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November 28, 2018

It’s All About the Deliverables

November 28, 2018 | By | No Comments

We, as academics, are conditioned to write grant and project proposals for research that we are interested in pursuing. We have our general format that we follow for these proposals…introduction, background information, research problem and questions, materials and methods, and potential impacts of the research project. However, a large focus of research proposals today, particularly grant proposals, are highly concerned with the “Deliverables” portion. Deliverables refer to the tangible products that will come from the project and the ways in which you will disseminate your results, including public presentations, development of software, public release of raw data in some forms, and analytical programs. This is an important component of your project proposal as it forces you consider who will be your target audience, how you will engage with the audience, and what you hope your project will provide to that community. Is the primary goal of your research to educate? Provide a useful tool? Provide a new method? Create a platform to connect researchers with a common interest?

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October 17, 2018

Privacy in Digitally-Driven Projects in Forensic Anthropology

October 17, 2018 | By | No Comments

Today, the majority of research and daily practices in Forensic Anthropology have a digital component. When writing grant proposals for forensic research, institutions, such as National Institute of Justice or the National Science Foundation, generally fund projects that have deliverables in the form of large data mining and sharing via digital sources. In daily practice, forensic anthropologists aim to identify individuals primarily through the use of software with large amounts of reference data to which they compare their target individual.
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September 26, 2018

Identifying Amber Plemons

September 26, 2018 | By | No Comments

Hello, unidentified individuals. I use that term frequently. Unidentified individuals.

My name is Amber Plemons. I am identified. I have the ability to speak and advocate for myself. But what happens when unidentified human skeletal remains are discovered? Their voice has to be restored through someone else, whether the goal is to provide justice for a cruel act bestowed upon them or closure for loved ones.

I am a third year PhD student in Biological Anthropology, focusing in Forensic Anthropology. As a forensic anthropologist, much of my days are spent attempting to narrow down candidate lists for identifying unknown persons, researching new methods to improve identification efforts, or improving and building upon these established methods.

I began this career path years ago (more than I care or am willing to admit) at Texas State University, where I received a B.S. in Anthropology, followed by my M.A. in Applied Anthropology at Mississippi State University. At Mississippi State, “the other MSU”, I managed databases for prehistoric and historic skeletal assemblages. Here, I realized the power of digital curation of information for past populations, both biological and cultural material, and became interested in digital projects involving bioarchaeological and forensic skeletal collections.

At “the real MSU”, Michigan State University, I work with Dr. Joseph Hefner to build a reference databank of cranial macromorphoscopic trait data, traits used to estimate ancestry in skeletal remains. The goal of this project is to record the patterns of trait variation across the world in hopes of increasing accuracy and reliability of ancestry estimations. By folding these efforts into a digital project, we increase the ability to exchange data with researchers around the world. This is what encouraged me to become a CHI Fellow, where I hope to map trait expressions to create a visual representation of human craniofacial variation. We can then easily relate trait variation patterns to geographic barriers, climate and humidity, population histories, and genetic data to understand what shapes craniofacial morphology. This project will help to improve and refine ancestry estimations and aid in increasing the likelihood of identifying ‘unidentified individuals’.