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Professional Organisations in Archaeology
#1
Apologies to David if the topic i was looking for still exists but i remember one on professional organisations which i can't now find.:face-huh: I wanted to make a considered, rather than knee jerk post to that thread so have started this one with what follows!

A professional body should:
Always have the good of the profession as a whole as its basis
Be Impartial
Be independent

Unfortunately in my opinion this means that the IFA falls down on two of my three criteria!
Clearly the IFA makes an attempt to uphold standards, the only criticism here is that it is standards as the IFA sees them. On the whole these standards are good and sensible but they are not followed by everyone, even those within IFA RAOs, the problem being that individuals within RAOs who are not themselves IFA members have no obligation to adhere to IFA standards and, so long as there methods are sensible, are free to work outside of the set guidelines which sort of makes a mockery of RAO status to a degree! There are a great many extremely competent archaeologists who are members of the IFA and their opinion of the organisation varies hugely from apathy through anger to incredulity. There are problems with the assessed criteria for Grades which favour individuals in certain geographic areas over others and those in different sized units have more or less opportunity to reach the higher grades regardless of their experience. To paraphrase (for the sensitive) a comment of one senior archaeologist with decades of experience and many publications to his name: ?It is my opinion that there are people with MIFA after their name who couldn?t find their [backside] with a trowel!?
The IFA can never be impartial or independent. It is a ?self appointed? organisation which relies on members fees for survival. The IFA does not have a Royal Charter so it does not have the authority of professional bodies that do, being a member of the IFA can never legally be a requirement or condition of employment. It is not impartial because it must, for it?s own survival, favour members over non members and RAO?s over individuals.....why?
This will make many cringe but however noble its aims or well meaning its policies the IFA is essentially a ?vanity? organisation! Its members draw kudos from being part of it and it draws kudos from the number of individual members and RAOs it has. Of course all these members both individuals and organisations sign up to a set of criteria to which they are supposed to adhere, they pay their yearly subscriptions and can use certain letters after their names in order to impress outsiders. In this the IFA is very similar to a private club, and complaints or disciplinary matters are dealt with by appointed members of the ?club?. This has a strange affect. Because the IFA ?club? relies on the quantity of members to maintain its authority there is clearly going to be a tendency not to expel or discipline members however heinous their ?crimes?. If, to make a ludicrous example, 70% of membership were one day caught metal detecting and excavating Silchester without permissions then to expel them all including say 50% of RAO?s would hugely deplete the IFAs funds, standing and collective ego as well as making them look rather daft! RAO?s are clearly the most prized members of the IFAs membership as they generate the most revenue and kudos and one might suppose add more greatly to the IFAs collective Ego due to the incorrect assumption that all individuals working for RAOs are under the IFA ?banner?. In this at least there does seem to be an attempt, conscious or otherwise, to mislead those that employ RAO?s.
This is not meant to bash the IFA, and I apologise if it seems so, they are however the only point of comparison we really have. The IFA have set in motion an extremely effective series of guidelines and standards which, on the whole, serve the industry well, however where they fall short is in not recognising their limitations as a ?vanity? organisation.
The solution is actually fairly simple, at least in principle, a small independent organisation should monitor the activities of the IFA, a watcher for the watchers if you will. I cannot say where or how this organisation should be formed other than it would consist of a small number of non-IFA individuals, it may also be desirable if it included non-archaeologists. This ?panel? whether voluntary or funded in some way could impartially look at matters of complaints or discipline within the industry without the constraints of damaging their own collective Ego if a complaint is found to have grounds. This would hopefully avoid the rumoured instances, whether apocryphal or otherwise, where non or individual members complain against an RAO to, not only, have their complaint ?thrown out? but to mysteriously find that they can no longer get employment in archaeology!
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#2
Time to get the body armour out again Smile

[Image: skull1.gif]
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#3
While I am away in Croatia, I just knew such a topic would emerge. However, there is nothing within the original post that I would per ce disagree with. :face-huh:

I have seen and heard too much to find words to say... ah but...

Your post was very considered, and did not (IMHO) bash the IFA. But as you say, there is no-one watching the watcher.. which does allow for the question... where is the independant complaints commission? In many ways, what my own experience showed, was that decisions could be taken, with no comeback, and no real appeal... after all, what is the point of appealing when the same people are going to look at the appeal? An independant commission, would be a good step forward... and perhaps give the IFA credibility. A look at what they do, and spend on these consultations, travels and fact finding missions... is this for the member (whose money it is) or for the organisation?

Even while on the council, it was hard to get answers to questions... even if you knew what questions to ask...

:face-huh:

Please... for my sake, keep this topic in the spirit of the first poster.. considered, polite and looking for solutions....

thanks

"No job worth doing was ever done on time or under budget.."
Khufu
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#4
Unfortunately, I don't have time at the moment to address each point in the original post. So I'll keep it brief and positive!

My reading of the original post is that this could be an argument for making the IFA a chartered organisation! (Although clearly I recognise that this was not the intention of the poster!)Wink

Just picking up on one point on RAOs, there are a couple of things to say. There has to be a responsible post holder in an RAO who is a Member of the IFA (i.e. MIFA). RAOs sign up to the IFA codes of conduct, standards etc on behalf of all their staff and if anyone, whether an individual member or not, is proved to have broken these, the organisation can be removed from the scheme. However, the scheme was set up to be a peer reviewed system, with other people from within the IFA (not all from RAOs) monitoring. It is also supposed to improved standards through this peer review process. i.e. it's not a 'hang them shoot them' process, it's always been initially a 'point out the problems and help organisations get better' system. Only if organisations were consistently ignoring the assistance/advice were disciplinary measures undertaken in the past.

And on the external evaluation side, if the complaint is from a client against an IFA member or RAO there is a system for external mediation.

Appeals against (for example) Validation committee decisions are within IFA, but from a completely different committee who can and do overrule original decisions.

As for the fundament with a trowel comment, perhaps this is a reason (much as bang my head on the table each time I hear this kick off again) to discuss the 'field' in the IFAs name. I know some people believe that you have to be digging (and only digging) to be an archaeologist, but do we really think this is true? :face-confused:

Anyway, if the IFA isn't what people want (and if there is good with bad, why throw the baby out with the bath water?), what do you all want? I've always taken the line that if you don't like it, get involved and change it, and I've tried to do that. Unfortunately I don't have the time to do as much as I'd like (darn this having to work for a living). [:p]
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#5
quite agree with much of that old girl... though from personal knowledge know some other fundamental problems.

I joined... I even ended up on council... I went with the thought.. you have to be part of it to change things. I left..... nuf said. even now... some questions and requests have remained unanswered. when I am asked a question I reply as soon as I can.

"No job worth doing was ever done on time or under budget.."
Khufu
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#6
Drumcharry has obviously given a lot of thought to his/her post at the start of this thread and tried to be constructive, but unfortunately I think a lot of the comments are based on misconceptions. For example:
Quote:quote:the IFA makes an attempt to uphold standards, the only criticism here is that it is standards as the IFA sees them
No-one else has defined any standards, so what other standards could they uphold than the ones the define themselves?
Quote:quote:individuals within RAOs who are not themselves IFA members have no obligation to adhere to IFA standards
Not true - the RAO itself is obliged to ensure that all its employees adhere to the standards, whether or not they are IFA members.
Quote:quote:There are a great many extremely competent archaeologists who are members of the IFA and their opinion of the organisation varies hugely from apathy through anger to incredulity
True, but you omit those whose opinion is much more positive.
Quote:quote:The IFA can never be impartial or independent. It is a ?self appointed? organisation which relies on members fees for survival
That is just what makes it independent - if it was appointed by someone else, it would be in someone else's control.
Quote:quote:The IFA does not have a Royal Charter so it does not have the authority of professional bodies that do, being a member of the IFA can never legally be a requirement or condition of employment.
Most Chartered organisations are also wholly or largely funded by member subscriptions, so a Royal Charter changes nothing in that respect. It is perfectly true that some (but not all) Chartered organisations are able to control entry to the profession, where the IFA can't. That isn't a reason to stay out of the IFA - rather it is a reason to join, and to try to help the IFA to become chartered.
Quote:quote:It is not impartial because it must, for it?s own survival, favour members over non members and RAO?s over individuals.....why?
It can't favour members over non-members, because it has no power over non-members. It can't favour RAOs over individuals, because its by-laws prevent it from doing so, and because it is controlled by its individual members (who have a vote at the AGM and in Council elections) and not by RAOs (which can't vote).
Quote:quote:the IFA is essentially a ?vanity? organisation! Its members draw kudos from being part of it and it draws kudos from the number of individual members and RAOs it has
The same could be said of any membership-based organisation, including all professional bodies, and probably more so in relation to Chartered ones - but that does not make them 'vanity' organisations. A vanity organisation gives members a grand title but places no obligations on them, whereas you acknowledge in your post that the "IFA have set in motion an extremely effective series of guidelines and standards which, on the whole, serve the industry well", and they do try to enforce those standards.
Quote:quote:Because the IFA ?club? relies on the quantity of members to maintain its authority there is clearly going to be a tendency not to expel or discipline members however heinous their ?crimes?.
The IFA relies for its authority on its willingness to take action when there is a complaint. Number of members is irrelevant, because its authority only covers members anyway.
One of the main things that, in practice, undermines the IFA is the perception that they don't take action often enough. It is hard to comment on that, because the actions they do take are not often publicised. However, please bear in mind that expulsion is not the only possible course of disciplinary action. Please bear in mind also that not all complaints are justified - somtimes the complainant is mistaken, or the apparent breach can be satisfactorily explained, or (rarely) the complaint may be malicious.

There is a strong tendency on these forums to take the view that "serious breaches of standards by IFA members are common... expulsions aren't... therefore the IFA doesn't care." However, I am not convinced that serious breaches that warrant expulsion are common, and no one has produced evidence to suggest otherwise. Lesser breaches can be dealt with in other ways.
Quote:quote:The solution is actually fairly simple, at least in principle, a small independent organisation should monitor the activities of the IFA, a watcher for the watchers if you will
So, who would appoint this panel? and who would monitor their independence and fairness?

1man1desk

to let, fully furnished
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#7
"One of the main things that, in practice, undermines the IFA is the perception that they don't take action often enough. It is hard to comment on that, because the actions they do take are not often publicised."

Perhaps it is time to re-examine this policy. If they were to publish their disciplinary judgements, their reasoning and the outcomes of their judgments it might significantly improve their reputation.

Perhaps they might also take a more pro-active approach. Someone has mentioned on another thread that there are a couple of pipelines going ahead without watching briefs, on the basis that all the archaeology has been positively identified from the geophysics. I have no idea about this case, but was that decision made by a member, or a member of staff of an RAO? I agree that very serious breaches are not common, but they do happen.
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#8
"Perhaps it is time to re-examine this policy. If they were to publish their disciplinary judgements, their reasoning and the outcomes of their judgments it might significantly improve their reputation."

There are two points to make on this (and I'm not agreeing or disagreeing, just making the points):

1. The disciplinary procedures, including the decision not to publicise cases, were set up by the membership. If you want to change them, join the IFA and put new regulations forward to the AGM. You don't have to be on council to do that, but you do have to be a corporate member (i.e. PIFA, AIFA, MIFA).
2. As 1man1desk pointed out, these cases only refer to members of the IFA. What happens to those that aren't members? Who deals with them? (Rhetorical question)

In the case of the pipelines and the geophysics, I think the thread suggested that that was the basis for the decision, but didn't state it definitely was. And, as I said on the thread (and I don't know anything about the job either) there can be other good reasons for not having a watching brief - such as previous monitoring or destruction of archaeological deposits. Each site/project needs a mitigation process that is appropriate to that project. Do you expect IFA to monitor every single mitigation strategy/WSI?
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#9
Many thanks for the reasoned responses to my original post, I do feel that there are some issues arising form the replies and I will attempt to address them here. Please excuse my lack of ability with sorting out the quotes and such like....short of quoting 1man1desks whole reply I have resoted to writing the quotes out again! 1man1desks comments are in green.

No-one else has defined any standards, so what other standards could they uphold than the ones the define themselves?When archaeologists are trained they are given, or should be given, certain acceptable standards of work. Most archaeologists also take pride in their abilities and integrity within their chosen profession. Archaeologists are therefore responsible for upholding their own standards.

Not true - the RAO itself is obliged to ensure that all its employees adhere to the standards, whether or not they are IFA members.
As it would be illegal to insist on IFA membership for an individual within an organisation and a non-IFA member has no obligation to work under someone elses contract with the IFA the individuals are not of course answerable to the IFA. One would hope that archaeologists would adhere to there own standards which should pretty much match those of the IFA but an RAO cannot legally enforce IFA standards on employees, but can enforce it?s own standards, via a contract, on employees these standards would have to be rigidly defined though within the contract as 'acceptable' or 'suitable' standard could equally apply to methods outside of IFA guidelines but still ethical and accurate. A non IFA member cannot therefore be brought to task for not following IFA standards and therefore developers, for example cannot have the perceived security of IFA standards when not everyone is answerable to them within an organisation.

True, but you omit those whose opinion is much more positive.
Surely those who are positive would join the IFA, by definition being an archaeologist and not joining them must demonstrate at least a degree of apathy towards them?

That is just what makes it independent - if it was appointed by someone else, it would be in someone else's control.
How can it be independent if it relies on the support and funds of those it attempts to ?police??

It can't favour members over non-members, because it has no power over non-members. It can't favour RAOs over individuals, because its by-laws prevent it from doing so, and because it is controlled by its individual members (who have a vote at the AGM and in Council elections) and not by RAOs (which can't vote).
It can favour members over non members as when a complaint is made to the IFA it can come from a non- member even a non-archaeologist therefore it may be that members are favoured in these instances, without an independent adjudication it is impossible to argue with any certainty either way. There are individuals including former members of the IFA who would argue that members are favoured and those (mostly within the organisation) who would say otherwise.

The IFA relies for its authority on its willingness to take action when there is a complaint. Number of members is irrelevant, because its authority only covers members anyway.
I stand by my previous comments on this issue, the IFA is dependent for its survival on keeping/gaining members!

So, who would appoint this panel? and who would monitor their independence and fairness?
This is a difficult one and perhaps as I have said could be voluntary and not include professional archaeologists exclusively. Perhaps, like the IFA, it should be self appointed!

This really was not intended as an IFA 'bash' I simply feel that there is a lot of misconceptions about what the IFA can, does and should do. I still feel the simplest solution is to have them be 'accountable' themselves to people and organisations other than their members.
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#10
Quote:quote:"Not true - the RAO itself is obliged to ensure that all its employees adhere to the standards, whether or not they are IFA members."
As it would be illegal to insist on IFA membership for an individual within an organisation and a non-IFA member has no obligation to work under someone elses contract with the IFA the individuals are not of course answerable to the IFA. One would hope that archaeologists would adhere to there own standards which should pretty much match those of the IFA but an RAO cannot legally enforce IFA standards on employees, but can enforce it?s own standards, via a contract, on employees these standards would have to be rigidly defined though within the contract as 'acceptable' or 'suitable' standard could equally apply to methods outside of IFA guidelines but still ethical and accurate. A non IFA member cannot therefore be brought to task for not following IFA standards and therefore developers, for example cannot have the perceived security of IFA standards when not everyone is answerable to them within an organisation.

1man1desk is quite right here. If you work for an RAO, you are obliged to adhere to the standards and guidance of the IFA. That is really the whole point of the company being an RAO. I have sugned one of these employment contracts in the past, and they are well within their rights to include a clause saying something like "the employee will abide by the standards and guidance of the IFA". An RAO cannot require you to be a member of the IFA (though they can offer to pay your subs).

The IFA is never going to meet your definition of "independent", as it will always be reliant on its members for funds. Just like all other professional associations and trade unions. Barring the possibility of an eccentric millionaire setting them up with a trust fund.
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