Friday, April 29, 2022

Thursday, April 28, 2022

IDEA Actions for Our Science Communities

By Nicolle Zellner and Karly Pitman, CSWA co-Chairs

In the past few years, there has been a noticeable shift in how organizations, institutions, and professional societies (among others) are integrating inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility (IDEA), justice, and/or belonging into their daily practices. The Women in Astronomy blog has published numerous posts on this topic while highlighting IDEA advocates and allies. In a recent post, Joan Schmelz, director of the Science and Technology Institute and the NASA Postdoctoral Program at Universities Space Research Association, wrote about her approach for intentionally infusing IDEA culture throughout Astronomy.

There are plenty of resources out there and multiple ways to become educated about best practices, lessons learned, and practical applications. This week, Advancing IDEA in Planetary Science is taking place. The goal of this virtual conference is to “ensure that the planetary science community can take giant leaps in advancing IDEA principles in the workforce over the next decade.” The conference is free and registration is open. Whether a planetary scientist or not, the talks and workshops are sure to be engaging, informative, and inspiring. There will also be two working sessions (Apr. 28 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. CDT and Apr. 29 from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. CDT) to develop detailed and tangible recommendations for the community.

NASA’s DEIA Strategic Plan (2022-2026) includes multiple key performance goals. For example, one aims to ensure that recruitment plans focus on underrepresented individuals and members of underserved communities and individuals with disabilities. Others aim to build a diverse future science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce by engaging students in authentic learning experiences; implement a continuous pay equity assessment process; and develop and implement automated, analytic products centered around measuring demographic representation and trends (among others). NASA’s Equity Action Plan will focus on increasing integration and utilization of contractors and businesses from underserved communities; enhancing grants and cooperative agreements to advance opportunities, access, and representation for underserved communities; leveraging Earth Science and socioeconomic data to help mitigate environmental challenges in underserved communities; and advancing external civil rights compliance. The National Science Foundation has also recently updated its Strategic Plan (NSF 2022-2026) and diversity is mentioned in several places, drawing from the National Science Board's Vision 2030 recommendations. While many diversity working groups and institutions don't necessarily have the budgets to execute to the scale of the funding agencies, actions at the federal level should serve to inspire individuals and institutions that are funded by NASA in developing their IDEA goals.

The American Astronomical Society itself has also infused IDEA into its own Strategic Plan (2021-2026), with the goal of implementing recommendations made by recent IDEA task forces and consortia. Members of its inclusion committees, CSWA, SGMA, WGAD, and CSMA, meet regularly and collect and publish resources to help advance careers of AAS members in general.

But perhaps the biggest sea change in encouraging the implementation of IDEA practices occurred when the National Academies required that both the Astrophysics and Planetary Science and Astrobiology decadal surveys include a study of the state of the profession. The Astro2020 decadal report, Pathways to Discovery in Astronomy and Astrophysics for the 2020s, urges federal agencies to ensure that their scientific integrity policies address harassment and discrimination by individuals as forms of scientific misconduct. The report also encourages federal funding agencies to establish a consistent format and policy for regularly collecting, evaluating, and publicly reporting demographic data and indicators and then consider using that information in the evaluation of funding awards (e.g.,  individual investigators, project and mission teams, third-party organizations that manage facilities). In a similar vein the just-released Planetary Science and Astrobiology (PS&AB) Decadal Survey, Origins, Worlds, and Life, also recommends collecting data concerning workplace climate, as well as data on the size, identity, and demographics of the PS&AB community; broadening opportunities to advance the state of the profession; and recognizing the need for an inclusive and inviting community free of hostility and harassment. That the decadal reports of both of these closely related scientific communities make similar recommendations means that the importance of a diverse and healthy workforce is finally being acknowledged. Now it’s up to us - members of these communities - to capitalize on this momentum and take action to bring these recommendations to life.

Here are some ways that you can take action in the short term: 

  • Participate in upcoming events at the 240th AAS meeting in Pasadena, CA

    • CSWA splinter session, June 13, 5:30 - 7 pm PT

    • Other sessions TBD, so check the schedule when it’s published

  • Volunteer to be a part of the AAS inclusion committees

  • Be a mentor on AAS’s new mentoring platform, Mentoring365


WGAD, AAS Working Group on Accessibility and Disability 

SGMA, AAS Committee for Sexual-Orientation & Gender Minorities in Astronomy 

CSMA, AAS Committee on the Status of Minorities in Astronomy

CSWA, AAS Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the American Geophysical Union

International Astronomical Union, Astronomy for Equity and Inclusion

Statement by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Infusing IDEA Culture throughout Astronomy

Written by Joan Schmelz

Image credit: John Sim

Ideally, Inclusion, Diversity, Equity & Accessibility (IDEA) should be part of the way we do business. Everyone should be aware of the issues that hinder the progress of underrepresented groups, and we should all be working to mitigate them. In practice, however, IDEA problems and strategies are often relegated to a committee that is expected to do the hard work and make positive change.

Although we have made progress with this model, imagine the differences that might be achievable if we could infuse IDEA culture throughout our organizations/businesses/universities/communities.

This idea for IDEA Infusion was inspired by questions I often get from my staff at USRA during performance appraisal season regarding the Diversity category. Many do not know what to include because their jobs do not involve hiring. As a result, I created a check list to help them out. IDEA culture began to infuse throughout USRA as staff members built IDEA awareness (Step 1); became stronger IDEA allies (Step 2), and transitioned to IDEA advocates (Step 3).

Although this plan was originally created specifically for USRA, it is easily adaptable for any organization. It has the advantages of both motivating staff members to participate through more positive evaluations on their performance reviews and providing straightforward suggestions on how they might achieve higher scores. Implementation was also straightforward, since USRA already had a Diversity category as part of its existing performance appraisal. Staff members simply keep track of the activities that they participate in throughout the year and record them with the appraisal tools. If your organization does not evaluate diversity as part of the appraisal system, I highly encourage you to add this vital category.

Step 1: Building IDEA awareness (learning, reading, viewing, listening)
The check list items for Step 1 are primarily passive – read a book, watch a documentary, listen to a podcast – and they encouraged everyone to invest time in becoming more aware of the issues. 
The deliberate wording of the USRA initiative recommended that the staff consider enhancing their own personal IDEA awareness/knowledge by selecting and participating in some activities.
  • Attend IDEA seminars at your organization/community
  • Read the IDEA blog posts from the AAS diversity committees
  • Participate in IDEA events at your organization/business/university/community
  • Attend a lecture or workshop about IDEA topics at the AAS or other conference
  • View a Ted Talk on diversity
  • Listen to IDEA Podcasts: pick one from a recommended list like here or here or just Google ‘best podcasts on diversity and inclusion
Step 2: Becoming a stronger IDEA ally (engaging, contributing, participating)
Step 2 of this initiative is becoming a stronger IDEA ally. The suggestions in the check list below are now active (rather than passive) and encourage former bystanders to engage – join a committee, write an article, mentor a student – as they begin to make a difference in their community.
  • Join a diversity committee or working group at your organization/community
  • Write an article on an IDEA topic of your choice (including a book/podcast/Ted Talk recommendation/critique/review from Step 1) for a diversity blog or newsletter
  • Invite and escort your supervisor/manager/professor/department chair to an IDEA event at your organization/community
  • Write the IDEA section of a proposal or policy document you are working on
  • Mentor a student or intern from an underrepresented community
  • Give a talk at a minority-serving institution
  • Assist in planning and/or organizing an IDEA event at your organization/business/university/communityStep 3: Transitioning to an IDEA advocate (leading, managing, guiding)
Step 3: Transitioning to an IDEA advocate (leading, managing, guiding)
Step 3 of this initiative is transitioning to an IDEA advocate. The suggestions in the check list focus on leadership – chairing a committee, creating an initiative, forming a working group – as allies begins to step up and speak out.
  • Chair a diversity committee or working group at your organization/community
  • Create and lead an IDEA initiative at your organization/community
  • Start an IDEA committee at your organization/community
  • Give a colloquium on an IDEA topic at your organization/community
  • Write and publish a peer-reviewed paper on an IDEA topic
  • Give an invited talk on an IDEA topic at a professional conference
  • Lead an IDEA-related discussion for your team/department
This list was never meant to be static; we can add good ideas at any time. Please make suggesting in the comments section, and let’s all work together to infuse IDEA culture throughout astronomy.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Crosspost: Risa Wechsler named 2022 Physical and Biological Sciences Distinguished Graduate Student Alumna

Written by Haneen Zain for UC Santa Cruz 

Dr. Risa Wechsler graduated with her PhD in physics from University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC) in 2001 and has since become the director of Stanford University's Kavli Institute of Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC)
Risa Wechsler (Ph.D. Physics’ 01) has always been interested in the biggest questions of the universe:

How did the universe form? What is it made of? How did it evolve over the last 13.8 billion years? How did structure form in the universe?

Those questions stayed with Wechsler throughout her academic career as she pursued an S.B. in physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a Ph.D. in physics at UC Santa Cruz. She has since played an instrumental role in groundbreaking research in the cosmology field, with pioneering galaxy structure and cosmic structure surveys and more than 300 widely cited publications. Wechsler has also taken strides in ensuring the growth of diversity and inclusion within the physics and astronomy community.

“One of the great privileges of being in this field is that I get to think about these really big questions every day,” Wechsler said. “The last 25 years in this field have been incredible.”

Congratulations to Dr. Wechsler, 2022's UCSC Physical and Biological Sciences Distinguished Graduate Student Alumna! Check out the rest of the article at:

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Crosspost: Women’s History Month--Dr. Burçin Mutlu-Pakdil

Written by Abigail Lee and Maryum Sayeed for Astrobites

Dr. Burçin Mutlu-Pakdil received her Bachelor's of Science in physics from Bilkent University in Turkey and her PhD in astrophysics from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. Her research on faint dwarf galaxies led to the discovery of a double-ringed elliptical galaxy, now called, Burçin's Galaxy. Credit: TED Fellows 2018.
Dr. Burçin Mutlu-Pakdil first became interested in astronomy during a homework assignment in middle school when she was asked to write an essay on her “ideal person.” At first, Dr. Mutlu-Pakdil didn’t have anyone specific in mind, but knew she wanted to grow up to be “the cleverest person in the world.” Her sister suggested researching Albert Einstein, and Dr. Mutlu-Pakdil dove into learning about his life. The more she read about physics, the more she became obsessed with black holes, galaxies, and the Universe. This homework assignment would mark the beginning of Dr. Mutlu-Pakdil’s path to becoming an astrophysicist.

She went on to receive her B.S. in Physics from Bilkent University in Turkey. After graduating, she moved to the U.S. to pursue a Master’s degree at Texas Tech University. She then received her Ph.D. in Astrophysics from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, where she studied the relationship between galaxies and black holes. Throughout her career, she has won many accolades, including being named one of the Ten Outstanding Persons of the World, awarded the TED Fellowship in 2018 and the Senior TED Fellowship in 2020, being named a AAAS IF/THEN Ambassador, and being awarded the KICP (Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics) Postdoctoral Research Fellowship and an NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship. She has been featured in National Geographic, Marie Claire magazine, the film documentary Breakthrough: Portraits of Women in Science, and her TED talk has accumulated over 2.5 million views.

Read the rest of the article at: 

Friday, April 8, 2022

AASWomen Newsletter for April 08, 2022

AAS Committee on the Status of Women AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Issue of April 08, 2022
eds: Heather Flewelling, Nicolle Zellner, Alessandra Aloisi, Jeremy Bailin and Sethanne Howard

[We hope you all are taking care of yourselves and each other. Be well! --eds.]
From Item 2

This week's issues:

1. Infusing IDEA Culture throughout Astronomy

2. Delia Santiago-Materese: Never underestimate how much you are a role model

3. Advancing gender equity in the academy

4. The State of Hiring Practices that Promote Diversity in the Astronomical Community

5. New Revelations Raise Pressure on NASA to Rename the James Webb Space Telescope

6. Presidential Action Update on JWST Naming

7. Job Opportunities

8. How to Submit to the AASWOMEN newsletter

9. How to Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the AASWOMEN newsletter

10. Access to Past Issues

An online version of this newsletter will be available at at 3:00 PM ET every Friday.