In February 2023, it will be 5 years since a School for Advanced Research workshop envisioned the Coalition for Archaeological Synthesis (CfAS) and the Center for Collaborative Synthesis in Archaeology (CCSA). A lot has happened, including the formal establishment of both CfAS and CCSA, the enrollment of more than 65 Partner organizations and 600 individual Associates, the conduct of a design workshop on human migration, and sponsorship of seven collaborative projects with support from the National Science Foundation, Wenner-Gren Foundation, John Templeton Foundation, Santa Fe Institute, SRI Foundation, and the U.S. Air Force. CfAS projects have resulted in multiple publications not only in archaeological outlets, but those in ecology, forestry, informatics, and general science.
Although proud of CfAS’s accomplishments, through these first five years we have also been searching to find the best way forward. We experimented with different models for conducting collaborative synthesis. Who should participate? How to select collaborators? How to integrate data sets? How to connect studies of the past with contemporary issues? While figuring out how to proceed, we also were trying to find partners and individuals interested in synthetic research.
What we have learned is that there is a great thirst among our peers to demonstrate that archaeological research can inform practices and policies on issues that confront society now and in the future. We also found many like-minded archaeologists who view collaboration and synthetic research to be the future of the discipline. We embark on our second five years with renewed confidence in the direction we are headed, and a strong belief that we can stride forward more forcefully if we do so with focus and purpose.
With these thoughts in mind, the CfAS Board of Directors met in early November 2022 to develop the first draft of a strategic plan to guide the organization for the next five years. We met at the Institute of Behavioral Science (IBS) at the University of Colorado, Boulder (CU), the institutional home of CCSA, with several board members also joining remotely. Together with members of CCSA, and joined periodically by representatives of IBS and CU, the CfAS board met over two days in a meeting facilitated by Terry Klein, the Executive Director of the SRI Foundation. The draft strategic plan has two components. The first, Defining and Conducting Synthesis, is a set of decisions about the kinds of synthesis activities CfAS intends to support and the ways in which we intend to carry them out. The second component, Promoting and Fostering Synthesis, consists of action items that the Coalition intends to pursue both within and beyond CfAS to advance its mission of fostering synthesis in archaeology to expand knowledge and benefit society.
By the end of January 2023, the CfAS board will have a completed draft of the strategic plan. The draft will then be distributed to all Partners and Associates, who will have until the end of February to submit additions, edits, and/or comments. Next, the Executive Committee will review the submittals and create a final version for the board to review and ultimately accept. Our goal is to have an accepted strategic plan available for the CfAS community by the annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology (March 29, 2023). Our future is in our hands, and we encourage everyone at CfAS to participate in shaping it.