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Statement on Confidentiality of Fieldnotes

At the 2003 CAR business meeting, the CAR membership approved the following statement on the confidentiality of field notes:

The Council on Anthropology and Reproduction supports the position that a researcher's field notes should be considered privileged information.

The American Anthropological Association Code of Ethics states that "Anthropological researchers have primary ethical obligations to the people, species, and materials they study and to the people with whom they work" (III)(A)(1).
Additionally, anthropological researchers are cautioned to "do everything in their power to ensure that their research does not harm the safety, dignity, or privacy of the people with whom they work, conduct research, or perform other professional activities" (III)(A)(2).
Anthropological researchers cannot carry out their responsibility to protect the privacy of the people with whom they work unless they are able to guarantee the confidentiality of their field notes. Moreover, field notes must be given the highest possible confidential privilege in support of the advancement of scientific inquiry. The inability to secure the guarantee of privilege threatens the trust of those with whom we work and the unique nature of the field endeavor on which anthropology is built.