I found the IFA thread depressingly familiar. The discussion began with the
usual 'What has the IFA done for us', followed on to 'Its done nothing for
me (but I'm not a member)', to 'I'm not joining because its too expensive'.
We then air 'the IFA trys to stop me getting a job because I'm not a
member', re-visit 'why don't the IFA discipline sub-standard archaeologists'
and we finally arrive at the anecdotal 'the worst archaeologists are not in
it, and what are the IFA going to do about them!'.
One of the purposes of the IFA is to set standards and to the promote them,
not to check that the work in Worsetshire is up to standard. Curators can
demand that contracting archaeologists adhere to those standards. Of course
curators can send back reports that are sub-standard, but they need to act
before then. Curators should monitor the archaeologists at work on PPG16
sites, complain to the IFA if members of IFA carry out substandard work,
and copy the correspondence to the client. (At this point curators say 'If I
monitored every site in Worsetshire then I'd have no time to check all those
On pay and conditions the IFA (unfortunately I believe) has in its rules
that it should not act as a Trade Union. They do however monitor job
adverts, and any organisation paying less than IFA rates will be contacted,
and probably named and shamed in the quarterly journal. I'm embarrased to
admit that I speak from personal experience here. Principle 5 of the Code
of Conduct says IFA archaeologists should respect the rights of their
employees to training and development.
The IFA has produced a large number of Technical Papers where you will find
experts in their fields passing on specialist knowledge on for instance
Human Remains or Remote sensing.
The subsidised training courses stand out as incredible value for money,
enabling members of the profession to keep up to date with the latest
developments in pottery or lithics or project management.
The local groups provide a venue for archaeologists to get together,
socialise, decide on a research agenda for the archaeology of their area,
and go down the pub for a good moan about...( the IFA probably).
The special interest groups, such as the one on Finds, are drawing up
standards for finds processing and reporting that might address some of the
points raised elswhere on britarch.
On subscriptions there have been some wild figures flying about. The sub is
linked to salary. The sub for a Local Authority Scale 2 digger is £51, less
than a fiver a month. You would only need to attend one subsidised training
course to get your money back. If you spend time unemployed the lowest band
is £12 a year. Specialist staff or site supervisors would pay say £2 a week.
To all those people who say they cannot afford it: perhaps if you did join
the IFA employers would take your applications more seriously, as coming
from someone who agrees to abide by recognised professional standards, and
perhaps your employment and pay prospects would improve.
To those who say the IFA should do something about the poor standards in the
profession: for IFA members the mechanisms are there, it is up to people to
complain about it to the IFA. I have taken part in disciplinary
investigations, and they grind slowly but thoroughly. The poor standards
outside the IFA membership? Curators could advise clients to use IFA
members, or ask all contractors, not just IFA ones, to abide by the IFA
Standards (it's done in at least one local Authority). But then someone
complained that the IFA trys to stop them getting employment! You cannot
have it both ways!
To those who refuse to join any organisation that would have them, fair
enough, but there will always be clients and employers who might not contact
you because they looked in the IFA yearbook to find a professional
archaeologist who subscribed to a recognised code of conduct and was a
member of a professional body.
IFA member 293.