Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Inclusive Astronomy 2015: Update #1

This guest post is composed by the organizers of the Inclusive Astronomy meeting.

The inaugural Inclusive Astronomy meeting is coming up in less than three months: June 17-19, 2015 at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee!  This meeting is being planned in response to the reality that marginalized people face -isms and -phobias which function as barriers to their participation in astronomy.  As organizers, we are excited for this meeting and hope that it will be the first of many.  

The content of the meeting is being organized under four broad topical areas:
  • Barriers to access;
  • Inclusion and access to power, policy, and leadership;
  • Creating inclusive climates; and
  • Establishing a community of inclusive practice.  

Each broad area will contain plenary presentations, breakout sessions, and workshops.  Some of the topics to be addressed are: intersectionality between racism, ableism, cissexism/transphobia, heterosexism, and sexism; campus/workplace climate; accessibility; addressing harassment and sexual violence on campuses and in workplaces; allyship; strategies for developing bridge programs; developing the skills to influence astronomy policy; and the societal boundary conditions that impact work toward equity and inclusion in astronomy.  The plenary presenters include Chanda Prescod-Weinstein on intersectionality; Kenjus Watson on creating inclusive environments; Lydia Brown on disability justice, autistic self-advocacy, and the intersection of ableism with racism; David Helfand on why policy matters; Rachel Ivie on demographics; and a panel discussion by Ebony McGee, Casey Miller, and Richard Pitt on science identity in students, problems with the GRE, and stereotype threat.

The meeting website now contains travel/lodging information and the current draft meeting program, and will soon be updated with our anti-harassment policy and community agreements.  If you are planning to travel with your children and will require childcare during the meeting, please let us know as soon as possible through the registration process.  We are organising childcare through local groups, and it will be very helpful to know what kind of demand to expect. There also is a simple process described on the meeting website to obtain a mini-grant from the AAS to help cover childcare costs! Financial aid for travel will be available for a limited number of applicants on a combination of need and first-come, first-served considerations, so don't wait to register! You are not required to pay for registration until you hear back about the financial aid decisions, so there is no downside to registering early.  The early registration and travel support deadline is May 1, and the late registration deadline is June 1.

A key outcome of this meeting will be a set of inclusive astronomy recommendations that will build upon previous sets of recommendations by taking an intersectional, multidimensional approach.  We are working to crowdsource a first draft of these recommendations in advance of the meeting, so that we can discuss, edit, and add to them during the meeting.  The final discussion and ratification will occur the last day. This means that we need your help!  Please contact Adam Burgasser to become involved in drafting these recommendations.  Stay tuned for opportunities to make suggestions, comment on the drafts, and help us craft a document that can serve as the definitive recommendations for departments on creating an inclusive environment for all.

There are several additional ways to become involved and support this meeting. First, please attend and submit poster presentations on either science or equity/inclusion - this meeting needs everyone’s participation! Second, we need your help to spread the word, and to encourage your colleagues to attend. We’d love to see participation from all departmental levels - from students just beginning their careers to administrators who are already in positions where they can affect immediate policy change. Third, if you are in a position of authority in your department, please consider providing travel support to students and early career scientists - this is an opportunity for everyone to join the dialogue to make our field  inclusive and equitable for all. Finally, we are not planning on stopping with only one meeting, and we are committed to making this an ongoing discussion, so please let us know if you are interested in helping us to organise Inclusive Astronomy 2.

If you have any questions, please contact us at inclusiveastronomy2015@vanderbilt.edu or ask us on Twitter at AstroInclusive.  However you choose to get involved, we are excited to welcome all of you to Nashville in June!