Policy: SMA Takes A Stand

“Takes A Stand” (TAS) Initiatives:  Guidelines and Procedures for Developing TAS initiatives

SMA TAS Policy Mechanisms

The “Takes A Stand” (TAS) process includes two formal mechanisms within the SMA for considering and publicly commenting on important public policy issues relating to society and health.

  1. The TAS “Policy Relevant Review” (PRR) provides a lengthy period (two years) for SMA participants to conduct in-depth exploration and research on policy concerns to provide an overview of a key issue and related debates, and consolidate a list of scholarly resources for social scientists and the general public to consider when deciding to take a stand on the issue or conduct further research related to the policy under consideration.
  2. The TAS “Policy Statement” (PS), on the other hand, is a process for the SMA to take a position in a policy discussion or debate and make policy recommendations that draw on perspectives and expertise from the field of medical anthropology. The goal is to widely disseminate the PS to the public and to policy makers in order to influence policy development and change. The PS allows faster turnaround time than the PRR to address time-sensitive policy issues. A final PS requires approval by the SMA Executive Board and the SMA membership as defined below

The PRR and PS mechanisms are therefore separate processes. However, a PRR process may lead to participants initiating a PS initiative after careful consideration of the merits and value of promoting a public SMA policy recommendation on a specific issue. A PS process may be initiated on its own. Both the TAS and the PS processes can be initiated by an individual SMA Special Interest Group (SIG), Temporary Interest Group (TIGs), or the SMA Board.

View previous policy statements here.

I. The TAS Policy Relevant Review (PRR)

The PRR mechanism is intended to consolidate and provide scholarly reflection on information and reference materials within social sciences and anthropology that are germane to important public policy issues relating to health and society. The PRR is not intended to articulate a position on controversial policy matters but rather to provide an overview of knowledge and resources on important issues to be made available to social scientists and the broader public. However, as a result of a PRR process, a PS might eventually be developed in which policy recommendations are made and/or a stand is taken on a controversial policy issue. A separate PS process then ensues and a PS could eventually be approved by the SMA and AAA for public dissemination (the PS process is elaborated below). The PRR process is initiated for the five following specific purposes:

  • To raise consciousness and inform the SMA membership about high profile public policy health issues, using the website to foster dialogue and circulate balanced, authoritative working papers on policy issues;
  • To identify anthropologists with expertise in the key health-related areas;
  • To identify high-priority gaps in research warranting attention by university-based and practicing anthropologists;
  • To provide anthropologists with substantial supporting documents (developed through a process of critical assessment by experts in the field), that may be published in peer-reviewed journals as policy reviews and reflections, to inform grant applications, advocacy efforts, and teaching on topics related to PRR initiatives; and
  • To propose, if deemed appropriate by the ad-hoc committee, development of policy recommendations through a PS to be approved by the SMA Executive Board and membership, and forwarded to the AAA Committee on Public Policy for review and possible adoption. (See PS definition and process description below).

The Policy Relevant Review Process

A PRR process can be initiated by an SMA SIG, TIG,or the SMA Board. The ideal PRR process would have eight steps and take about two years to complete:

  • The SMA Board, SIG, or other SMA members identify an issue to consider that members feel is worthy of commitment to a PRR process;
  • An ad-hoc volunteer committee is constituted to lead the PRR process through subsequent steps. The committee communicates their intention to the SMA Policy Committee;
  • The committee assembles a working bibliography on the topic, requesting feedback from experts and eventually posting the bibliography on the SMA website as a scholarly, educational, and publicly available resource. Before posting on the website, the committee must send the materials to the chair of the SMA policy committee to briefly review the materials to ensure that they are appropriate and professionally assembled;
  • The ad-hoc committee produces a short overview paper (or papers) related to the issue to identify research gaps and priorities for anthropologists, posting the working paper(s) on the SMA website after policy committee approval is granted, and revising based on comments received from website readers;
  • The committee next organizes a session at the annual AAA or SfAA meeting to introduce the anthropological community to the issue and generate feedback. To encourage dynamic conversation, the session would include additional relevant papers on the topic by experts and new voices outside of the ad-hoc committee;
  • Based on feedback received, members of the committee would write an overview article for Medical Anthropology Quarterly (MAQ) or another appropriate journal, identifying the article as the product of a PRR process. MAQ maintains the right of first refusal to publish PRR articles. The PRR article must undergo the journal’s peer review process. Where appropriate, additional manuscripts, such as those presented during the meeting panel, could be submitted to comprise a special issue of the journal on the PRR topic. Other publication formats can be considered as well, e.g. book chapters or edited volumes to publish a group of panel papers;
  • PRR materials remain on the SMA website, with committee members updating them as the issue evolves and additional literature is generated;
  • In some instances, a SIG, TIG, or SMA Board may wish to develop a PS with policy recommendations as a result of the extensive efforts in the PRR process. See PS process description below.


II. SMA TAS Policy Statement

The PS initiative provides a route for allowing SMA official policy to emerge from the work and policy formulation of committees or groups affiliated with the SMA, especially the SMA SIGs. With a target length of around 1250 words, a PS is intended to be much shorter than PRR products, which have often taken the form of an in-depth, article-length exploration of an issue. While wide circulation and impact

beyond anthropology and academia are desired outcomes of both the PRR and PS, the PS is explicitly oriented around promoting greater public awareness of the SMA’s stance or position on important (often controversial) policy issues. Thus, a PS needs to include policy recommendations for public dissemination. For a PS, one outcome of the process is an “endorsed” document that can be broadly circulated as representing the position of the Society for Medical Anthropology.


The TAS Policy Statement Process 

A PS process can be initiated by an SMA SIG, TIG, or the SMA Board. The following steps constitute the PS process:

  • The SMA Board or an SMA SIG identifies an issue for which an SMA policy statement can substantially enhance public debate and discussion. The selection of an issue for a PS could be the result of, and informed by, a PRR process, or could arise through other Board or SIG activities;
  • An ad-hoc volunteer committee (derived from the Board,the SIG or TIG) is constituted to lead development of the PS process through subsequent steps;
  • The committee produces a draft PS for circulation among SIG, TIG or Board members, for comment and revision. If produced by a SIG or TIG, the PS should be submitted through the interest group leadership;
  • The SMA Policy committee will review the PS version submitted by the SIG, TIG,or Board members and manage the presentation of the draft to the full Board for a vote. The final PS version must be approved by the SMA Board through a simple majority vote in a timely fashion. If approved by the Board, SMA will post the PS on the SMA website (and announces that it has been posted) for comments from the membership at large for at least two weeks. The PS is then presented to the full SMA membership for a vote. The PS must be approved by a two-thirds majority of votes cast to be become an official PS of the SMA.
  • If a PS is approved, the ad-hoc committee will coordinate with the SMA policy committee and communications committee to disseminate the PS through relevant channels appropriate to the policy topic. This may include development of press releases, outreach to popular press venues, outreach to policymakers, or other public sites. The PS will be placed on the SMA website under a specific, easily searchable, SMA Policy tab. The PS can be published in the web version of MAQ or other suitable journal. MAQ maintains the right of first refusal to publish any TAS PS.
  • If approved by the Board and SMA membership, in some instances the PS may be presented to the AAA Committee on Public Policy to be considered for adoption as an approved AAA policy statement.