the $6.87 billion US dollars are put to good use.

________________________________________

Clear as Water
by Chia-Wei Chan

Just this semester, I have joined a research team on campus that study and make bio-sand filters. The team is part of Engineers Without Borders, an organization of engineers, much like Doctors Without Borders, that go to countries in need and help solve their problems. The goal of this particular research project and EWB group is to ensure clean and cheap drinking water to the people in Socorro, Guatemala.

The general process of these projects begin with students addressing a problem and determining a path to solve this problem. In our case, the bio-sand filter was chosen as the most fit solution for the people of Socorro a few years back. The next step is to actually make, run, test and improve the filters. People from all levels of academia work on the team, from undergraduate students to professors. When the filters are ready, the team brings them to village and work with the people there to implement the filters into their daily lives. The team works with the people of Socorro to educate them in the importance of clean water, the functionality of the filters and how to make them. Each step is crucial for the success of this complicated project, a lot of time, money and hard work is used to achieve the final goal.

The professors and graduate students in charge of the project require updates on how filters work and all the data collected. Sponsors who give us money also require the team to present specific presentations on what will be done, how the money they give the team will be used. We also update the people we have trained in Guatemala of the findings and improvements we are making to the filters, so that they are in the know of the current status of the research. All of these are examples of transparency; without transparency, a project of this scale will not be able to function and communicate properly, leaving no one responsible for anything.

NSF’s initiative for increased transparency is a big step in not only creating greater accountability but in achieving their mission to “promote the progress of science; advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; and secure the national defense…”. With transparency, there will be no hiding of information, everything will be open to the public thus creating trust and accountability, and also reminding the researchers that their work can be seen by the public.

Not only do I applaud what the NSF and its directors decisions in implementing greater transparency, I believe that complete transparency should eventually be administered. Understandably there will be arguments of sensitive information that cannot be posted for the public to read, complete transparency could still be achieved without sacrificing security of the project. I believe that the greatest accountability will be achieved when the research groups have nothing to hide, and that the current decision for transparency should be implemented immediately with plans to increasing transparency in the near future.

For more information on Public Anthropology’s Community Action Website, please visit:
(http://www.publicanthropology.org/Yanomami/a-FAQs-Students.htm).

Advertisements