To do research you need a plan, permission from the relevant authorities, and funding. The first time most anthropology students do research is after graduate coursework in which they come to focus their studies on particular research topics. I developed an interest in Pacific and Melanesian ethnography during my undergraduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania, soon focusing on culture change and development in Papua New Guinea. In 1977 I entered the graduate program at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania so that I might study with Professor Jane Goodale. Dr. Goodale has done long-term fieldwork in both Papua New Guinea and Australia and has trained and sent many anthropology students into all corners of the Pacific. I designed my first proposal for a year of research on the subject of "The Impact of Urban Remittances on the Rural Community and the Effects of Household Income Differences Upon Social Relations, Living Standards, and Urban Migration". Forced by provincial politics to switch fieldsites early in my research, I spent sixteen months in the field in 1982 and 1983. The doctoral dissertation resulting from this fieldwork is titled: The Losing Game - Exchange, Migration, and Inequality Among the Gende People of Papua New Guinea (1985).
Getting your proposal accepted and funded:
Proposals must make it past many gatekeepers. The first gatekeepers in my case were members of my dissertation committee who reviewed drafts of my proposal until they were satisfied with its scientific merit and gave the go-ahead to submit to grant agencies. While this process of planning and revision was going on, I submitted proposals to institutions and provincial research officers in Papua New Guinea. As it takes any bureaucracy many months to process proposals and no granting agency will fund a project not already accepted by local authorities, it was essential to discover Papua New Guinea's interest (or disinterest) in my project as early as possible. All proposals, whether intended for review by grant agencies or local research officers, must lay out in concise terms what the anthropologist intends to study (Aims), a review of related scientific writings and research (Literature Review), how the study will be carried out (Methods), what the expected outcomes of the study are in terms of theoretical and practical importance (Contributions), a schedule of research (Timetable), and the expected costs of the project (Budget).
Doing anthropology in Papua New Guinea requires permission from the Institute of Papua New Guinea Studies (in charge of screening research of any kind), the Anthropology and Sociology Department of the University of Papua New Guinea (with whom most anthropologists affiliate for the duration of their research), and provincial research officers. Ultimately, the people you intend studying must also accept you (see sections on FIELD SITES, GETTING THERE, and RAPPORT) but not at this stage. Each country has its own rules so it is best to discover what they are early on. During the years I worked for the government of Papua New Guinea as an instructor of anthropology at UPNG, I was able to do many short research projects and accompany my students on research training projects without going through the rigorous gatekeeping that is normally required of foreign researchers. I did, however, require funding and time off from my duties at UPNG and so it was necessary to write proposals to University research and grant committees. As a matter of professional courtesy (and wisdom), I also informed provincial research officers of my intended research plans.
Doing a year of research in a foreign country is costly, generally around $20-30,000. Roundtrip airfares to Papua New Guinea average around $2000 and domestic airfares and living costs are high. Even in a village, you spend money on food, housing and gifts in addition to the expense of field equipment. Most anthropologists seek to put together sufficient funding from their universities, grant agencies, and their own pockets. Two of the agencies that award grants for anthropological research are listed below. If you think you might want to do fieldwork someday you might call (or write) for information from one or the other of these agencies so you can learn what will be expected of you.
National Science Foundation - Sociology Program
National Science Foundation - Archaeology
National Science Foundation - Physical Anthropology
National Science Foundation - Cultural Anthropology
Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research: Regular Grants and Pre-doctoral
Copyright © 1996 by Laura Tamakoshi and Brian Cross