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A symposium at the recent meeting of the Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) in Atlanta, Georgia (February 2012) discussed the convenience and possibility of changing the name of the Academy’s Physical Anthropology Section.

The key argument for proposing this change was that the moniker Physical Anthropology does not appropriately describe the significant role played by other anthropology sub-disciplines (in particular, forensic archaeology) in forensic anthropology as practiced today, and thus does not adequately convey to other anthropologists, forensic specialists, law enforcement, and the coroner/Medical Examiner communities what forensic anthropologists can offer and accomplish in medico-legal contexts.

The proposal was supported by the results of an online questionnaire describing the current practice and views of an ample cross-section of forensic anthropology practitioners and AAFS Physical Anthropology Section members regarding both the field and the specific name-change question. Both the questionnaire and the general discussion during the symposium demonstrated a widespread and strong support for the proposal among the Section members, calling for a name change.

Since that meeting numerous Section members have contacted us to express further support, valuable ideas and sensible concerns about the name-change proposal. With this forum we would like to further the discussion, allowing all members of the section to air their support or concerns regarding a name change. Our goal is to listen to as many voices as possible, gathering new ideas and seeking a broad consensus before presenting a motion to vote for a new name in the next Academy meetings.

We would like to conduct the discussion in two stages: The first stage will simply focus on discussing whether a name change is in order and will result in a second email questionnaire that will ask for a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote. In case this first stage renders an affirmative answer, the second stage of the discussion will be devoted to discussing and determining the top 2-4 choices for the new name.

Before we proceed with the discussion in the forum, let’s conduct a straw vote with a simple question: Should the name be changed, YES or NO? (official members of the Physical Anthropology Section of the Academy only, please). Please Leave a Comment with your input regarding this question.

Thanks for your help!

Dennis Dirkmaat and Luis Cabo, Mercyhurst University

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