The Royal Anthropological Institute, as part of its mission, seeks to maintain the highest standards of ethical conduct in the wide range of activities and practices that it finances, sponsors and represents. The Institute also seeks to exemplify best practice in the direct activities in which it is involved: publication, education and the curation of research material.  Given the diversity and scope of contemporary anthropology, the Institute itself does not promulgate, endorse or recommend any particular set of ethical guidelines, but rather serves as a clearing house for ethical guidelines more appropriately devised and maintained by its fraternal specialist associations which represent the different sub-fields of anthropology.

The RAI has developed the following guidelines with respect to its in-house activities:

• Archives

• Photo Collection

• Publications

• Film


Information on professional ethical guidelines for different areas of anthropology can be found as follows:


1. American Anthropological Association:

• AAA Code of Ethics (1998)   

2. Brazilian Association of Anthropology:

• The Anthropologist's Code of Ethics


1. World Archaeological Congress:

• WAC Code of Ethics

2. Society for American Archaeology:

• SAA Priciples of Archaeological Ethics

3. Institute of Field Archaeologists:

• IFA Codes, Guidelines & Standards

Biological Anthropology:

Much biological anthropology research falls within the framework of biomedical research, on which see:

1. World Medical Association:

• Declaration of Helsinki

2. More general ethical guidance on research involving human subjects is available on the MRC website at:

• MRC Ethics & Guidance

3. The American Association of Physical Anthropology has a web site named the ‘AAPA Position Statements’ which covers Ethics Codes, as well as their position on related subjects such as race, and teaching ‘creationsim’ in schools:

• AAPA Code of Ethics


The Code of Ethics of the International Society of Ethnobiology has its origins in the Declaration of Belém, agreed upon in 1988 at the founding of the International Society of Ethnobiology (in Belém, Brazil). The Code of Ethics was initiated in 1996 and completed in 2006. The final version, adopted by the ISE membership at the 11th International Congress of Ethnobiology in November 2006, supercedes all previous draft versions:

• Code of Ethics of the International Society of Ethnobiology

Forensic Anthropology:

There are two main bodies that provide either guidelines or statements on ethical practices relating to human remains:

1. The British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology provides guidelines for ethical practice in relation to handling, storage, and analysis of human remains from archaeological sites, as well as an initial draft of a code of ethics:  

• BABAO Ethics & Standards

2. On the reburial and repatriation of human remains in particular see:

• BABAO Reburial & Repatriation

Museum Ethnography:

1. Museum Ethnographers Group:

Guidance Notes on Ethical Approaches in Museum Ethnography

2. Museums Association:

• Code of Ethics for Museums

Social and Cultural Anthropology:

1. Association of Social Anthropologists of the UK and the Commonwealth:

• ASA Ethics

2. Most research conducted by social and cultural anthropologists based in the United Kingdom work within the Research Ethics Framework (REF) authorised by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC):

• ESRC Research Ethics Framework


Short Research Ethics Bibliography 



Arkadiusz Bentkowski, Alan Dangour, Brian Durrans, Roy Ellen, Susanne Hammacher, Gustaaf Houtman, Jonathan King, Patrick Mahoney, Julian Thomas, Sarah Walpole