Removing Barriers to Access
Eliminate practices in college and graduate school recruitment, admissions, examinations and advising that are unfairly discriminatory.
Several aspects of admissions are known to differentially select groups based on criteria other than scholastic/research ability. Implicit biases linked to standardized testing, letter writing/reading, admissions committee composition, and the costs of graduate applications are known to play a role in excluding qualified students to graduate programs. Admissions policies and practices that address and remove barriers are essential for training a diverse workforce.
- Develop and deploy tools for best practices for reviewing applications holistically and equitably.
- Eliminate or make optional the use of the General and/or Physics Graduate Record Exams (GRE) as a requirement for graduate school admission. Never require minimum GRE scores for admission to a program. See the AAS statement of endorsement, which includes a complete description of the scholarly background for this recommendation and concrete examples of alternative metrics (see also below). LEAD DEP UNI PRO <short>
- Integrate evaluation of grit and persistence through interview as part of graduate admissions procedure (example evaluations from Fisk-Vanderbilt toolkit: http://fisk-vanderbilt-bridge.org/tool-kit/) LEAD DEP UNI <short>
- Remove or reduce financial barriers to graduate school application by eliminating or refunding application fees and allowing the reporting of unofficial transcripts and exam scores. LEAD DEP UNI <short>
- Quantitatively evaluate selection processes for inherent demographic biases and identify and make use of best practices to address these. LEAD DEP UNI PRO <medium>
- Train faculty in appropriate interviewing strategies, possibly partnering with campus resources (e.g., alumnae/i, admissions office, etc.). This might include development of a presentation on current research on admissions discrimination, sharing of best practices, research-based rubrics, etc. DEP UNI PRO <short>
- Establish clear rubrics for admissions evaluations before applications are received, and adhere to these rubrics through the admissions process (see the Fisk-Vanderbilt Bridge Program toolkit for example protocols and rubrics). DEP UNI <short>
- Work with and implement bridge programs (e.g., Fisk-Vanderbilt Master’s-to-PhD Bridge Program, Columbia Bridge to the PhD Program), particularly in partnership with minority serving institutions, to facilitate student application and transition to graduate programs, and make sure these programs have sufficient resources to assure student success for a period longer than one summer. IND LEAD DEP UNI MSI MAJ PRO FA <short>
- Remove barriers that unfairly exclude undocumented students. Provide as much access as possible to undergraduate and graduate education, including financial aid, scholarships, in-state tuition, and research opportunities. DEP UNI <medium>
Eliminate practices in hiring and promotion that are known to be unfairly discriminatory.
Maintaining a pipeline for career progress for all astronomers necessitates identifying and eliminating discriminatory hiring and promotion practices. Examples include unconscious bias in letter writing and evaluation, monolithic hiring/promotion committees, favoring extroverted over introverted behaviors, and insular practices (e.g., only considering letters from known writers, or candidates from majority white institutions).
- Develop clear criteria for candidate evaluation before seeking applications, make these criteria known to applicants, and apply these criteria consistently for all applicants; this includes "minimum" requirements, such as minimum number of letters expected. IND LEAD DEP GOVT COR POL <short>
- Make hires in broad areas of research topics
- Develop a common application service for job applications to reduce workload on applicants (but make sure format is equitable and accessible)
- Eliminate discriminatory student, researcher and educator evaluation practices. DEP UNI GOVT PRO <medium>
- De-emphasize traditional student-generated teaching evaluations as a primary criterion for performance evaluations, raises, promotion, and tenure, as these have been shown to be biased against women and people of color1
- De-emphasize use of individual publication metrics (e.g., h-index) for hiring and promotion, as they have been shown to be biased against women2 and early-career minorities.3 When evaluating personnel, take into account of the significant extra work that people with one or more marginalized identities often put in to mentoring, community organizing and community service, that is often above and beyond the work done by those from majority groups.
Make astronomy accessible to all.
Accessibility for disabled people is a human right. Lack of accessibility constitutes discrimination in and of itself. At present, there exist significant barriers to access for disabled students and astronomers. These ableist barriers show up via building infrastructure, educational practices, limitations in technology, institutional apathy, and culture within the astronomical community. Accessibility must go beyond simple adherence to legal guidelines such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in order to be truly inclusive. Because access needs vary significantly, we must provide multimodal access. When enacting these recommendations, it is important to recognize that the best advocates for disabled people are disabled people (e.g., L. Brown 2015).
- Make astronomical facilities fully accessible. GOVT UNI <long>
- Meet or exceed the minimum legal requirements for accessibility. Make buildings (including laboratories, classrooms, and observing facilities) fully wheelchair accessible. Make accessibility the top infrastructure priority. Do not hold classes or events in inaccessible spaces. GOVT UNI <long>
- Ensure that the faculty, institutional leadership, and building managers are fully cognizant of both legal guidelines and best practices on accessibility through mandatory trainings. Make sure that accessibility is not the responsibility of a single person at an institute. UNI GOVT <short>
- Provide all-gender, accessible restrooms in any new construction or renovation. Make sure both men's and women's restrooms are present on every floor. Convert existing single-stall bathrooms to all-gender bathrooms (e.g., by changing the sign). DEP UNI GOVT COR <short> <long>
- Make educational resources and research products fully accessible.
- Design reference materials such as websites, journal articles, books, and other documents to be fully accessible with screen reader technology, including math and descriptions of graphics. PUB DEP UNI GOVT <medium>
- Use dyslexic friendly sans serif fonts such as Helvetica, Verdana, Arial, and Dyslexie with at least a 12 pt font size. Provide documents in an electronic format that allows font substitution and is compatible with screen readers. PUB DEP UNI GOVT <medium>
- Design figures, diagrams, and text to be readable by people who are colorblind, using specifically designed color palettes (see here for an example). IND LEAD PRO PUB <short>
- Plan conferences using the principles of universal design and disability justice.
- Consider accessibility at all stages of the planning process by providing accessibility information and accommodations for attendees and presenters, and providing access to electronic conference materials including presentations. Describe accessibility barriers. Have an accessibility point person or committee. IND LEAD PRO <short>
- When presenting, speak loudly while facing the audience. Use a microphone if available, even if you have a loud voice. Use simple language, and avoid idioms and unnecessary jargon. Describe slide contents, including charts, plots, and graphics. Allow time to process information. Make screen reader accessible copies of the presentation slides available in advance. IND <short>
- Practice accessibility as a conference attendee by maintaining clear paths, reserving seating in the front row and by aisles and exits for people who need it, and remembering that not all disabilities are visible. IND <short>
- After the meeting, provide videos and presentations in electronic form. Record and disseminate conference talks and presentations and ensure the use of captions and transcripts. PRO UNI GOVT <short>
- Provide a funding pool for students and young researchers to attend conferences, workshops, observing trips, etc., which allows for payment in advance without the use of credit cards/other debt instruments. PRO FA <short>
- Fund accessibility initiatives in astronomy.
- Support research into the use of technology such as 3D printing to make astronomical teaching and outreach broadly accessible. FA <long>
- Support research into accessibility in educational and research methods and assistive technologies (such as sonification of data). IND LEAD UNI GOVT PRO FA <medium>
- Fund and provide ample research opportunities (including undergraduate internships, thesis projects, postdoctoral opportunities, faculty, and research positions) for disabled students and astronomers. Actively counter discrimination in admissions and hiring. FA UNI <medium>
- Foster a community that supports disabled students and astronomers.
- Professional organizations such as AAS should create committees on disability justice and accessibility that take an intersectional approach. IND LEAD PRO <short>
- Eliminate stigmas associated with disability and mental health by using inclusive rather than ableist language and attitudes (as an example, see http://www.autistichoya.com/p/ableist-words-and-terms-to-avoid.html)
Increase open access to astronomical publications, data, and software.
A large fraction of astronomical research products remain behind barriers such as paywalls and closed data policies. These barriers disproportionately impact smaller and less well-funded institutions who are less able to afford subscriptions to research journals and licenses for software. Open access policies will eliminate this barrier to access while simultaneously providing for wider dissemination of research and greater scientific returns on each investment.
- Establish open access policies for astronomical publications and individual published work. LEAD UNI COR GOVT PRO POL PUB <short> <medium>
- Disseminate research through open access platforms. IND PUB <short>
- Prioritize and support the development of astronomical software (such as Astropy and MESA) that is open, freely available, well-documented, and easy to use IND PRO <short> <medium>
- Provide access to supercomputing resources, and allow young astronomers "proof of concept" opportunities to establish new programs. UNI GOVT <medium>
- Expand access to astronomical educational materials that are freely available and of high quality PUB PRO <medium>
- Support the development of open access educational resources (textbooks, websites) https://openstaxcollege.org/textbooks/college-physics
Creating Inclusive Environments
End harassment in and around astronomical workplaces
Astronomers have the right to work in places that are free of harassment. This includes sexual harassment, racial harassment, harassment based on real or perceived gender identity or sexual orientation, ableist harassment, physical harassment, verbal harassment, and bullying. Because of intersectionality, these different forms of harassment often occur simultaneously. Power dynamics are also a vital aspect of harassment and bullying, and must be acknowledged and taken into account when developing anti-harassment policies to ensure that those in positions of relatively little power, such as undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs, staff, and junior faculty can report harassment by their superiors safely and without fear of reprisal.
- Enact and disseminate clear anti-harassment policies and procedures. Departments and institutions should every year publicly review the reporting mechanisms for sexual harassment and assault. UNI COR GOVT PRO POL <short> <medium>
- Work to create an institutional culture where harassment is not tolerated and is actively challenged. IND LEAD UNI GOVT COR <medium> <long>
- Hold annual, mandatory departmental and/or institutional anti-harassment trainings. These trainings should include bystander intervention techniques, best practices for responding to harassment complaints, institutional policies and resources, and content relevant to the (astronomical) workplace. LEAD UNI COR GOVT <short> <medium>
- Implement departmental and institutional trainings on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Include training around privilege, gender, race, LGBTIQA* Safe Zone, and disabilities and ADA compliance. Training should focus not only on the legal definition of harassment, but how to prevent the many stages of inappropriate behaviour that does not cross the legal line. Involve trained professionals in these trainings where possible.
- Conferences or other organized professional events should have a clear anti-harassment policy, and identify one or more points of contact to whom harassment complaints may be submitted and followed up on in a timely manner. IND LEAD UNI PRO <short>
- Adhere to Title IX anti-discrimination policies on recruitment, admissions, counseling, financial assistance, sex-based harassment, treatment of pregnant and parenting students, discipline, employment and retaliation for any recipients of federal financial assistance from the US Department of Education; see http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/tix_dis.html IND LEAD UNI GOVT COR PRO <short>
- Departments and institutions must hold serial harassers and bullies accountable for their actions, including through termination of employment. People who have demonstrated an established pattern of abusive behavior should never be allowed to be in a position of power or authority over others.
- Funding agencies should develop policies for sanctioning institutions that do not follow guidelines on dealing with harassment or abuse of power.
- Establish a confidential Ombuds office to provide advice to people who are considering whether or not to make a report. UNI GOVT <medium>
Review data collection, reporting, and records policies to ensure they are inclusive
Data collection forms, reporting, and records can be fraught with unintentionally offensive language and response options. All forms should be reviewed with the understanding that many people do not fit into the gender binary, or into the standard “categories” asking about race. Records should also be made flexible to enable gender and name changes on request.
- Ensure that all demographics questions are at the end of surveys to avoid stereotype threat.
- Review all surveys and forms asking for gender and ascertain whether this information is really needed. If not, take out the question; if required, use a write-in box, rather than asking people to identify as M/F
- Review questions asking about race to ascertain whether this information is really needed. If so, allow individuals to identify as more than one race: allow people to “check all that apply” or provide a write-in box. Consider disaggregating racial/ethnic groups.
- Add questions asking about LGBTIQA* identity unless such information would put respondents at risk (e.g. in states with no workplace protections). We currently have virtually no data on LGBTIQA* status of scientists, and these data are vital for improving services for the community.
- Include disability categories in data collection and reporting, using the terminology and identities used by people with disabilities.
- Use gender-neutral and inclusive language in all publications.
- Establish a “preferred name” policy that allows students to register a preferred name alongside their legal name. Ensure that the preferred name list is the one used within the department.
- Facilitate name and gender changes on organizational records, and ensure that such changes are retroactive and confidential. Such changes should not be contingent on “proof,” such as doctors’ notes, or changes on legal documents such as birth certificates, passports, or driver’s licenses. Such “proof” is expensive to obtain and therefore excludes many transgender students.
Enact policies that are friendly to all families.
Institutions have the responsibility to enact family friendly policies. These policies should specifically include LGBTIQA* families and non-traditional family structures. Family friendly policies should extend to all career stages, including undergraduates, graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, staff, and faculty.
- Develop mechanisms to facilitate geographic proximity for dual career academic couples, e.g., establishing dual career hiring protocols in partnership with local institutions, making dual/group/cohort hires, shared faculty positions, etc.
- Provide mechanisms for astronomers who take time off for family, health, or other reasons to return to the field. Ensure that such mechanisms are available at all career stages and transition points.
- Provide three to six months of paid parental leave at all career stages and for all partners that includes adoption and LGBTIQA* couples. <long>
- Establish policies allowing paid leave or part-time leave for elder care for all career levels.
- Establish a AAS/NSF/home institution supplemental insurance fund to support family leave time for astronomers with insufficient benefits in their home institutions. <long>
- Ensure access to affordable, quality childcare. The childcare should be conveniently located (e.g., with options on campus) and not require excessive waits. <med>
- Provide childcare subsidies, especially to early career students and scientists.
- Provide conveniently located, accessible lactation rooms at all institutions and conferences. Provide dedicated refrigerators for storing breast milk separately from employee food, either in lactations rooms or in employees’ offices
- Schedule events at times that accommodate people with families. Conferences should not be scheduled on weekends or holidays, and seminars and meetings should not be scheduled after 4 pm. Be flexible when scheduling events. <short>
- Allow junior scientists to stop the tenure/short-term position clock and provide extensions of deadlines after birth/adoption, serious injury, mental health issues, and/or care for a family member.
- Provide and better advertise the existence of telecommuting options for students, researchers, faculty and staff.
- Facilitate methods by which students and researchers can remain at the same location throughout various career stages.
Ensure access to quality, affordable health care.
Health care should be easily accessible to astronomers at all educational and career stages. Health care that is poor quality, prohibitively expensive, or contains exclusions for LGBTIQA* health limits the ability of astronomers to perform at their highest potential.
- Ensure that the health care is affordable. Provide plans with low co-pays and deductibles, especially for students and early career scientists. If co-pays are high, create departmental or institutional funds to support students who need it.
- Provide sufficient sick leave. Allow sick leave to be taken to care for family members and to be used for mental health.
- Provide health insurance plans that specifically cover transgender health care (including but not limited to hormonal treatment, gender confirmation surgery, and counseling), same-sex-couples, domestic partners, and dependents. These plans should include mental health, dental, vision, and reproductive health care.
- Ensure that University Health Center counselors are trained in supporting LGBTIQA* students, and advertise this fact on the counseling center website.
Facilitate a welcoming environment for all that values work-life balance and a collegial atmosphere
Productive, creative, and sustained research requires an environment where everyone feels welcome and valued, including a robust work-life balance. Research shows that refusing to talk about identity, equity and inclusion is harmful to underrepresented students, who struggle with these social aspects of the scientific workplace. Talking about these issues can ensure that students feel more supported.
- Make discussions about diversity, equity and inclusion part of the departmental discourse. Set up a journal club to discuss articles, and establish a diversity seminar series. Openly discuss identity, equity, and inclusion with students and postdocs.
- Establish clear and reasonable expectations for work effort and work-life balance (e.g., number of hours of lab time or work time expected). Everyone (students, postdocs, faculty, administrators) should support and adhere to these expectations.
- Change the work culture to value mental health: talk openly with students and postdocs about mental health, and ensure that mental health services are advertised widely and openly in the department materials and bulletin spaces.
- Honor group and collaborative accomplishments in the same manner as individual accomplishments.
- Specifically invite everyone to department-sponsored social events.
- When food is provided at events, ensure that there are gluten-free, halal, kosher, vegan, diabetic-friendly, and allergen-free options, with ingredients listed. Ensure that vegetarian and vegan options include protein and that gluten-free vegetarian options are available.
- Do not schedule conferences, exams, or proposal deadlines on religious holidays.
- Have a clear policy on offensive language.
- Use gender-neutral and inclusive language in all publications.
Provide effective mentoring and networking opportunities.
Inclusive support of all astronomers requires robust networks of peers, mentors and advocates. Student-advisor, mentee-mentor and employee-employer relationships are among of the most important in a young scientist's career. However, these relationships can fail for a variety of reasons. Clear, non-stigmatized pathways for changing groups/advisors, having independent and senior advocates of students and postdocs, and developing community-based mentor networks are ways to prevent scientists from being derailed in their career progression. Additionally, realize that astronomers from small institutions or non-academic organizations may not have access to the same support network, and additional effort should be made to support them.
- Establish a matrix of support for individual students and postdocs that does not rely solely on the advisor. This may be a formal network established by the department or institution, or an informal network endorsed by organizational leaders. Make sure there is both time and funding available for mentoring activities.
- Follow the leads of HBCUs/MSIs/Community Colleges in establishing student-centered mentoring practices:
- Faculty and department leaders should consult with admissions and freshman advisors to identify and start advising potential astronomy/physics majors early on, especially underrepresented students.
- Provide support, mentorship, and research opportunities.
- Require faculty training on best practices in advising students and postdocs, including issues particular to underrepresented/LGBTIQA*/disabled students.
- Proactively engage and mentor transfer students, many of whom come from minority-serving institutions.
- Establish a mentoring ladder to spans multiple career stages; e.g., graduate mentors of undergraduates, postdoc mentors of graduate students, junior faculty mentors of postdocs, senior faculty mentors of junior faculty, etc.
- Establish identity support networks within and across STEM departments; and establish, support and make people aware of university-level resource centers for marginalized communities (e.g., Black Resource Center, Queer Resource Center, DREAMer Alliance etc.).
- Increase networking opportunities for minorities and other disadvantaged students, and early career professionals within departments, at conferences, exchange programs, etc. Examples include the CSMA "Meet and Greet" reception at AAS meeting, travelling speaking grants (e.g., the NSBP/AAS Beth Brown Prize and the AAS FAMOUS travel grants).
- Provide junior faculty with senior faculty mentors in the department who can guide them through the culture, responsibilities and expectations within the department (funding, tenure, students, navigating administration, etc.), and who can act as an advocate.
- Support mid-career faculty/scientist mentoring and career coaching through national programs (e.g., Project Kaleidoscope, National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity).
- Support astronomers from small institutions or non-academic organizations who may not have access to the same support network as those at larger institutions.
Adopt active and inclusive learning practices.
The foundation of a successful career in Astronomy is educational opportunity. Students from minority/marginalized groups often experience classroom environments and dynamics differently than people from majority groups, and in ways that may reduce the effectiveness of teaching. Adopting research-validated practices and principles of inclusive design can eliminate barriers to learning and biases in assessment, making educational opportunity available to all.
- Meet and exceed ADA requirements for accommodations in the classroom:
- Include explicit wording in syllabi outlining your commitment to extend reasonable accommodations to all students with disabilities, whether visible or invisible.
- Know what accommodations are permitted by your campus’ Disabilities Office, and assure that students are receiving these accommodations in the classroom.
- Work with students who are in the process of obtaining accommodations to complete paperwork, and work with your campus's Disabilities Office to recognize and reduce barriers for students seeking accommodations.
- Make available testing environments free from distraction, and provide extra time (without judgment) for those who need it.
- Provide resources to faculty so that class notes and other teaching materials can be made available in multiple formats (audio, visual, captioned video, etc.).
- Provide students with spaces to move as needed; allow students free access to come in and out of class.
- If attendance is required, allow students a well-defined leeway in arrival/departure times, particularly for those with disabilities and when teaching on large campuses.
- Make sure class activities are fully accessible; if they are site-specific (e.g., observatory, planetarium), assure full access to disabled students; if they are at night, assure there are escorts available or on call.
- Classroom participation and dynamics:
- Highlight the scientific contributions of a variety of astronomers, not just those who are white, male, able-bodied and heteronormative.
- Be aware of who you are calling on for questions and answers; avoid choosing one demographic group over another (e.g., only the men) or focusing on one section of the room (e.g., only the front). One way to achieve this is to wait until at least three students have raised their hands.
- Be aware of and refrain from using racist, sexist, ableist, gender-discriminatory or homophobic language in the classroom; if such language is part of the instructional material (which should be rare in an Astronomy course), give students trigger warnings.
- Pay attention to the classroom climate, and address discriminatory behavior promptly and respectfully; it is often helpful to have student representatives available for reporting.
- Recognize that a “no-device” policy may inhibit the learning of some students; consider best practices such as separate seating areas in class for students who require devices versus students who find devices distracting.
- Make clear policies on accommodation for students who have conflicts due to religious practice, medical treatment, family and/or personal emergencies.
- Beware of organizing off-schedule activities that might exclude some students. For example, review sessions at unscheduled times might be difficult for students who have to work and/or commute via public transportation. (Commuting at odd times is particularly challenging for undocumented students, for whom obtaining a driver's license is extremely difficult in some states.)
- Know what strengths, weaknesses, needs, and resources your students bring to the classroom, and adopt appropriate teaching and assessment strategies:
- Consider including diagnostic tests at the beginning of the course to identify what students’ skills are coming into the course; design your teaching based on what the students know, not what you assume they should know.
- Diversifying your instruction techniques and resources can significantly improve inclusion; get to know your students and what works best for each of them.
- When implementing interactive teaching methods, make sure that students who do not want to participate (e.g., introverts, those with social phobias) are not forced to do so.
- Recognize that not all students have access to technology (e.g., their own laptops, calculators, clickers) and strive to eliminate technology barriers.
- Foster a growth mindset in your students.
- Work to create a thriving, inclusive teaching environment by continually maintaining and improving your undergraduate program, which is necessary but not sufficient for attracting and retaining marginalized students:
- Provide opportunities (i.e. workshops, mentoring for teaching) and incentives (e.g. grants, recognition, etc.) for instructors, potential instructors, and teaching assistants to learn new pedagogical techniques and to adopt and develop research-based inclusive learning practices.
- Work with professional education researchers (e.g. university’s center for learning, hiring astronomy education researchers) to evaluate and improve instruction in your department. Develop and support astronomy education research groups who investigate teaching and learning in astronomy through the lens of inclusivity and intersectionality.
Inclusion and Access to Power, Policy, and Leadership
Provide clear and accessible information about the process and procedures to obtain leadership roles in policy making.
An inclusive community requires inclusive leadership, with decision-making roles open and available to anyone interested in pursuing them. Informing the community of leadership opportunities, responsibilities and expectations, in addition to making leadership roles accessible makes for both an inclusive culture and more effective leadership structures.
Specific recommendations to the astronomy community:
- Provide access to meaningful leadership opportunities for, especially early & mid-career, astronomers who are at all types of institutions and in particular, those at smaller institutions and outside academia.
- Provide an updated and widely-available list of the types of leadership roles available, information on what career stage they are generally held, and how they are filled (volunteer, appointment, election).
- Make the selection of astronomical community leaders a transparent process. Information that allows people to understand the policies and procedures of elections or appointments will enable questioning that can lead to a stronger process.
- Increase transparency in decision making for organizations by making committee meetings and detailed meeting notes publicly accessible, accommodating participants who cannot be physically present, and widely disseminating information about decisions made.
- Establish clear, broad and fair criteria that promote diversity in election slates and appointments as well as awards and recognition.
- Lines of accountability for the execution of policies and procedures should be established and publicly disseminated.
Ensure that science and policy panels and committees are representative of the communities they are representing.
Decisions about the future of the field of astronomy are often made by high level panels such as the decadal review committee. To ensure that decisions are fair and inclusive, it is essential that they be made by people who are able to represent the interests of the field as a whole.
- Adopt recommended good practices for the selection of committee/panel members, an example is the Inclusive Astronomy 2015 : Policy Power and Leadership Toolkit item “Suggested good practices for committee member recruitment”.
- In particular, agencies (e.g., NSF, NASA, DOE) and other policy advisory groups (e.g., NRC) must strive to make prominent national panels (e.g., NASA Senior Review, NRC Decadal Review) diverse and inclusive (i.e., not all-white, all-male, from all the same kind of institution, etc.). Procedures and policies for selection on these panels should be regularly included in external reviews of agencies and groups.
- Adopt recommended good practices for effective and respectful communication within committees.
Practice respect for the rights and cultural values of Native and indigenous peoples and local communities when building or locating astronomical facilities.
Astronomical research often requires facilities in remote areas, which may be sacred sites for Native and indigenous peoples. Astronomers and their representatives should engage in consensus processes with the relevant indigenous and local communities and governmental bodies when locating facilities. Consensus almost never means unanimity, but in most consensus processes there are agreed upon rules for what ultimately constitutes consensus.
- The astronomical community should require evidence of consensus between the facilities project, the relevant governmental agency and the affected local communities before supporting astronomical projects.
- The astronomical community must provide a safe environment for students and scientists, especially those who are Native, indigenous, of color, and/or junior, to critique or protest the cultural costs of astronomical developments without fear of retaliation.
- Site selection processes should be transparent, lawful and provide multiple opportunities for local communities to comment and critique the cultural, environmental, and other impacts of proposed plans.
- Once land use agreements have been made, astronomers must fully abide by these agreements, the laws covering them and should provide appropriate and fair compensation as determined by the consensus agreement.
- Astronomers should be encouraged to learn about the long-term history, use and cultural significance of the land on which astronomical facilities reside.
Establishing a Community of Inclusive Practice
Practice active allyship.
Allyship is a process by which people who are empowered along one or more axes of identity actively work to support people who are disempowered along those axes. Traditionally, disempowered and/or marginalized identities include (but are not limited to) women, people of color, LGBTIQA* people, and disabled people. However, people who share more than one of these identities, i.e. those with intersectional identities, are often severely underrepresented and overlooked in these interventions. Active allyship, in the form of tangible, systematic behaviors on behalf of individuals in these communities, is vital to the present and future equity and inclusion in astronomy.
- Do not assume that because you *want to* be an ally that you are. The people with whom you wish to act determine whether or not you are acting as their ally at a particular time. “Ally” is not a permanent designation. IND LEAD <short>
- Recognize that there are multiple axes of identity. It is therefore not likely that one can serve as an active ally to all identities and intersections thereof at all times. Different marginalized groups may need different forms of active allyship at different times. Recognize and respect these distinctions. INDLEAD <short>
- Do your homework. Learn to recognize what harmful and hurtful behaviors, language, and policies are from people who have experienced them. Educate yourself on the extensive history and current manifestations of racism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, ableism, and their intersections. Use resources that have been developed by people with marginalized identities. Check in regularly with the group with whom you wish to act as an ally. IND <short>
- Challenge harmful behaviors like harassment and microaggressions. Bystander intervention strategies include pulling the victim aside and offering support, pulling the perpetrator aside and having a conversation, deflecting by changing the subject or making a joke, and confronting directly by calling out the behavior or calling in the perpetrator. IND LEAD<short>
- Act proactively as well as reactively. Do not wait until a problem arises to attempt to fix it. Try to anticipate where differences in ability or identity may result in barriers to access and attempt to empathize. Ensure that supportive policies, infrastructure, and culture are in place before they are necessary. IND LEAD DEP UNI PRO PUB POL FA <short> <med>
- Engage with movements of like-minded individuals at your institution, in your community, or online. Be sure to thoroughly investigate the existence of such advocacy groups before creating new ones to avoid redundancy and erasure of previous efforts by others. IND SJ <short> <med>
- Work to make your professional culture more inclusive by implementing the recommendations in this document. Use them to suggest specific policy changes in group meetings, department sessions, planning committees, etc. IND LEAD DEP UNI <med>
Learn and use best practices for discussing racism and its intersections.
The astronomical community vitally needs to challenge racism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, and ableism in our field. These conversations are difficult (and often uncomfortable), but are necessary to break down barriers of access and transform astronomy’s culture to become actively inclusive. The following are an evolving set of best practices for having these difficult conversations. Any implementation of these practices must take into account the significant power differences that often exist between those who are white, cisgender, straight, able-bodied, neurotypical, senior, and/or male and those who are not. It is especially important for those who are on the empowered end of these axes of identity to actively put these recommendations into practice.
- Reduce the negative impact of power imbalances in a given situation. Speak up when these dynamics are being misused and amplify the voices of those who are less empowered. Recognize that these power imbalances are amplified for people with intersectional identities. INDLEAD <short><med>
- Facilitate balanced conversations. Agree before meetings and gatherings to amplify less pronounced voices, to make it safer for those who may not be actively contributing. IND LEAD <short>
- Don’t dominate conversations. Be aware of when you might be participating disproportionately, and pull back so that others may contribute. IND LEAD <short>
- Speak to your own experience. Use “I” or “we” statements to help avoid generalizations. Do not assume that you understand oppression(s) better than people that have directly experienced and described it themselves. Acknowledge your privilege(s) and how that might impact your perspective on a given matter. INDLEAD <short>
- Use “both/and” rather than “either/or” thinking. When confronting complex issues, “either/or” thinking often oversimplifies situations and makes it more difficult to resolve conflicts. "Both/and" thinking often allows us to come up with more options and to recognize the multifaceted nature of our experiences. INDLEAD <short>
- Use inclusive language. Take the time to learn from potentially impacted communities which commonly used expressions are the source of microaggressions. Replace them with less exclusive alternatives. INDLEAD <short>
- Recognize that intent does not equal impact.4 Sometimes in conversations, we can inadvertently say hurtful things despite our good intentions. To foster mutual respect among participants, it is imperative that instead of appealing only to our initial intent, we acknowledge the potentially harmful impact on others. INDLEAD <short>
- Learn strategies to support survivors of abusive behaviors such as harassment or bullying. Acknowledge the validity of a person’s anger, fear, frustration, resentment, or other feelings about being a recipient of any combination of racism, sexism, cissexism, heterosexism, ableism, or other forms of oppression. Allow space for unexpected responses because individuals process their emotions differently. It is not always necessary to respond when someone shares their feelings. Do not tell the survivor what to do, but offer suggestions if they would like them. Do not question the validity of the survivor’s claims or excuse the actions of the perpetrator. IND <short>
- Lean into discomfort. Discussions about privilege and discrimination often require us to examine issues that we do not want to talk about. However, we often make the most progress by contending with this discomfort so that we are able to take responsibility for our privileges and complicities, and effect positive change. At the same time, we must prioritize the safety of those of us with marginalized identities. IND <short>
- Respond constructively when you are “called out.” Calling someone out makes space for those of us who have been harmed by language or behaviors to directly (and publicly) confront the offender. Recognize that calling someone else out is extremely difficult and risky, especially when there are power imbalances. Acknowledge the harm that was caused, state actions you will take to prevent causing similar harm in the future, and thank them for taking the time and effort to call you out. IND <short>
Implement accountability procedures.
As the astronomical community works toward equity and inclusion, it is essential to perform regular, public evaluations and receive critical feedback to ensure that our efforts are in the best interests of all members of our community, with special attention paid to those with marginalized identities.
- Develop long-term institutional plans for equity and inclusion, and issue annual progress reports, that describe setbacks, challenges, new opportunities, and next steps to take for the following year. Provide an opportunity for members of the institution (in particular people with marginalized identities) to review the plans as they are being drafted, and ensure that these documents are archived on the institutional website. LEAD <medium>
- Respond promptly when astronomers publicly engage in racism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, and/or ableism. The leadership of organizations (such as research groups, departments, institutions, and professional societies) must speak up in support of the impacted groups in clear and unequivocal terms. LEAD DEP UNI PRO <short>
- Host departmental site visits during which an external committee gauges the climate for people with marginalized identities, and provides recommendations on how to improve the climate. Ensure that the site visits account for intersectionality and specifically address the climate for people with multiple marginalized identities. Site visit programs that focus on a single dimension of identity should form partnerships with other groups to ensure that women, people of color, disabled people, LGBTIQA* people, and everyone with more than one of those identities are included. Site visit programs currently in existence include those by the APS Committee on the Status of Women, the APS Committee on Minorities, and the AAS Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy. DEP <med>
- Create and highly publicize a robust reporting procedure to address all relevant dimensions of identity and social experience. Survey and report on the social experiences of the members of the department or institution regularly.
- Provide oversight mechanisms for people in positions of institutional power to reduce the likelihood of abuses of power.
- Ensure balanced involvement in the conceptualization, development and participation in conferences, colloquia, seminars, visiting appointments, and any other convenings. Track the demographics of organizers, invited speakers, awardees, hired staff, postdocs and students to determine if people with marginalized identities are being fairly represented, as compared to their proportion of the U.S. (or relevant national) population. DEP <medium>
- Appoint trained ombudspersons that members of an institution may approach to handle harassment, assault, and other legal violations of civil rights. DEP UNI <short>
- Perform accessibility self-audits. Document accessibility barriers, including but not limited to legal requirements. Allow members of the institution to provide input. Use the report to develop short-term and long-term accessibility plans. Make annual reports on progress toward accessibility. Publicize all reports and plans on the institutional website, including accessibility information and a list of accessibility barriers. DEP UNI <short> <medium> <long>
- Institute regular inclusion and accessibility meetings. At least once per semester, convene department meetings (preferably with the chair and/or other administrative authorities) to review reporting mechanisms for any inappropriate behavior or other issues and to allow members of the department to identify and propose action on these issues. These conversations should be open to all department members, with a separate confidential means of sharing the same information, if desired. DEP UNI <short>
- The Baltimore Charter for Women in Astronomy, 1991. Available online at http://www.stsci.edu/stsci/meetings/WiA/BaltoCharter.html
- Brown, L. 2015. The best advocates for people with disabilities. Available online at http://www.autistichoya.com/2015/06/the-best-advocates.html
- Equity Now: The Pasadena Recommendations for Gender Equality in Astronomy, 2003. Available online at http://www.aas.org/cswa/Equity_Now_Pasadena.pdf
- lgbt+physicists and AAS Working Group on LGBTIQ Equality, 2014, Supporting LGBT+ Physicists & Astronomers: Best Practices for Academic Departments. Available online at http://lgbtphysicists.org/files/BestPracticesGuide.pdf
- Norman, D., Isler, J., Oluseyi, H., Morrison, N., Simpson, C., & Trouille, L., 2012, Women of Color in Astronomy and Astrophysics. Available online at http://sites.nas.edu/wocconference/files/2012/03/6.3.-American-Astronomical-Society.pdf
- T. Finch (2012) Joint Annual Black/Hispanic Physicists Conference Draws Hundreds, Gets Positive Reviews. DiverseScholar 3:10 http://www.minoritypostdoc.org/view/2012-3-10-finch-NSBP.html
Policy Recommendations and Best Practices
- Women of Color in Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Baltimore Charter
- Pasadena Recommendations
- Presumed Incompetent has a detailed set of recommendations in one of the final chapters
- Supporting LGBT+ Physicists and Astronomers: Best Practices for Academic Departments (Suggestions from this doc are marked with asterisks.)
- From College to Careers: Fostering Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in STEM
- Accommodating Students with Disabilities in STEM: Finding from Research and Practice for Middle Grades through University Education
- CSMA recommendations for addressing financial cost of graduate applications
- “Lessons from the Experiences of Women of Color Working in Academia,” by Yolanda Flores Niemann, Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academia, edited by Gabriella Gutiérrez y Muhs, Yolanda Flores Niemann, Carmen G. Gonzáles, and Angela P. Harris
Diversity Stakeholders / Communities of Support
- AAS CSMA
- AAS CSWA
- AAS SGMA
- Diversity academic/STEM 501c3 organizations & recurring annual conferences (see http://www.minoritypostdoc.org/view/stakeholders.html)
Data and Research
- NSF demographic data tables http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/2015/nsf15311/tables.cfm
- Definitions of common terms from Suffolk University's Social Justice Terminology: http://www.suffolk.edu/campuslife/27883.php
Appendix: Common Acronyms
AAS: American Astronomical Society AISES: American Indian Science and Engineering Society APS: American Physical Society CSMA: AAS Committee on the Status of Minorities in Astronomy CSWA: AAS Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy GRE: Graduate Record Exam HBCU: Historically Black Colleges and Universities HSI: Hispanic-serving Institution LGBTIQA*: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Questioning, Agender, and other gender identities MSI: Minority Serving Institution NASA: National Aeronautics and Space Administration NSBP: National Society of Black Physicists NSHP: National Society of Hispanic Physicists NSF: National Science Foundation POC: People/Person of Color SGMA: AAS Committee for Sexual-Orientation and Gender Minorities (formerly WGLE) TCU: Tribal Colleges and Universities TWI: Traditionally White Institutions WGLE: Working Group on LGBTIQ Equality (2012-2015. Replaced by SGMA in 2015)